Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

January 23, 2008

So who’s going to stop them?

Texas Ed Spectator » Blog Archive » So who’s going to stop them?

Just think, with the decision of the majority of the Texas SBOE to reject a textbook for reasons other than failing to meet basic state curriculum requirements, McLeroy now doesn’t even have to bother with the analyzing the “strengths and weaknesses” rule to reject textbooks that teach evolution. Before, the Board would have to go through the motions of documenting that the textbook didn’t demonstrate the weaknesses of evolution in order to reject the book. The Board could have demanded the publishers to include so many “weaknesses” in the textbook so as to make the evolution section appear a travesty of unscientific reasoning.

See the complete post at my new website www.texasedspectator.com.

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January 19, 2008

If They’re Allowed to do Whatever They Want, Then They Didn’t Break the Law

Texas Ed Spectator » Blog Archive » If they’re allowed to do whatever they want, then they didn’t break the law
More on the Texas SBOE’s rejection of a third grade math book. Now the majority has voted to strike the minority reports from the official record of the board’s minutes. It seems that while our San Antonio representative couldn’t bring himself to vote on the original matter, he has joined the majority in censoring the minority.
See the complete post at my new website www.texasedspectator.com.

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January 17, 2008

Because they don’t like it

Texas Ed Spectator » Blog Archive » Because they don’t like it
Rejection of math textbook sparks debate on state board’s authority | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News

The state Board of Education’s unusual decision to reject a math textbook used by Dallas and 70 other Texas school districts has evolved into a power struggle over the approval of classroom materials used across the state.

At issue is whether the 15-member state board can reject any book it wants for any reason it wants. That’s what some conservative board members, led by board president Don McLeroy, say they are allowed to do.

So much for local control.

See the complete post at my new website www.texasedspectator.com.

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November 5, 2006

Participating in the Texas textbook selection process

Another reason to pay attention to the Texas SBOE elections.

19 TAC Chapter 66, Subchapter B

§66.33. State Review Panels: Appointment.(a) The commissioner of education shall: determine the number of review panels needed to review instructional materials under consideration for adoption, determine the number of persons to serve on each panel, and determine the criteria for selecting panel members. Each appointment to a state review panel shall be made by the commissioner of education with the advice and consent of the State Board of Education (SBOE) member whose district is to be represented. The commissioner of education shall make appointments to state textbook review panels that ensure participation by academic experts in each subject area for which instructional materials are being considered. The term academic expert includes not only university professors but also public school teachers with a strong background in a particular discipline.

(b) The commissioner of education shall solicit recommendations for possible appointees to state review panels from the State Board of Education (SBOE), school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, and educational organizations in the state. Recommendations may be accepted from any Texas resident. Nominations shall not be made by or accepted from any publishers; authors; depositories; agents for publishers, authors, or depositories; or any person who holds any official position with a publisher, author, depository, or agent.

(c) The SBOE shall be notified of appointments made by the commissioner of education to state review panels.

(d) Members of a state review panel may be removed at the discretion of the commissioner of education.

Source: The provisions of this §66.33 adopted to be effective September 1, 1996, 21 TexReg 7236;

This is the link to the nomination form.
Nomination Form to Serve on State Textbook Review Panels

I would imagine that somewhere you could find out who is appointed to which committees by board district but I haven’t come across it on the web so far.

November 1, 2006

Ken Mercer: District 5 Candidate

Ken Mercer is running for the State Board of Eduction in district five. He, like board member Terri Leo, believes that the major media outlets in Texas have mischaracterized the Attorney General’s ruling concerning textbooks and the role of the SBOE. If you want to see why I think the media was right, see “Leo’s Letter and Why She Lost” for more information. For someone big on facts, Mercer manages to leave out facts like what the letter Leo actually wrote requested.

Leo’s Letter and why she lost « Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas:

General textbook content standards tell publishers what textbooks should not include – e.g., no sensational violence, no blatantly offensive language or illustrations, no group stereotyping. General textbook content standards are a democratic check and balance by Texas’ elected State Board of Education on editors and authors, monitoring accountability on concerns that the TEKS by their nature cannot address.

But even if we were to agree on facts, I’m pretty sure I would have a hard time communicating with Mercer since I’m not certain we’re even speaking the same language, English, that is. Take the following excerpt of what Mercer wrote arguing that the media got it wrong and that the ruling was a great victory for conservatives.


TexasInsider – Opinion – Ken Mercer – Statewide Media LIes to 22 Million Texans
:

Abbott’s GA-0456 opens describing the flawed, ten-year-old Morales opinion:

“This (1996) office considered both of these issues in Attorney General Opinion DM-424 and concluded that (1) the Board has no authority to adopt rules establishing content criteria for textbook approval beyond that contained in the Education Code and (2) the Board lacks authority to consider ancillary items.”

Then AG Abbott clarified the rationale for reconsidering that 1996 opinion: “You ask us to reevaluate that opinion.”

Here is what the AG concluded:

“The Board has significant statutory authority over textbooks and textbook content in the adoption process.”

“We accordingly conclude that the Board may adopt general textbook content standards to the extent such standards fall within the express powers granted by the Education Code and those impliedpowers necessary to effectuate its express powers.”

A huge SBOE victory and major defeat for liberals! Two more “killer” Abbott quotes:

“Opinion DM-424 wrongly concludes that the terms “supplementary instructional ‘materials” and “ancillary materials” are mutually exclusive.”

“Opinion DM-424 further errs in suggesting that it is textbook publishers, not the Board, who determine what materials are textbooks subject to the Boards review jurisdiction.”

For the SMM, it gets worse:

“To the extent Opinion DM-424 is read or applied inconsistently with this conclusion, that opinion is overruled.”

How did the SMM miss the four occurrences of the legal word “overruled”?

How is the second statement in red type a tremendous victory over the first statement in green type? Both say they have power based on what is granted by the Education Code. The 1996 opinion states the board has no power “beyond” what is stated and the Abbott opinion states the board has power to the “extent” granted by the Education Code. Am I missing something here?

Abbot overruled the second part (underlined purple font) statement of the 1996 opinion. The board has the right to evaluate ancillary items and that does make sense. However, I think Leo was asking for more than to just the right to apply to ancillary items the same authority already granted to the board to evaluate textbooks. She was looking for Abbott to add language interpreting the Education Code that would expand the board’s authority. Fortunately, Abbott didn’t rise to the bait.

October 28, 2006

Educational Research Analysts

Remember the couple that make national news because of their work reviewing Texas textbooks?

Textbook Activist Mel Gabler, 89 (washingtonpost.com):

At their kitchen table, they founded the nonprofit Educational Research Analysts to examine textbooks eligible for adoption. They soon became well known statewide, often journeying to Austin to testify before the State Board of Education and confront publishers with their objections. After a few years, they were doing lectures and making appearances across the country and were almost as well known as Phyllis Schlafly, an opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment, or James Dobson, founder of the Christian organization Focus on the Family.

Textbook Activist Mel Gabler, 89 (washingtonpost.com):

A few years later, Mr. Gabler complained that textbooks were indoctrinating children with a philosophy of humanism that was alien to mainstream America. He also protested the influence of the women’s liberation movement, which, he said, had “totally distorted male and female roles, making the women masculine and the men effeminate.”

Well, the organization they founded, Educational Research Analysts, is still carrying on it’s mission to catch factual errors in the name of advancing their conservative, Christian ideology in the public schools.

Extending Mel Gabler’s Legacy

Mel left in place the rule that however many 2+2=5-type factual errors we find in textbooks, they are but means to our chief end of critiquing textbooks’ substantive subject-matter content as Christian conservatives, whose thoroughness and knowledgeability our error lists just confirm.

And on what basis do they critique the subject-matter content? The following are some of their sample standard review criteria:

American Literature

Story content should present:

  • A universe that rewards virtue and punishes vice, where good and evil are not moral equivalents, and where problems have solutions.

  • Diverse views on current controversial issues, when raided (e.g., “global warming,” feminism, naturalistic origins myths like evolution)

  • No sensational violence, offensive language or illustrations, occultism, or deviant lifestyles (e.g., homosexuality)

  • No pattern of pejoratives stigmatizing one group and superlatives idealizing another

  • No politically-correct steroetypes of oppressors and/or victims by race, class, or gender.

So no grappling with intractable problems for high schoolers studying literature. No readings from the slave’s perspective or those from women or poor people. Unless they happen to be very content with their station in life.

I can’t figure out why they would want diverse views of controversial issues if all problems have a solution. Doesn’t that mean there isn’t more than one side to a story after all?

My point is that this group is still here, still active. It’s just not in the public spotlight as it once has been.

Q & A

 

 

You no longer testify at the Texas State Board of Education annual textbook adoption public hearings. Why?

 

Lowering our voice and working under opponents’ radar gets better results.

Reading From the Right:

Under the direction of Frey, who is assisted by his wife, Judy, the textbook shop has steadily evolved from the Gablers’ era. While Mel and Norma issued textbook reviews as near-celebrities, storming public hearings and sitting for interviews with Phil Donahue and “60 Minutes,” Frey, a former college professor, works in near-anonymity, making his points through the faxes and newsletters he sends to subscribers and textbook decisionmakers.

The State Board of Education elections matter. There isn’t anywhere near as much money involved in the campaigns but the stakes are much higher–the education of your children and the future health of our democracy.

October 17, 2006

Quiet money

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News:

FRISCO – The elementary school art teacher embroiled in a public fight with Frisco ISD has until noon Thursday to approve a settlement deal or the district will start the process to fire her, Superintendent Rick Reedy said Monday night.The proposed agreement calls for Sydney McGee to be paid for the rest of the school year and prevents her from suing the district. It also stops her from working in Frisco ISD in the future.

Dr. Reedy said the deal would eliminate further interruptions for the district, which has been the subject of a national media firestorm in recent weeks.

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Latest News:

The proposed settlement agreement would avoid a formal nonrenewal decision.

I can understand why the district would push for this, the only thing they have to look forward to is more bad press while waiting to formally “non-renew” her contract. In the mean time, it’s just more stress for the teachers and students.

Now someone who might be more skeptical about the district’s offer might note that the agreement serves the districts interests in not having to face a lawsuit and ultimately defend it’s actions. I’m sure they would love to have the opportunity but are only taking this route in the best interest of the student’s well being.

I know, I know, it’s all McGee’s fault and the Lawson and Reedy walk on water so she better shut up and take the money and be grateful.

October 4, 2006

School choice isn’t the same as text book choice

Texas School Finance System Unconstitutional – by Connie Sadowski – The Heartland Institute:

“I was pleased that the Supreme Court did not rule our schools were inadequately funded,” said Don McLeroy, a member of the State Board of Education’s Finance Committee. “Adequacy is a highly subjective assessment. The best way to judge an adequate education is to let the parents decide–give them the right to choose their child’s school.”

As long as McLeroy gets to decide on their text books.

Does this make sense? McLeroy is all for parent choice but actively works so that the SBOE is the only authority of text book content.

McGee will show hers if Lawson will

Frisco district wants to open art teacher’s personnel file:

FRISCO — The Frisco school district wants to open an art teacher’s personnel file to the public to defend itself against her claim that she was reprimanded for allowing a fifth-grade student to see nude art.

Frisco district wants to open art teacher’s personnel file:

Superintendent Rick Reedy sent a letter to McGee on Tuesday asking for permission to open her personnel file so the district could respond to criticism over her case.”

I believe some of the information being disseminated to the press is not true and is misleading, especially the allegation that the district has disciplined a teacher for exposing students to nude art,” Reedy said in a prepared statement. “I think we can all agree that the facts should be made available for full review and open discussion.”

Well of course it’s not going to be in the files since the district has already stated that all previous warnings were verbal. That’s part of the problem. It may just be a bluff but apparently McGee is willing to open her file if the district is willing to open “theirs.”

Frisco district wants to open art teacher’s personnel file:

Dunn said he is likely to deny the district’s request unless it also agrees to open the personnel files of Reedy and Nancy Lawson, the principal of Fisher Elementary School.

I think it may be a little late for the district to come “clean” since it has already stated multiple times that the other problems weren’t formally documented since principals often like to operate “informally” to try to solve their problems.

So what are the possibilities?

The file contains previous evaluations that indicate McGee had been warned about problems before. Then why has the district been going on about verbal evaluations?

The file contains documentation regarding the parental complaint. Not likely because the district already said it wasn’t an issue and the district has been going on about verbal evalutions. I can just see some spokesperson pointing to an open file and saying, “see, no complaint!” Duh.

At this point, anything the district decides to show that would document problems with McGee would have to contridict two weeks worth of statements that the performance directives were only put into writing at McGee’s request. Granted, the file may show that McGee’s previous evaluations weren’t as great as she made them out to be. However, if that’s the case then there should be documents that show what the principal did to improve the situation. Otherwise, it’s essentially, “gosh, Syndey, you really need to work on those lesson plans” and then a year later, the principal states, “you know, you really haven’t worked on those lesson plans yet.” As I’ve said before, the question is would the principal have begun to act on the problems if there hadn’t been a complaint?

So my guess is that the district has a file that shows McGee’s evaluations weren’t all that great and certain problems had been identified before. But I bet it also shows that the principal didn’t “formally” address these issues other than in the evaluations. Now why isn’t she being disicplined for failure to maintain adaquate personnel files if McGee is being disciplined for failure to maintain adaquate lesson plans?

And as for Reedy’s file? Maybe he’s behind on evaluating and giving written direction to principals?

October 2, 2006

Your Texas State Board of Education: Don McLeroy

District 9 of the Texas State Board of Education is represented by Don McLeroy of Bryan, Texas. Apparently, McLeroy doesn’t like to let little things like facts get in his way. Recently, he was one of the board members advocating changing Texas English , Reading, and Writing standards.

Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas:

“Texas standards are not grade-level specific, most of them are noise. They can’t be measured and are just a bunch of fuzzy words,” McLeroy said.

Fuzzy words like these for high school English:

Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas:

(B) demonstrate control over grammatical elements such as subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, verb forms, and parallelism;

Pretty fuzzy alright. Anyone can review the TEKS standards online at the TEA website. You can read more about the curriculum changes here:

All other states, beware! Texas is changing curriculum standards!

His seat is actually being contested by Maggie Charleton. And a lot of people seem to prefer her to McLeroy.

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Opinion: Editorials:

First, Ms. Charleton. The Bryan Democrat is much less likely than her opponent, Republican incumbent Don McLeroy of Bryan, to use her position to insert politics into the review of textbooks. She says the board should review textbooks to see whether they meet the standards set by experts, not for a particular view of the world. That makes sense.Dr. McLeroy, a 60-year-old Bryan dentist, wants the state board weighing in more directly on textbooks. He’s been part of the group that wants broader review powers, even though the Legislature rightly stripped the board of much of this authority.

Dr. McLeroy, backed by religious conservatives, has been on the board since 1998. We believe it’s time to infuse the board with some new blood, and Ms. Charleton, with her 30 years of teaching experience, seems to have a lot to offer.

Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas – Charleton on a ‘listening tour’:

Charleton, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Don McLeroy of Bryan. The seat is a swing position in a struggle for control of the board, she insists. Ideology is taking the upper hand on the board, overruling the needs of kids and parents.She points to the editing of text books to remove references to slavery in history, to remove information about breast self-exams and testicle self-exams from health books, and evolution from biology texts.

McLeroy is part of the group that includes Miller and Leo who are interested in regaining control of content of text books. His seat matters.

Retired teacher challenges SBOE incumbent in District 9:

The Texas Freedom Network, a non-partisan watchdog group that advocates a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties, calls the District 9 seat the “swing seat” that will determine whether moderates or “political and religious ultra-conservatives” control the 15-member board.

Retired teacher challenges SBOE incumbent in District 9:

In the past, conservative Republicans on the board have advocated limiting the way Texas public school curriculum deals with issues like evolution, civil rights, sexuality education and environmental issues. In response to ideological infighting on the SBOE, the Texas legislature 11 years ago removed the board’s power to determine textbook content as part of the textbook adoption process.Conservative Republicans now hold seven of the 15 seats on the state board.

Charleton says she would like to bring mainstream Texas values and common sense to the board’s deliberations.

Here’s part of a letter written to Miller concerning McLeroy’s actions.

Texas Citizens for Science:

But that still was not enough. Unwillingly to let the TEA textbook staff do their jobs, Dr. McLeroy thought it necessary to correspond with the biology textbook publishers themselves and act like a one-man Texas Education Agency. He reminded publishers on Jan. 8 that “there is a process by which errors that remain in the books will be fixed before they get into the hands of children,” and that their “cooperation in it is required.” This sort of ex parte communication is probably not legal, and is certainly very irregular and unwise. The only way to explain this is to conclude that Dr. McLeroy is bullying the publishers, an exercise of over-reaching that all pseudoscientists engage in and serves as one of its identifiers. After all the implied threats and coercion that textbook publishers have to endure under the normal Texas textbook adoption process to change their books’ content to satisfy the political, religious, and social desires of the State Board as a single entity, now they are having to endure individual Board members calling them up with the same implied threats and informing them their “cooperation” is “required” in yet another sleazy attempt to satisfy the Discovery Institute’s wishes. No wonder our country’s textbook publishers feel they are harassed by the Texas process. Believe me, they complain privately about this, and their complaints are fully justified.There exists even further evidence that these actions were part of a planned strategy to censor the evolution content of the biology books despite their overwhelming adoption by the SBOE without changes asked for by the Discovery Institute and other creationist organizations: while the public–including scientists and science educators, and probably most members of the State Board of Education–were kept ignorant of the details of the behind-the-scene maneuverings of Dr. McLeroy to intimidate publishers, the details were known to members of other creationist organizations. Mr. Frank Mayo, an officer of Texans for Better Science Education, was obviously aware of the push to damage the biology books under the guise of “error correction,” since he referred to this effort in his message to the Katy ISD Board as they considered which biology textbook to adopt.

There’s plenty more but since the letter was addressed to Miller, I suspect she didn’t see any reason to pursue any of it’s claims.

Visit McLeroy’s webpage for more information on his priorities and beliefs. He begins with the need for teaching “clear thinking” in Texas schools.

Clear Thinking about the Texas Public School System:

Thus, the most amazing “orthodoxy” which dominates the educational establishment “leviathan” today is the slighting of “facts and knowledge” for emphasis on problem-solving and critical thinking. Problem solving and critical thinking are secondary skills. Before one can think and solve he must first have something to think about.

I have to admit that I only skimmed the stuff. But jeez, he calls it “clear thinking” but it isn’t supposed to emphasis critical thinking skills. I suspect this falls into the realm of Leo’s tendencies to indoctrination rather than thinking. What can I say, I work in a profession that didn’t even exist when I was in graduate school and I coach Odyssey of the Mind. Facts accumulate and even change over time. We need to be able to figure out how to use them.

If you want facts against evolution or comprehensive sex education, McLeroy’s website is the place for it. Of course, I find it curious that he doesn’t present a whole lot of facts backing up his abstinence only approach to sex education.

As for his approach to evolution? I didn’t bother with it. People who want evolution out of the schools aren’t interested in science being able to explain and predict the world around us, they are interested in discrediting anything that contradicts their religious beliefs.

I do believe this gets us back to indoctrination again. Is education about the filling of the pail or the lighting of the fire? Oh, wait a minute. Did Yeats believe in evolution?

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