Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

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 8, 2006

Four more years

Texas State Board of Education Election Results

    Total Percent

District 3
Tony Cunningham Rep 80,705 40.67%

Rick Agosto

Dem

117,715

59.33%
District 5
Ken
Mercer

Rep

235,561

71.16%
Bill Oliver Lib 85,463 28.84%
District 9
Don
McLeroy

Rep

189,023

59.67%
Maggie Charleton Dem 127,767 40.33%
District 10

Cynthia Dunbar

Rep

225,839

70.38%
Martin Thomen Lib 95,034 29.62%
District 12

Geraldine “Tincy” Miller

Rep

186,173

77.85%
Matthew Havener Lib 52,959 22.15%
District 15
Bob
Craig

Rep

202,730

83.82%
Brandon Stacker Lib 39,139 16.18%

October 30, 2006

Texas State Board of Education Candidates

District Democrat Libertarian
Republican
1 René Nuñez (I)    
3 Rick Agosto
  Tony Cunningham
4 Lawrence A.
Allen
(I)
   
5   Bill Oliver Ken Mercer
9 Maggie Charleton   Don McLeroy (I)
10   Martin Thomen Cynthia Dunbar
12   Matthew Havener Geraldine
‘Tincy’ Miller
(I)
15   Brandon Stacker Bob Craig (I)

October 12, 2006

Leo’s Letter and why she lost

Terri Leo has a nice commentary in the San Antonio Express News explaining how the press got it wrong concerning Attorney General Abbott’s recent opinion regarding the SBOE and textbook selection. She argues that the opinion over-rules the Morales’ opinion and simply reinstates the authority the legislature had intended for the SBOE all along.

MySA.com: Commentary:

At issue had been Texas Education Code Section 28.002(h) that states the State Board of Education “shall foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in subject matter and in reading courses and in the adoption of textbooks.”

She, and others, have gone out of their way to state that they were only trying to correct a mistake and were in no way attempting to go beyond what the legislature allowed in terms of SBOE responsibility.

MySA.com: Commentary:

Although this language has been in the TEC for 10 years, Texas Education Agency lawyers repeatedly attempted to delete the section in administrative rule reviews and refused to certify the patriotism and free enterprise portion of the textbook rules, contending it violated the old Morales decision.

MySA.com: Commentary:

The new AG opinion corrects a longstanding misinterpretation of the Texas Education Code by liberal activists eager to do away with these standards. It also clarifies original legislative intent as it relates to textbook content dealing with patriotism, citizenship and the free enterprise system. The issue was never about personal and political agendas, as some have contended. Rather, it concerned the elected State Board of Education members having the authority to ensure that curriculum taught in schoolbooks fosters an appreciation for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage. To argue otherwise is clearly to ignore the summary conclusions of Abbott’s ruling

You can read the opinion yourself at the Attorney General’s website. However, if you only read the opinion, you would fail to recognize the brilliant maneuvering on the part of Abbott to avoid getting caught up in the textbook content standards mess. In the opinion, Abbott basically quotes TEC language and says according to that language, the SBOE has the right to do what that language says. Why?

To really understand why you need to read the original request for the opinion by Leo which you can also find at the Attorney General’s website.

Opinion request from Mrs. Terri Leo

General textbook content standards complement the state curriculum. The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) tell publishers what textbooks should include. 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. General textbook content standards existed in old TAC Chapter 67 under the pre-1995 Texas Education Code (TEC). As originally filed in the 74ti legislature, SB-1 stripped the SBOE of all power over textbook selection. But the final version of the new TEC preserved and reaffirmed SBOE authority in this area, including the power to enact general textbook content standards. Together new TEC Sections 3 1.023, 3 1,024, and 28.002 (c) and (h) address this point.

3 31.023. TEXTBOOKLISTS. (a) F or each subject and grade level, the State Board of Education shall adopt two lists of textbooks. The conforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education and contains material covering each element of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level as determined by the State Board of Education under Section.28.002 and adopted under Section 3 1.024. The nonconforming list includes each textbook submitted for the subject and grade level that:

(1) meets applicable physical specifications adopted by the State Board of Education;

(2) contains material covering at least half, but not all, of the elements of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level; and

(3) is adopted under Section 3 1.024.

(b) Each textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list must be free from factual errors.

$3 1.024. ADOPTION BY STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION. (a) By majority vote, the State Board of Education shall:

(1) place each submitted textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list; or

(2) reject a textbook submitted for placement on a conforming or nonconforming list. 28.002

(c) The‘ State Board of Education, with the direct participation of educators, parents, business and industry representatives, and employers shall by rule identify the essential knowledge and skills of each subject of the required curriculum that all students should be able to demonstrate and that will be used in evaluating textbooks under Chapter 3 1 . . .,

(h)The State Board of Education and each school district shall foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses and in the adoption of textbooks. A primary purpose of the public school curriculum is to prepare thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism and can function productively in a free enterprise society with appreciation. for the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage.

The key is in the first paragraph where she states that “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.” This isn’t the same thing as stated in the TEC that textbooks are to “foster the continuation of the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses.”

Now, if you think the two statements mean the same thing, then Leo “won” and major newspapers got it all wrong. But if you think she was asking for one thing and got another then it was a setback. In fact, Chairwomen Miller who submitted the letter on behalf of Leo, seemed to think so:

Star-Telegram | 09/19/2006 | Board gains ground via AG opinion:

“It’s kind of good news, bad news,” said Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas, the board’s chairwoman. “The only downside is that we didn’t get complete authority back.”

I can’t help but think that what she was hoping for was that Abbott would quote her statement about deciding what not to include as part of the opinion since it obviously isn’t stated anywhere in the TEC language. He didn’t so she’s stuck with the oringinal language. However, there is still good reason to worry that this will become “about personal and political agendas, as some have contended.” Let’s see how much she is able justify under “the tradition of teaching United States and Texas history and the free enterprise system in regular subject matter and in reading courses.”

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?

September 25, 2006

Your Texas State Board of Education: Geraldine Miller

Geraldine Miller is the current chair of the Texas State Board of Education. Did you know that we actually elect our SBOE members? We do. And Miller is running for District 12 opposed only by a Libertarian “place-holder” candidate. So I guess it really doesn’t matter that Miller and her husband were involved in the TRMPAC as it’s fourth largest donner. TRMPAC? You know, the fund raising activity that caused Tom Delay to resign.

TPJ.org:

Vance Miller, whose father founded a Dallas real estate empire, is one of the donors who jotted Craddick’s name on checks that they wrote to TRMPAC. In explaining this faux pas to the media, Miller said that, before he wrote his $10,000 check, TRMPAC Treasuer Bill Ceverha “led me to believe Tom Craddick was involved to elect more Republicans to the House.” Spouse Geraldine “Tincy” Miller chairs the Texas State Board of Education. Fellow social conservative Linda Bauer’s 2002 election to that board got a $13,000 boost from a Miller-affiliated PAC. The Austin-American Statesman reported that the PAC’s only donors were the Millers and Russell Stein–an investment advisor involved in one of the State Board of Education’s pay-to-play scandals.

Then there’s her politics. While any election is obviously about politics, some politics cross into the grey area of promoting an ideology more appropriate for personal values than a guiding force for government, especially education. The Texas Freedom Network has quite a few quotes from Miller as part of her testimony as a board member. One example follows:

Texas Freedom Network: Miller’s Tenure on SBOE:

Slavery and Civil Rights: History books were targeted for what critics called an “overkill of emphasis on cruelty to slaves,” asserting that coverage of slavery, civil rights struggles or discrimination was unpatriotic and anti-Christian. (1996 & 2002 testimony filed at TEA)

It’s worth looking at some of her other statements. And whenever you’re likely to agree because we are a “Christian” nation, re-read the statement inserting another religion. It could be Catholic, Mormon, or Scientology. Even better, try Lutheran, Presbyterian, or Episcopalian. Because not every Christian would agree with her interpretation of Christian beliefs.

I have to go and put my two cents worth into our annual home owners association. More later.

September 19, 2006

Power for the sake of what?

MySA.com: Metro | State:

AUSTIN — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday refused to expand the State Board of Education’s authority over textbook content beyond what the Legislature authorized in a 1995 law.Social conservatives on the board had asked him to overrule a 10-year-old opinion interpreting that law.

In his new ruling, Abbott did depart from one part of the prior ruling by saying the board can review supplemental materials, such as teacher guides, charts and workbooks.

The dispute dates from when lawmakers attempted to limit the board’s control over textbook content by only granting specific authority to reject books that are factually inaccurate or do not cover enough of the required state curriculum. Dan Morales, then the attorney general, interpreted that law in a 1996 opinion.

Star-Telegram | 09/19/2006 | Board gains ground via AG opinion:

But Abbott’s opinion appears to expand the authority of the board to consider content as it relates to U.S. and Texas history and the free-enterprise system.

MySA.com: Metro | State:

“This decision is a huge victory for the citizens of Texas in that it confirms the Texas board’s democratic check and balance over otherwise unaccountable textbook editors and publishers,” Leo said.

Star-Telegram | 09/19/2006 | Board gains ground via AG opinion:

“It’s kind of good news, bad news,” said Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas, the board’s chairwoman. “The only downside is that we didn’t get complete authority back.”

MySA.com: Metro | State:

Leo said she will keep pushing the Legislature to expand the 15-member board’s control over content.”I just don’t think that liberal New York editors should be deciding the content of textbooks,” she said.

What bothers is me is that no where do any of the articles say which books the board has had a problem with it’s content in the past ten years. Why does Leo think that the board needs me more control? How have the books been neglecting Texas history and the free- enterprise system? If this is such a huge victory, why aren’t the details of the battle well-known? Could it be possible that the legislature actually knew what it’s was doing when it restricted the boards power?

July 20, 2006

Texas will pay for content but not access

Nice to know that Texas is eager to keep all districts on the cutting edge of technology.

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas/Southwest:

According to the opinion, a textbook is not “computer hardware and other equipment.” Rather, a textbook is what contains educational content, such as a book or computer software.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter if can’t access the educational content on the software.

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas/Southwest:

“I’m absolutely delighted in the answer to the question that we asked,” said Miller, R-Dallas. “I think it once and for all defines that instructional content material is a textbook or software. It is not a device, a piece of equipment or hardware.”

So does the state of Texas give blind students a regular text book and tell her “good luck” accessing the educational content?

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas/Southwest:

“Nothing is more precious than a book,” she said.

No kidding. CD’s are already cheaper to produce than textbooks. And while laptops may not be the idea solution, what about ebook readers? They’re apparently are sturdy enough for libraries. Maybe she has stock in some paper company.

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