Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

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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October 26, 2007

Teaching them to think right

MySA.com: Metro | State

Writing research papers with citations, explaining plate tectonics and probing why historians have competing versions of the past.

Such high level skills could become part of the statewide K-12 public school curriculum if state education officials adopt a draft of college readiness standards released Thursday by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

You mean that the Texas State Board of Education is willing to give it’s emphasis on indoctrination for the development of actual thinking skills? You can read more on the Board’s attempt to control “doctrine” here.

I can already see it though. McLeroy and his fellow conservatives could use this as the springboard for “teaching the controversy” about evolution and intelligent design. Somehow, it wouldn’t be appropriate to “teach the controversy” over the role of slavery in the US or something like the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. Nor, I suspect, would he be eager to teach the different approaches to reducing teenage pregnancy.

And what does he mean by the following:

MySA.com: Metro | State

“We really don’t need to do any of this for our advantaged (youth) and high achievers,” said Don McLeroy, chairman of the State Board of Education. “I look at it from the aspect of what do the disadvantaged, low achievers need? Those are the ones we want to pull up.”

Does he have evidence that students from well-to-do districts aren’t showing up in any of the colleges remedial classes? If he does, he better show it otherwise he has made the same sort of assumption about the value of money that got our former TEA commissioner to leave office.

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September 19, 2007

Who’s cheating now?

Remember all the controversy around TAKS scores and the Caveon analysis about possible cheating in 2006?

Everybody Does It / Academic cheating is at an all-time high. Can anything be done to stop it?

It used to be that cheating was done by the few, and most often they were the weaker students who couldn’t get good grades on their own. There was fear of reprisal and shame if apprehended. Today, there is no stigma left. It is accepted as a normal part of school life, and is more likely to be done by the good students, who are fully capable of getting high marks without cheating. “It’s not the dumb kids who cheat,” one Bay Area prep school student told me. “It’s the kids with a 4.6 grade-point average who are under so much pressure to keep their grades up and get into the best colleges. They’re the ones who are smart enough to figure out how to cheat without getting caught.”

This sounds a lot like the kids at the schools the our former TEA commissioner, Dr. Neeley, said wouldn’t have to cheat to get good TAKS scores.

Money makes you honest « Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

Dr. Neeley said the wealthy districts on the list – including many considering self-investigations – are unlikely to cheat.

“You look at Highland Park, Richardson, Eanes,” she said, naming some of the state’s wealthiest districts in the Dallas and Austin areas. “Do they have to cheat to have good scores? I gave a talk in Eanes not long ago and said, ‘Do you people think Westlake High School had to cheat to get good scores?’ “

But I’m sure things are different in Texas, right?

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August 29, 2007

Unintended Consequences

Filed under: education, High Stakes Testing, TAKS — texased @ 5:56 pm

Pleasanton ISD, Texas

Our Mission Statement

The mission of the Pleasanton ISD as an educational community is to ensure a quality public education through learning, unity, and pride, fully preparing all students for the future.

So does the district accomplish it’s mission by having students do well on the TAKS? The reason I ask is because it seems that the Pleasanton Junior High will no longer offer Algebra I so that students to do better on the 9th grade TAKS exam. See, if you take Algebra I in eighth grade then you take Geometry in 9th and the 9th grade math TAKS exam focuses on Algebra I.

Talk about teaching to the test.

So now the only way students can make it to Calculus by the end of high school is by doubling up on math classes for one year. Think about it, in order for high school students to do better on the TAKS exam, the district is willing to reduce the number of students able to take Calculus.

Does anyone else see a problem here? Will Pleasanton ISD still be the school of choice for Toyota workers?

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June 12, 2007

Who will be cheating now?

Filed under: Accountability, cheating, education, TAKS — texased @ 9:52 am

If you think there is cheating with the TAKS exam now, wait until you have end of the course exams.

End-of-course tests go to Perry | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas Southwest

In addition to determining whether a student graduates, the new exams also would count 15 percent toward the final grade in each subject.

Currently, it appears to be the teachers or administration encouraging cheating, not the students. The TAKS doesn’t affect a student’s grade at all. All high school students have to do is to meet some minimum score on a general exam to get a diploma. Their gpas are safe from any sort of “objective” accountability.

What do you think will happen when A students start failing the end of course exam? I’m guessing that most people see this as something happening at poorer, academically weaker schools. These people will be breathing a sigh of relief when they can say their Algebra II class is far more academically demanding than those at some poorer school.

But just think, if that A means so much more in Collin county and the end of course exam is 15% of the grade, who do you think is going to be more likely to cheat? I’m betting on the ones for who that A is so much more important for their GPAs and college applications. Of course, as long as these districts are wealthy, they don’t have to worry since everyone knows that wealthy districts don’t cheat.

May 23, 2007

An argument for education reform?

Filed under: Accountability, TAKS — texased @ 6:47 pm

MySA.com: Metro | State

Lindsey Fernandez, a senior at Natalia High School, said she felt like an outsider when told she wouldn’t be allowed to graduate with the rest of her classmates because she failed the TAKS science portion.

“Graduation is a big part of my life,” said Fernandez, a self-described “A” and “B” student. “I have never gotten in trouble, I am not a bad person, and it’s just not fair.”

Though the state requires seniors to pass TAKS to graduate — they get five attempts — school districts decide whether they can participate in graduation ceremonies.

So do you think the parents were at the school demanding extra resources when she failed the TAKS the first time? After all, she has taken the test all five times, right?

If these people think it’s more important for a student to walk across the stage than actually pass the test (whether or not the test should be required or it’s actual value is a separate issue), how do you think these other “life events” are going to turn out?

MySA.com: Metro | State


“When you have children, you look forward to when they get baptized, graduate high school and get married,” said Lindsey Fernandez’s mother, Brenda Fernandez. “The graduation ceremony has got to be one of the biggest parts of the teenager’s life.”

They’re baptized but you don’t take them to church? They can get married even though they continue to see other people during the engagement and after the ceremony?

The fact the these parents seem to think that it’s the event rather than the actual work it represents that is important makes you wonder the value of the education they received.

March 30, 2007

Race matters

Filed under: Education reform, High Stakes Testing, race, TAKS — texased @ 10:27 am

I don’t know what to think about this.

School separates races for TAKS talk | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle:

Administrators at a Katy school are facing criticism from parents after holding separate assemblies for black, white and Hispanic students to address low scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.

The assemblies at Mayde Creek High were held for ninth- and 10th-grade students of different ethnicities to discuss steps to boost scores on the state-required test, said district spokesman Steve Stanford. He said only students at risk because of their scores were called to the meetings, and that no negative message was intended.

Ultimately, he has a point.

School separates races for TAKS talk | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle:

Stanford said students were segregated because that’s how the state looks at and reports achievement.

September 21, 2006

Parental concern

The article’s various titles definitely uses the word “parents” suggesting more than one parent.

Parents call for one way to rate U.S. schools:

Many parents and educators are confused by conflicting U.S., Texas rankings

However, only one parent is even mentioned:

Parents call for one way to rate U.S. schools:

Tiffany Davis thought she had found the perfect school for her daughter. Pilgrim Elementary was fewer than three miles from her office, and on Aug. 1, the state declared it “exemplary” based on student test scores.Davis was sold — until the state made another announcement less than three weeks later: Pilgrim Elementary failed to meet the academic demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The acclaimed Houston Independent School District campus now bore a scarlet letter.

“What’s going on?” Davis said she thought. “It was extremely confusing.”

Although the article does go on to mention “parents” again.

Parents call for one way to rate U.S. schools:

“If we had a national accountability system, then we wouldn’t have this confusion. Parents would have clear information,” said Michael Petrilli, a vice president at the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.

So where are all these parents? The reporter apparently found only one parent who was confused. She’s not reporting about a group of parents who have banded together to question school authorities about test scores. This one parent gets to represent all parents for whom this testing is being done as suggested by Michael Petrilli.

I suspect the reason why the reporter wasn’t able to talk to a group of concerned parents is because no such group exists. Consider the following report about an academically unacceptable school and parental attendance:

Making the grade:

Only a handful of parents showed up Tuesday evening for a public hearing at Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy relating to the campus’ recent rating as academically unacceptable by the Texas Education Agency.According to information from the TEA, the rating resulted from a low math score posted by a freshman student sub-group on the TAKS test administered during the 2005-2006 school year.

Of 26 indicators for the district, Assistant Superintendent David Truitt said Waxahachie ISD posted gains in 25.

Does the fact that hardly anyone showed up mean that parents don’t care about the school? Or could it mean that most parents realized the issue didn’t affect their child directly and choose not to attend? Of course, we will never know the extent of parental concern from the Houston Chronicle article since only one parent mentioned. She is, however, ideally suited for the article.

Parents call for one way to rate U.S. schools:

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, suggests looking at the data behind the labels.

“Once you get the rating, the next question is, ‘Why?’ ” Fallon said. “In some cases, it’s more serious than others.”

Fallon gave the same advice to Tiffany Davis, the concerned mother who works in her office. In the end, Pilgrim Elementary was full, Davis said, so she enrolled her daughter at Memorial Elementary, a state “recognized” school that also met the federal requirements. “I was trying to find a good school,” she said.

Because she found the rating systems so “confusing”, she’s going with a different school that is acceptable by both standards. I have to feel sorry for her daughter’s teachers. Her mother selected a “good” school based on labels that can fit on a school welcome sign. Don’t you just think she’s the kind of parent who will assume that it’s the teacher’s fault when her child fails?

September 11, 2006

Whose side is he on?

Star Community Newspapers:

Outdoor education in the form of a week long camp is no longer a part of the curriculum for fifth graders in the Lewisville school district.The board voted Wednesday night to discontinue fifth grade overnight camp and to look at other options for outdoor education utilizing the LISD Outdoor Learning Academy or other opportunities.

Obviously outdoor education is not tested on the TAKS.

Star Community Newspapers:

Trustees had three major concerns about the outdoor camping experience; TAKS requirements, classroom time, safety issues, volunteer-sponsor procurement and financial considerations.

And it could be taking time away from preparing for the TAKS.

Star Community Newspapers:

“I don’t think any of us are opposed to outdoor education per se, but when you look at the risk factors that overnight camp brings to it, I think that’s where all our concerns are; having to dispense medicine throughout the day and into the night the nurse thing the kids spending the night with other adults we don’t know,” Tom Ferguson, board member, said at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Don’t they have to do a lot of this during the day as well?
Star Community Newspapers:

Letters from across the Dallas/Fort Worth area poured into school principals, said Ferguson; all volunteering to safeguard students at the camp. Ferguson expressed his disgust that guardians and parents would feel comfortable leaving their children with adults no one knows. He said that performing background checks is not enough.

The above paragraph doesn’t seem to make sense unless you read the article in the Dallas Morning News.

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

Trustees said those are the students most at risk. Several trustees said they were “scared” by the number of nonparents volunteering to chaperon camp for the low-income schools that struggled to attract enough parents. They said such people bring additional risk.

The district has not reported a major incident since the program started in the 1970s, but trustees said they were concerned by a growing number of misbehaving chaperons. Schools have reported that some parents left the kids alone and went off with other adults to smoke, drink and act inappropriately.

So Ferguson is criticizing these low-income parents for believing that the school would choose appropriate chaperons for their children. I guess I can’t blame him, these are the same parents that trust the schools to educate their children and Ferguson is probably in a position to know what kind of job the schools have accomplished in the that area as well. I just can’t help but feel that the powers that be in this situation are actually thinking “if they weren’t so damn poor, they wouldn’t need the camps and we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.”

July 23, 2006

I can’t hear you!

I have an image of someone with their fingers in their ears humming and shouting, “I can’t hear you!”

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

The list of schools suspected of cheating is longer than Texas education officials have reported – and those officials say they aren’t interested in tracking down the latest suspects.A Dallas Morning News analysis has found that at least 167 unidentified schools were flagged as potential cheaters by Caveon, the company Texas hired to hunt for TAKS cheaters. That’s in addition to the 442 schools named by state officials. None of the other schools have been notified that they are on the list.

Texas Education Agency officials say they don’t know which schools they are – and they have no plans to find out.

“The only list of schools we have is the list that has been made public,” said TEA spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman. “That’s the list we plan to work with.”

Do you think they could have come up with any worst response? Just about anything else would have been better. How about, “since we received the classroom analysis first, we are investigating those areas.” Or, “we are looking into why the other schools weren’t included in the list provided to us.” Maybe, “our contract didn’t require the company to provide the information but we are looking into it.”

But nope, after being scoped by the Dallas Morning News two (or is it three?) times regarding the issue, TEA tells the world, we’re not going to deal with it. I guess it would have added too many schools to the list with bonuses and suspicious classroom scores. Or maybe, too many wealthy schools would appear on the list blowing Dr. Neely’s honesty premise.

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