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.
January 23, 2008
January 19, 2008
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.
January 17, 2008
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.
January 1, 2008
Seven positions are up for election in 2008 for the Texas State Board of Education. This is the board that used to support the teaching of evolution but for some reason, TEA no longer makes that statement. Three of the uncontested seats are Republican, one currently held by Terri Leo, a supporter of teaching “the weaknesses of evolution.”
November 16, 2006
AUSTIN — High school students will face a tougher curriculum beginning next year, but likely won’t have to take the highest level of math and science to meet the new fourth-year requirements.
A blow to full employment for Physics and Pre-Cal teachers, a blow against watering down their class content.
Drew Scheberle with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce said he doesn’t think the new curriculum will better prepare students for college.”We’ll give more credits for the same content,” he said.
First of all, we were probably already doing that which caused this problem to begin with. Second, nobody is preventing students or the parents of students from taking more demanding classes. Don’t parents work in the same world that needs these more advanced classes?
The plan still would allow students to take algebra 1 in middle school, meaning they could avoid any math during their senior year. Some speakers had urged the board to count only math classes taken during high school.
Aren’t most students who take Algebra I in middle school college bound? If they don’t take math in their senior year, don’t you think they and/or their parents have good reasons for doing so? But what really bugs me about not counting Algebra I in middle school is that I’m willing to bet that the number of students who took Algebra I in middle school and subsequently end up taking remedial math in college is far lower than those who don’t take Algebra I until high school. Has anyone bothered to check on this? No. But that won’t stop people from dictating policy anyway.
Board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, argued that the integrated class should be phased out because it is not sufficiently challenging. Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, said the class can be a “bridge” that allows students to succeed in other science courses.
Again, does either side have any evidence for their case? Texas is supposed to have one of the better data collections on students in the nation, why don’t we use it? Oh, yeah, we wouldn’t want anything like facts to get in the way of decision-making.
For the record, I took Algebra I as a freshman and then took the first semester of geometry in summer school so that I could catch up to the math standards of the magnet school I was transferring to. I took Physics and Chemistry my junior year (so they wouldn’t count because I didn’t take a science my senior year?) and I took calculus my senior year which made taking it in college much easier. I made my son do Algebra I as a eighth grader and he’s doing geometry and biology as a freshman this year.
However, I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone to follow that track. My cousin went for air condition installation/repair instead of college. He owns his own business as a contractor and employs more people than I ever will. And I’m pretty sure he didn’t need pre-calculus to do it.
November 1, 2006
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.
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.
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 12, 2006
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
“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
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 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:
(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:
His seat is actually being contested by Maggie Charleton. And a lot of people seem to prefer her to McLeroy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 28, 2006
Terri Leo represents district 6 for the State Board of Education. She is also the board member who recently attempted to expand the board’s power to review textbooks to include content to protect us from the liberal views of those New York text book publishers.
See, she’s only trying to protect the children of Texas from poorly written text books. In 2003, she provided an example of what she was talking about:
This shift in policy has resulted in many disastrous results. One book approved in Texas, for example, was the subject of national ridicule and condemned on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). Dubbed the “Texas rain-forest algebra book,” it received an “F” grade on a report card produced by Mathematically Correct, a group of independent math scholars who reviewed math books adopted in Texas. The book watered down algebra by including such things as chili recipes, ancient myths, a photograph of Maya Angelou and Bill Clinton (this was supposed to demonstrate parallelism in sentence structure), and asking students what roles zoos play in society. No algebra is even mentioned until page 100. The publisher states that the algebra book’s focus is to “get students to communicate their thinking about problem solving and to work on different approaches, rather than focusing on getting the right answers”. The book says the teacher’s role “is to be a facilitator who supports students. Questions should be posed to stimulate thought rather than get an answer.” Under the previous system, the SBOE was able to insist that publishers correct outrageous and offensive content. Without SBOE content standards, political agendas masquerading as science have been smuggled into classrooms. Books marred with inaccuracies, omissions and errors have been approved as well.
And we all know how many Texas districts rushed out to adopt the text book just because it was approved by the state board. Don’t we? Well, no we don’t. Now this could just be an oversight by Leo in failing to mention the actual number of children who’s algebra education suffered from the use of these text books. You know, somehow I doubt it.
The legislature took the power from the SBOE in the early 90’s after years of flagrant and nationally embarrassing decisions approving or disapproving text books based on the beliefs of a small percentage of the population. Essentially, the SBOE was denying local districts the opportunity to adopt text books simply because board members thought they books undermined Texas values rather than it’s actual factual content. As for who gets to define those values, well, the board naturally. Leo obviously feels the legislature made a mistake.
I can’t help but believe that she represents that small minority that the legislature was addressing. On her personal website, Leo states the following:
A strong conservative voice in the State Board of Education’s management of the multi-billion dollar Permanent School Fund will always be essential, and I have stood consistently for traditional, conservative values in this, as well.
What’s interesting is that in the previous paragraphs she doesn’t really address the conservative values that she refers to in “as well.” She does talk about her roles on the board and how the board affects text book decisions nation wide. When she presents her view on phonics-based instruction, she doesn’t appear to be suggesting that it is a conservative view.
While some would dismiss this as merely mincing words, I think it really does reflect her belief in having a strong conservative voice in all things regarding education. She has a conservative agenda and her mind is made up.
Terri Leo is the leader of the Texas Taliban faction on the State Board of Education; she even exercised her perogative as a Board Member to make a speech before the last public hearing of the Board in Austin to profess her commitment to creationist-inspired skepticism about Darwin’s theory of evolution (and this before hearing any testimony!).
Whatever you may think about the evolution debate, I think it is telling that she was providing her views before any testimony. So what is education to her? Apparently it doesn’t include teaching the thoughtful discussion and analysis of a situation before reaching a conclusion. Maybe it’s more about indoctrination? It certainly is not about local control and trusting local teachers and officials to make sound judgements regarding the education of their children.
Leo, a homemaker and former teacher in Garland and Dallas, voted as one of four board members against 11 others to reject some biology textbooks dealing with evolution.Leo, 44, said the books did not fully discuss and portray deficiencies in the scientific basis for evolutionary theories.
The majority voted to adopt the books because books can be rejected based only on factual errors or failure to follow mandated state curriculum.
A brief (PDF) from a number of groups, led by the Texas State Teachers Association and also including the Texas Freedom Network and the Texas Association of Biology Teachers, urged the attorney general to reaffirm DM-424, contending that Leo’s request “telegraphs a desire by some members of the SBOE to return to the day when textbook decisions were made on non-educational grounds,” when “the SBOE’s textbook adoption process was entangled with ideology, politics, and religion, and was a forum for divisive political battles that focused on ideological rather than educational or pedagogical concerns.”
Leo is not up for re-election this year. However, all Texans who believe that public education should be a place for informed and civic education rather than mere indoctrination would do well to keep an eye open for her next power play.
September 19, 2006
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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?