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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January 10, 2008

Because it will improve our economic base?

Filed under: education, evolution, Religious Right, textbooks — texased @ 7:41 pm
Texas Ed Spectator » Blog Archive » Because it will improve our economic base?
Very interesting article on the probable upcoming debate on evolution in Texas science textbooks.

Spectator Article

Some educators breathed a sign of relief, thinking that Texas science classes might be spared religious controversy. Yet buried in the TEKS existing standards is the reason that Texas could be the center of evolution’s next big battle: Section 3a reads: “The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.” (Italics added.)

Good thing the Institute for Creation Research may soon get to offer a Masters of Science Education in Texas. That way teachers will be prepared to “teach the controversy.”

 Complete post at my new blog www.texasedspectator.com

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January 11, 2007

Who would provide medically inaccurate information?

Filed under: Educational Research Analysts, Mel Gabler, Texas, textbooks — texased @ 10:10 am

80(R) HB 503 – Introduced version – Bill Text:

teach contraception and condom use in a medically accurate manner that addresses the health benefits of contraception and condom use and the…

Now why is it necessary to insert “medically accurate manner” into this bill? Could it be that some curriculum provides medically inaccurate information to bolster certain segments of society’s version of morality? Surely Mel Gabler’s Educational Research Analysts would pick up any false or misleading “medical statements?” Yeah, right.

December 4, 2006

TEKS need to be in the student textbook as well

80(R) HB 77 – Introduced version – Bill Text:

REQUIRED TEXTBOOK ADOPTION AND TEXTBOOK LISTS. (a) �For each subject and grade level, the State Board of Education shall adopt textbooks that contain all elements of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject and grade level, as determined by the State Board of Education under Section 28.002, in the student versions of the textbooks, as well as in the teacher versions of the textbooks.

Just guessing here but I would think this is an attempt to force textbook publishers to include “controversial” topics such as evolution and birth control in the students’ textbooks as well as the teachers’ versions. My impression has been that textbook publishers have been able to mollify the more conservative members of the State Board of Education (who, of course, have no political agenda) by leaving it up to the teachers to decide whether or not to address certain issues.

In fact, it takes away the SBOE’s authority although if the SBOE doesn’t decide if all the elements are included, I don’t know who would.

80(R) HB 77 – Introduced version – Bill Text:

[and] contains material covering all elements
  [each element] of the essential knowledge and skills of the subject
  and grade level in the student version of the textbook, as well as
  in the teacher version of the textbook;�[as determined by the State
  Board of Education under Section 28.002] and

In any case, I bet SBOE members aren’t going to be big supporters of this bill.

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 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.”

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