Texas education is dominated by centralized planning that, in recent weeks, has looked Stalinist in its apparatchik-like ability to re-write history. In one example, and with little or no debate, one ignorant school board member was able to effectively rewrite Latin American social history simply because she hadn’t heard of a key participant. Other board members might, perhaps, have pointed out that that’s the point of teaching history but, alas, they did not. In Dallas recently, the school board there decided to “go rogue”--disregarding both the evidence and the testimony of experts and parents-- and select materials for their schools that were characterized by the Dallas Morning News as being ‘riddled with errors’.
Texas seems to revel in its gargantuan-market-sized ability to influence what publishers place in their textbooks. In the words of full-time dentist and part-time Texas Board of Education Chairman Dr. Don McLeroy, board members like him are there to correct the ‘liberal bias of experts’ in the creation of educational texts. In so doing, Texas educators conspire in an almost narcissistic endeavor to create a mélange of fuzzy math, pseudo-science and revisionist materials for their schools. Despite the headlines from Dallas in recent weeks and the resultant slow awakening of faculty, students and parents, the situation is unlikely to change appreciably. Especially when you consider that Dr. McLeroy is from Austin, arguably the most liberal locale in Texas.
Today (April 2) is the day the NGA is closing the comment period for their draft Core Standards document. This set of guidelines for math and English language arts represents an attempt by the states (not the Federal Government) to ensure consistency across the US for students preparing for higher eduction. From their press release:
These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards are:No doubt that last one caused consternation in Texas but, if you read the guidelines as is, they are not revolutionary in scope. Where they do differ from prior practice is that the states have decided to determine their own destinies and not be forced to accept federal dictates on educational reform. In the No Child Left Behind programs (which set assessment and evaluation criteria and then rewarded achievement with money), the states played a limited role in setting the standards. No Child Left Behind is now widely viewed as a very expensive failure and the Obama administration has determined that education policy must change to improve students’ ability to reach college (with a uniform understanding of certain key topics) and to enable America to compete with other countries.
• Aligned with college and work expectations;
• Clear, understandable and consistent;
• Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
• Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
• Informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
• Evidence- and research-based.
The proactive steps taken by the NGA should be actively supported by all who see education policy as a shared responsibility between the states and the federal government. Hopefully, by so doing, individual states like Texas and Alaska will no longer be able to short-change their students future by imposing their flat world view on education.
Note: How the Texas Board Works and What it Does (Video)