OPEN LETTER TO TEX. LEGISLATORS — DO NOT PASS THESE BILLS

To:  Open Letter to Texas Legislators

From:  Donna Garner

Re:  BAD BILLS — SB 1724 (Sen. Dan Patrick),  SB 3 (Sen. Dan Patrick), and HB 5 (Rep. Aycock)

CATEGORIES IN EDUCATION

Generally, I believe there are two different types of philosophies of education; and nearly all educators, curriculum, vendors, organizations, and advocacy groups fall into one of these two categories.  (3.3.13 — “Type #1 and Type #2 — Two Completely Different Philosophies of Education” — http://nocompromisepac.ning.com/profiles/blogs/type-1-and-type-2-tw… )

Next, there are also three different types of individuals involved; and we can see this all across America.

The “green” people are those who go-along to get-along; they go with the status quo and are content to follow whatever teaching fad is in vogue at the present time. These people are not bad people but are easily deceived by those who have ulterior motives (e.g., drive-by media, national educator organizations, left-leaning politicians, CSCOPE, Common Core Standards).

The “yellow” people are those who are driven by greed, money, power, and fame. Many of these people are vendors, lobbyists, or school employees who look past the egregious content of their products so long as they themselves are benefitting.  Into this group fall some CSCOPE/TESCCC/ESC employees, Thomas Ratliff, Mike Moses, Pat Jacoby, TASA, TASB, etc.

The “red” people know exactly what they are doing. They have long-term goals to change America, and they realize that the best way to do this is to indoctrinate this and succeeding generations of school children in their classrooms.  Into this group fall such people as Obama, Arne Duncan, Linda Darling-Hammond, Bill Ayers, the National Education Organization, and many other left-leaners.      

Politicians can come in all different colors – green, yellow, and red. Those who blindly follow are green. Those who seek fame, fortune, and/or control for themselves are yellow. Those whose aim is to change America from a capitalist, free-market Republic into a Socialist, Communist, Marxist country are red.  

I do not believe that very many of our Texas Legislators fall into the “red” category, but I do believe many of them do fall into the “green” or “yellow” categories.

#1 – LEGISLATORS IGNORED WARNINGS ABOUT ONLINE CURRICULUM

For whatever reason, Texas legislators did not listen to us grassroots citizens when we tried to warn them about online curriculum.  We told them that when curriculum can be changed “at the click of a mouse,” problems would certainly follow. (Enter Type #2 CSCOPE!) 

I personally made sure that Texas Legislators knew about the Texas Technology Immersion Project that cost $20 Million, was funded by the federal government, and was conducted right here in Texas where it used the TAKS tests to show whether immersing students with computers would raise their academic achievement (http://educationviews.org/research-laptops-do-not-increase-academic… ).  It did not!  The TIP research proved, “There were no statistically significant effects of immersion on the TAKS reading and Writing.

The legislators overlooked the TIP research and went right ahead and passed SB 6 in the 82nd Legislative Session.  It was SB 6 that allowed Type #2 CSCOPE to slither into approximately 80% of Texas’ public schools even though the Texas State Board of Education had assiduously worked to adopt new Type #1 curriculum standards (TEKS) starting with the English TEKS in May 2008.

SB 6 opened the door to CSCOPE, Safari Montage, and TASA iCLOUD  – none of which have gone through the SBOE public review process and all of which can be bought by the local school district with the state’s Instructional Materials Funds (IMF). The IMF can be used for not only the online learning materials but also for the cost of software, hardware, maintenance, and technology staff.  Millions of dollars are being spent on online learning/computers/iPADS/iPhones without any peer-reviewed, replicated research to prove that students’ writing and reading abilities will improve!

#2 – LEGISLATORS IGNORED WARNINGS ABOUT CHANGING THE “NEW PLAN”

Texas legislators in this 83rd Legislative Session have filed SB 3, SB 1724, and HB 5 which will dumb down our Texas public schools by destroying the New Plan (my terminology).  The New Plan took at least 10 years for conservative leaders to pass.  It requires the vast majority of Texas high-school students to take the 4 x 4 (4 years of English, Math, Science, Social Studies).  The New Plan also includes holding both students and teachers accountable on the STAAR/EOC’s in each grade level/each course.  (Please read “To Gripers: Let New Plan for Texas Public Schools Continue”– http://educationviews.org/to-gripers-let-new-plan-for-texas-public-… )

In the above article I carefully explained that if Texans want students to learn the following, then the New Plan must remain in place:  

RESULTS OF TYPE #1*

  • If we want our public school children to learn to read well, we must have Type #1.
  • If we want them to be able to speak and write English well, then we must have Type #1.
  • If we want them to be patriotic citizens who revere the Founding Fathers and know and honor the Constitution, then we must have Type #1.
  • If we want our graduates to be knowledgeable voters who know history and can analyze current events based upon the past and the present, then we must have Type #1.
  • If we want our public school children to recognize that they and the whole world were created by a Higher Being, then we must have Type #1.
  • If we want our public school children to know their math facts to automaticity, then we must have Type #1.
  • If we want our public school children to be able to do well in foreign languages, then we must have Type #1 that teaches the phonetic sound system and grammar/usage in English so that they can apply that to their foreign language learning.  
  • If we want our public school children to read the great pieces of literature that have connected our country to past generations, then we must have Type #1.
  • If we want our public school children to have the skills and knowledge they need for college and/or the workplace, then we must have Type #1.
  • If we want to turn out scientists who are well read, logical, analytical, and who can write down their scientific conclusions, then we must have Type #1.
  • If we want our graduates to be able to write compositions built upon facts and persuasive techniques, then we must have Type #1.
  • If we want our high-school students to know how to research a topic and then put that information into well-written text, we must have Type #1.
  • If we want legislators who are well read and who have a deep understanding of world history/American history/U. S. legal system and how those apply to current events, then we must have Type #1.

#3 – LEGISLATORS IGNORED WARNINGS ABOUT THE TWO-TRACK SYSTEM

Again Texas legislators did not listen when we tried to tell them that Texas does not want a two-track system. (“Texas Does Not Want a Two-Track System But Wants All To Be Educated Citizens” — http://nocompromisepac.ning.com/profiles/blogs/texas-does-not-want-… ).

Many states have bought into the two-track system where a very small percentage of the high school student body receives a college-preparatory education and the largest percentage of the student body receives vocational training with limited in-depth study of the great books and ideas of the world. (Obama’s Common Core Standards follows the two-track plan.  HB 5, SB 3, and SB 1724 filed during this legislative session also will produce the two-track plan.)

In Texas, however, if legislators will quit trying to gut the New Plan (and if HB 760 and SB 1406 are passed that will put CSCOPE and ESC products under the authority of the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education), the vast majority of our high-school students will graduate under the 4 x 4 with a basic core foundation of knowledge and skillsthat will prepare them to be well-educated citizens and voters of tomorrow; but they will still have time during the school day to delve into the particular elective fields that interest them.

Not only does Texas have the best graduation requirement plan (the New Plan) which will turn out well-educated future citizens, but we also have the most fact-based, academic curriculum standards (TEKS – Type #1) in the whole United States.

Together with the New Plan, the new Type #1 TEKS,  and the new Type #1 tests (STAAR/EOC), Texas’ public schools are on the way to authentic education reform if legislators will let the plan be fully implemented. Presently, Texas sophomores on down are on the New Plan.  Seniors and juniors are on the “old” graduation plan and the “old” Type #2 TEKS.

Since under the New Plan most Texas high-school students will be graduating with a broad-based background of core knowledge and skills, our graduates will be able to make choices among college and/or career opportunities. If their chosen vocation suddenly collapses in a changing and uncertain economy, our Texas students will be well educated enough to move into other vocations.

#4 – LEGISLATORS HAVE CHOSEN NOT TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS

To challenge legislators and policymakers to think about the negative consequences of the ill-conceived bills (SB 3, SB 1724, and HB 5) that will gut the 15 STAAR/EOC’s and the 4 x 4 graduation requirements, I have asked these people to answer the following questions.  So far, I have received no answers.  Here are the questions:

MY QUESTIONS FOR TEXAS LEGISLATORS AND POLICYMAKERS

Question #1:  What is your plan to force the hard-headed education establishment to leave their Type #2 TAKS-based curriculum and move their students into Type #1 Texas curriculum standards (TEKS) and the new STAAR/End-of-Course tests built upon them?

The reality is that teachers will teach whatever they are held publicly accountable to teach.  If you de-emphasize the STAAR/EOC’s, what would make the education establishment ditch the old Type #2, dumbed-down curriculum standards and move to the new, more rigorous Type #1 curriculum standards? 

If you are unhappy with the type of graduates coming out of our Texas public schools and you are worried about the educational level of our Texas workforce, what is your plan to improve their foundational, academic skills?  After all, if students cannot read, write, and speak English proficiently, how can they possibly function in their future vocations? 

Welders still need to be able to read their manuals; auto mechanics still need to be able to read and follow safety regulations. Farmers still have to be able to understand government regulations and to fill out required paperwork.  All of us need to be able to follow written directions (e.g., medicine bottles, safety precautions, insurance forms, doctors’ orders, etc.)  to survive, and everyone is required to fill out state and federal forms.  

Question #2:  What is your plan to make sure Texas public school students commit themselves to learn the knowledge-based, academic, foundational skills that are found in the new TEKS and tested on the STAAR/EOC’s?  The new TEKS (adopted since 2008) are not at all like the old TEKS (adopted in July 1997). The old TEKS did not require students to learn nor teachers to teach specific content at each grade level. The new TEKS, however, have specific goals for students/teachers to reach at each grade level in each of the four core subjects.

The New Plan is fair because now everyone knows what the goals are. The old system was a jumble because nobody was quite sure what needed to be taught/learned at each grade level and in each course. Out of frustration and confusion, Texas educators put their TEKS in the bottom desk drawer and made the TAKS tests their curriculum.  The TAKS tests became the focus, and memorization of the TAKS answers became the norm.   

Question #3: If you de-emphasize the STAAR/EOC’s by gutting the present requirements and by not requiring students to pass them at each grade level along the way in English, Science, Social Studies, and Math, how will you make sure that students at each grade level learn what they are supposed to learn?

How will you make sure that students are prepared on the prerequisite skills at each grade level/course level unless those students and their teachers are held accountable at the end of each grade level/course level?

The New Plan requires students to pass 15 of their STAAR/EOC’s in order to graduate. How are you going to motivate students to learn the required TEKS curriculum standards at each step of the way if they are not held publicly accountable as they proceed through school?    

Have you ever heard of public pressure?  That is what the New Plan does; it makes schools (students and teachers alike) feel the pressure from the public to switch from Type #2 to Type #1 by publicizing the results of those high-stakes tests.  How are you going to mount the same type of public pressure if you gut the New Plan?

#5 – LEGISLATORS GUTTING STAAR/EOC REQUIREMENTS, PARTICULARLY WORLD HISTORY AND WORLD GEOGRAPHY

Under SB 1724, Texas high-school students would not be required to pass STAAR/End-of-Course tests in World History and World Geography.  “What gets measured gets treasured.”  What does not get measured does not usually get taught.  (Please refer to chart on SB 1724 posted below.)

It was over the curriculum standards (TEKS) for World History and World Geography that the Texas State Board of Education members waged some of their most ferocious battles back on 5.23.10.

The end result is that Texas’ World History and World Geography standards (along with the other Social Studies standards) are the most fact-based and patriotic curriculum standards (TEKS) in the entire country.  They are indeed “Type #1.”

Unless teachers and their students are held accountable on the World History and World Geography STAAR/End-of-Course tests to teach/learn the new Type #1 TEKS, many Texas teachers most likely will continue teaching their “old” Type #2 curriculum units  — revisionist history.

Also, it is in the World History and World Geography TEKS that the world’s religions are to be taught.  If we lose the STAAR/EOC “measuring stick” in these two courses, how will parents and the public know whether Texas students have been taught Type #1 or Type #2 curriculum? 

Some of the most troubling lessons in CSCOPE (and in other curriculum materials) are those that cover World History and World Geography (e.g., students designing Communist/Marxist flags, Islamic fundamentalism, burqas, Christianity as a cult, The Middle East, Christopher Columbus as an eco-warrior, 9/11 terrorists as “freedom fighters,” portrayal of communism as superior to capitalism, etc.). 

Have we grassroots citizens worked so hard to disclose these egregious Type #2 World History and World Geography revisionist history lessons only to lose the “battle” by removing the accountability of the STAAR/EOC’s that will force teachers to teach Type #1?  Yet, SB 1724, if passed, would remove that accountability for both teachers and students.  

If the Texas Legislature does away with the World History and World Geography STAAR/EOC’s (SB 1724), how will parents and the public ever know whether TASA iCLOUD, regular public schools, charter schools, CSCOPE, Turkish Gulen Harmony Charter Schools, dual-credit courses, Texas Virtual Academy, online learning, Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate programs, Web 2.0 Tools, and Safari Montage are actually moving our school children into Type #1? 

Link to SB 1724 – Legislation on STAAR/End-of-Course Tests http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=83R&…

TYPE OF TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL DEGREE PROGRAM

STAAR/END-OF-COURSE GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

FOUNDATION  
English IEnglish IIAlgebra I

Biology

U. S. History

Take 5 tests and must pass a minimum of 4
   
BUSINESS & INDUSTRY  
English IEnglish IIIAlgebra I

Biology

U. S. History

Take 5 tests and must pass a minimum of 4
   
ARTS & HUMANITIES/STEM  
English IEnglish IIIAlgebra I

Algebra II

Biology

U. S. History

Take 6 tests and must pass minimum of 5
   
English I — diagnostic only — does not count toward graduation State will pay costs for students to take SAT or ACT  

#6 – LEGISLATORS TURNING FOREIGN LANGUAGE CLASSES INTO CULTURE CLASSES

The present New Plan has three degree plans (sophomores on down): Recommended (default), Distinguished, and Minimum.  The students who choose the Minimum plan (a very small percentage of Texas students) do not have to take foreign languages and for a good reason:  Most of those on the Minimum plan do not have the English pre-requisite skills to be able to be successful in a foreign language. Unless students understand the grammatical structure of their own primary language, most of them will not be able to gain proficiency in the foreign language.  

HB 5, SB 3, SB 1724, if passed, would require ALL students to take at least two years of foreign languages. The weakest students (those presently in the Minimum plan) would most likely either end up failing their foreign language classes or would pull the standards of the whole class down so much that students would end up studying ABOUT the foreign language/culture/holidays rather than LEARNING TO BE PROFICIENT in the foreign language.

=============

PRESENT NEW PLAN (SOPHOMORES ON DOWN) — RECOMMENDED GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS (DEFAULT)

This Recommended graduation plan gives Texas high school students many opportunities (7 ½ credits of self-chosen electives for a 7-period day and 11 ½ credits for an 8-period day) to investigate various career, technology, fine arts, business, and other courses to see if the students have an interest in them.

SUBJECT

CREDITS

English (ELAR) 4
Math 4
Science 4
Social Studies 4
Foreign Languages 2
Physical Education or ROTC 1
Speech 1/2
Fine Arts 1
ELECTIVES 5 1/2
   
TOTAL 26 CREDITS

*Most frequently chosen plan

============

Texas’s present New Plan also has two alternatives from which students may choose – the Distinguished and the Minimum:

PRESENT NEW PLAN – DISTINGUISHED GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS  

SUBJECT

CREDITS

English (ELAR) 4
Math 4
Science 4
Social Studies 4
Foreign Languages 3
Physical Education or ROTC 1
Speech 1/2
Fine Arts 1
ELECTIVES 4 1/2
   
TOTAL 26 CREDITS

PRESENT NEW PLAN – MINIMUM GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

SUBJECT

CREDITS

English (ELAR) 4
Math 3
Science 2
Social Studies 3
Academic Elective 1
Physical Ed. or ROTC 1
Speech 1/2
Fine Arts 1
ELECTIVES 6 1/2
   
TOTAL 22 CREDITS

============

Now compare Sen. Dan Patrick’s plan as he explained it to me in an e-mail sent on 3.28.13:

RECOMMENDED

(Sen. Patrick calls this the 5 X 4 X 4 X 4.)

  • 2 years of Foreign Languages
  • STEM students (Math and Science majors) could take only 3 Social Studies but 5 Math or Science and 4 English.  (This means STEM students could elect not to take World History and World Geography – two of the most important history courses in high school.)

HUMANITIES

  • 3 Math, 3 Science, 4 or 5 English, 4 or 5 Social Studies
  • 2 Years of Foreign Languages

DISTINGUISHED

  • Same as present 4 x 4 (4 years of English, 4 years of Math, 4 years of Social Studies, 4 years of Science)
  • 3 years of Foreign Languages

Donna Garner

Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

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