Critical Decisions Made by the Texas SBOE That Impact Millions of Students


Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Donna Garner a retired teacher and an education activist.

“Critical Decisions Made by the Texas SBOE

That Impact Millions of Students”


In an 8 to 7 vote, the SBOE members prevailed against Thomas Ratliff’s amendment to create a whole new layer of professors to scrutinize instructional materials (IM’s). This vote was important since across America, 88.1% of full-time faculty members’ identity themselves as liberals while only 11.9% identify themselves as conservatives. Texas does not need an entire layer of left-leaning professors evaluating the IM’s based upon their liberal agenda. 


In a fit of Narcissistic bitterness at the end of the meeting, Thomas Ratliff tried to shame the SBOE for making any references to his father, Bill Ratliff, who authored SB 1 in 1995. (Please go to “The Wrong Man for the Job – Bill Ratliff” – by Donna Garner – 7.2.07 —  It was SB 1 that completely restructured public school education in Texas; and it was that revamping that took much control away from the local level and gave it to the state. Thomas Ratliff opined that if the SBOE members do not like what his father did, then they need to change the laws. One slight problem with his complaint:  It is not the SBOE members who write the laws; it is the Texas Legislature. Therefore, the SBOE members have a perfect right to refer back to SB 1, including the fact that Bill Ratliff authored that bill.  It is not the SBOE’s fault that Thomas is sensitive about his father and the harmful role he played.   


Presently, SBOE members are free to use their judgment to choose teachers, parents, employers, business and industry leaders, and subject-matter experts whose life experiences have equipped them to serve on the instructional materials (e.g., textbooks) review panels.  SBOE member Erika Beltran (D – Dallas ) tried to get the SBOE to pass an amendment which would have narrowly defined “qualified,” leaving out many qualified retired teachers and those with life experiences that make them subject-matter experts. The majority of SBOE members voted against Beltran’s amendment.


The majority of the SBOE members voted against the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC)’s proposal which would have allowed people with no teaching experience to become superintendents.  Presently superintendents must have taught at least two years along with meeting several other requirements. SBEC could still elect to make a few changes to the proposal and send it back again to the SBOE for a vote.

After having taught for 33+ years in 14 different schools, I believe that it is essential for a superintendent to have been a classroom teacher. In fact, it would be great if every superintendent had to return to the classroom periodically so that he/she could see what current classrooms are like.  If a superintendent has never been in the classroom, then he/she cannot possibly understand the two most important functions that must be present in a classroom: (1) consistent discipline, and (2) quality curriculum IN THAT ORDER.  The main function of a superintendent is not to build fancy buildings and manage spreadsheets.  His/Her main function is to make sure that students receive a quality education, and the superintendent has to know from first-hand experience what the delivery of that quality education entails.


Perhaps the best information presented to the SBOE members came from grassroots citizens – parents whose children are being negatively impacted by the Common Core philosophy of education that is found in their children’s math materials.

Randy Houchins is an experienced engineer and mathematician. He is the parent of two middle-school children.  He went to all the trouble to take the Math STAAR/EOC tests himself (only missed one answer), identified the Common-Core-like questions in them, and showed how they tied to the process standards in the Introductions in the Math TEKS. Mr. Houchins produced an invaluable written report with actual math examples and explanations: 

Link to Mr. Houchin’s Written Report:  

Link to Mr. Houchin’s Short Testimony:

Chris Remy is a Texas parent with three elementary school children. Mr. Remy is an experienced MBA who uses math every day in his job.   

Link to Mr. Remy’s Short Testimony – 


The Texas Education Agency staff reported that they have acted upon the requirements of HB 1613 (passed in the last Legislative Session – by developing charts for Math, Science, Social Studies, and Cross Disciplines showing the alignment between CCRS and the TEKS.  No chart has  been produced for the ELAR/TEKS  (English / Language Arts / Reading) because those TEKS are presently in the process of being reviewed.  

I think it is important to remind the Texas Legislature, the SBOE, the TEA, and the public that the only set of K-12 curriculum standards for Texas that have been officially adopted by the elected members of the SBOE (according to the Texas Education Code) are the TEKS. The College-and-Career-Ready Standards have not been officially adopted by an elected body after public scrutiny and public hearings. Therefore, the CCRS have no real legal standing whereas the TEKS are mandated to be taught in every public school in Texas.    




11.19.15 — “Update: SBOE Did the Right Thing Yesterday” – by Donna Garner – — 11.19.15 —

11.17.15 — “Thomas Ratliff Trying To Make Himself Relevant” – by Donna Garner – EdViews.org

Donna Garner



Tincy Miller

SBOE Member, District 12

Digital Age Spells Need for More Diligent Textbook Reviewers


Dear Friends,

An informative article written by guest columnist for the Houston News and Texas State Board of Education Member District 8, Barbara Cargill former Chair.

Digital Age Spells Need for More Diligent Textbook Reviewers

You may have heard the recent story in the news about the attentive Pearland High School freshman, Coby Burren, who discovered an error in his World Geography textbook.

In a section titled “Patterns of Immigration,” a caption on a map stated, “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” The student told his mom, and she posted it on Facebook. As you can imagine, there has been a lot of outrage and concern.

The good news is that publisher McGraw-Hill pledged immediately to “update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor.”

The bad news is that such an error was missed by the publishers’ review process and by the state textbook review process. Both involved experts with impressive credentials in history, and in Texas the review also included hundreds of citizen volunteers who reviewed the books independently.

The state review is an open process; anyone can review submitted textbooks. Thanks to diligent reviewers, hundreds of other errors were found, reported and corrected. So how could this egregious error have been missed?

Senate Bill 6, passed in 2011, allows publishers to submit digital or printed versions of their textbooks to participate in the state review process. Digital textbooks are not like the printed textbooks that may still come home in your kids’ backpacks! The student has links to open, videos to watch, academic games to play, activities and lesson resources to study, and assessments to take. Needless to say, reviewing a digital textbook is very different than the old pre-Senate Bill 6 days of reviewing only printed copies, which is difficult enough with many books being hundreds of pages long.

 Even more difficult to review are online textbooks that involve a lot of clicking and searching, leading to more content, much of which is interactive.

 The McGraw-Hill World Geography book was a digital submission. For a reviewer, navigating to the erroneous map caption would have required clicking on the chapter, clicking on 1 of 4 lesson resources, and then further clicking on 1 of 16 ancestries listed on the map. Only then did the incorrect content appear in a pop-up screen.

 I am not trying to excuse the error, but this explanation at least gives a picture of the challenges involved in reviewing digital textbooks.

That is why we need sharp-eyed, conscientious people like Coby Burren and his mom to report errors they find. It is unfortunate that the textbook included the offensive wording to begin with, but the publisher has done the right thing by correcting it. You can rest assured that the SBOE-approved history textbooks are excellent resources for our students and teachers.

In this new age of technology where we see school districts greatly increasing their use of digital instructional materials, we need and appreciate your help to ensure complete accuracy in our students’ textbooks.

Barbara Cargill can be contacted at


Tincy Miller

SBOE Member, District 12