WHAT TEXAS TESTS – AND WHY THAT MATTERS

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Tracy Young, Tracy is director of the Education Reform initiative at the George W. Bush Institute.

What Texas Tests – and Why That Matters”

http://www.bushcenter.org/blog/2015/04/14/what-texas-tests-and-why-matters

The exams that Texas students must take to graduate are being attacked again during this legislative session.  Legislators are calling into question whether it matters if students can show on an objective measure that they have the skills and knowledge the state is expecting students to have.

In reality, our entire community – including students, their parents, educators, employers and colleges, as well as taxpayers – have a need to know, based on independent, objective data, whether students are prepared for college or career when they complete their schooling.

Sadly, in a world where kids can get ribbons for simply showing up and participating, a key indicator is, and must remain, reliable statewide assessments that are highly aligned to the state’s standards.

Let’s look into the details.

WHAT ARE STUDENTS SUPPOSED TO KNOW?

The place to start is with the state’s education standards, which are known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or, affectionately, the TEKS (pronounced “teeks”). The elected State Board of Education determines what students should know to graduate. The board does so in collaboration with educators and seeks input from others such as business leaders and parents.  http://tea.texas.gov/curriculum/teks/   Together, they create the TEKS.

 These standards are not hidden away, either. They are in plain view for Texans to read.

            Summary of standards for sophomore English

via the Texas Education Agency

 Reading, where students read and understand a wide variety of literary and informational texts;

 Writing, where students compose a variety of written texts with a clear controlling idea, coherent organization, and sufficient detail;

 Research, where students are expected to know how to locate a range of relevant sources and evaluate, synthesize, and present ideas and information;

 Listening and Speaking, where students listen and respond to the ideas of others while contributing their own ideas in conversations and in groups;

 Oral and Written Conventions, where students learn how to use the oral and written conventions of the English language in speaking and writing.

 While maybe not easy, these standards are straightforward and reasonable expectations for a high school graduate.

HOW WILL WE KNOW IF THEY KNOW?

The objective measure used to assess students’ grasp of such standards, otherwise known as a standardized test, has become a mysterious boogeyman. The STAAR exam (the most recent Texas statewide, standardized test) has ended up portrayed as something disconnected from the classroom and everyday learning. 

Let’s look again at the publicly-available English II test. The high school exam for that course is the last one that Texas students are supposed to pass to graduate. The Texas Education Agency has now released the 2014 English II test that was given to 10th graders a year ago. (You can read it on the agency’s website.)

This “disconnected” test is actually made up of passages to read with questions after the passage, a familiar format to anyone who has gone through school.

Some passages and questions relate to a student’s writing skills while other passages and questions have to do with whether a student has understood what he or she has read. The public often hears that schools need to measure more “higher order thinking.” It is clear that some questions expect that the student can utilize higher order thinking as well as simple recall of information.

For example, the first writing passage is one called “Grady the Famous Cow” and does not seem too difficult at all. The first question checks to see if the student can combine two related sentences in a paragraph in a way that makes sense. Another question expects a student to realize that just using the word “they” does not explain who the writer is talking about. A final question asks the student to choose which one of four sentences is an ending sentence that strengthens the story’s closing.

Other passages have questions that have the student show correct use of the word “however,” or use a comma correctly, or know that titles should be capitalized or know how to use “their” and “his” correctly.

Then there is a literary essay with questions that determine whether to use the words “good” or “well.” They also try to determine whether students understand the difference between “lose” and “loose.”

The final part of the writing test expects students to write a persuasive piece on whether learning has a positive effect on a person’s life.

None of this is exceptionally difficult.  However, it is clear that one cannot read the passage, then go to the questions and just answer them.

The student must go back to the passage and look at it carefully in order to answer almost each question. A student must be willing to check back again after having read the passage the first time in order to figure out the information. This is not unlike work each of us must often do every day with written materials we receive in our work.

The next section of the exam is on Reading.  There are three-page passages to read with questions after the passages.  The questions require choosing one of four choices.

For example, in one the reader is expected to infer exactly why something is happening in the story and does require some re-reading to figure out the best answer.  Another question asks the reader if the tone of a particular short paragraph is “outraged,” “admiring,” “resigned” or “hopeful.” Another question asks the reader to pick which of four sentences best describes the author’s purpose for writing an article. Another question asks how two readings about different topics are actually similar. The answer is fairly obvious if one has read both selections carefully.

A 15-line poem is next with questions about imagery, themes and symbols.  These questions are definitely the kind of “higher order” thinking that many post-secondary institutions and business professionals say is required in today’s world.

A final selection has other questions and asks the test taker to provide a short written answer to explain the author’s opinion using evidence from the selection.

HOW ARE THESE TESTS CREATED AND WHAT DO THEY MEASURE?

So, how are the tests created?

The Texas Education Agency works closely with the test maker, in this case Pearson, to make sure the test is constructed with quality and measures what the state standards expect students to know.

Texas teachers are involved in designing the questions.

Every test item goes through many checks to make sure it is a good one. Some questions are easier, some are harder. All well-constructed tests have some questions that are easy and others that are very hard.

Not many students would be able to answer all questions correctly. In fact, the state has set a low bar for what is considered passing – a student only has to get about half of the questions correct to pass the test. Also, the student gets five separate chances to take and re-take the test if he or she fails to pass.

In all, the test asks students to show that they can read and write with skill and understanding at a level that should be expected by a high school graduate.

But since a student only has to get about half of the questions correct, missing some of the more difficult ones will not keep him or her from passing.

The fact that some students cannot even get close to half correct after re-taking the test five times says pretty clearly that they have not been taught the skills that the state standards expect. Sadly, in Texas today, about 30,000 high school students fall into this category.

Instead of hearing about the importance of them walking the stage in May, we should be spending more time, effort and legislation on providing these students remedial help and tutoring. I would rather know that the student walking the stage has the skills needed for post-secondary or job success – skills that the state of Texas promised her before she graduated and received that diploma.

WHY THE GAP?

The big question is why students who cannot pass the exam might be receiving passing grades in the classroom. Testing and accountability started as a way to determine whether students are actually learning the required skills in a classroom.

I know classroom grades tell an important part of the story, but we must also have that independent cross-check that is the same for all students. That kind of test tells us if what is going on in the classroom actually translates to knowing the expected state standards. That’s where the state test comes in.

Bobby Kennedy raised the issue of comparability as a senator when the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act was being created 50 years ago in 1965. He quizzed educators about whether there was some way to test how well students were grasping critical information. 

Nationally, the pivotal A Nation at Risk report showed in the early 1980s that American students were coming up short in fundamental subjects like reading and math even though classroom grades did not reveal that.  What’s more, businesses and colleges were saying in states like Texas that students were graduating with good grades, but they could not do the work required of them.

That disconnection led states to look at classroom expectations. Was the school expecting the same level of work that the state standards require?  And does the school have the same expectations for every student?

As we consider what now is expected of Texas students, is there anything in the standards mentioned above that we don’t think students should know?  And don’t we want to cross-check whether they know it?

Standards and tests may not always be popular, leading some in Austin to move away from them. Yet standards are necessary for our state to thrive and advance, and tests show us whether or not Texas students are mastering those important standards.

If students do not have a firm grasp of what’s expected of them, being passed along to the next grade will only limit their ability to acquire the next level of skills. Eventually, they will enter the world unprepared for the challenges that await them. And they will not be qualified for the jobs that could provide a decent wage for them and their families.

In short, they will live in a world of limited horizons. Is that really the Texas we want for our children?

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

Tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

The End of History Part II By Lynne Cheney

 

Dear Friends,

A very important and timely article written by Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney.  She has loved history for as long as she can remember, and has spent much of her professional life writing and speaking about the importance of knowing history and teaching it well. As chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 to 1993, she wrote and spoke about the importance of teaching children about the leaders, events, and ideas that have shaped our world, and she worked to provide opportunities for educators to gain the in-depth knowledge that lies behind outstanding teaching. Cheney has worked to bring tales of the American past to a wide audience, writing articles about history for numerous publications on topics ranging from women’s suffrage in the West to the way Americans celebrated the country’s centennial. She has also turned her attention to children and their families, writing six bestselling history books for them, including “We the People: The Story of Our Constitution” (Simon & Schuster, 2008). Her most recent book — an in-depth biography of James Madison, titled James Madison: A Life Reconsidered” (Viking, 2014) — is a New

York Times bestseller.

 

The End of History, Part II

The new Advanced Placement U.S. history exam focuses on oppression, group identity and Reagan the warmonger.

reagan

President Reagan speaking in West Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate, June 12, 1987. Photo:

If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

—President Ronald Reagan, speech at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 1987

President Reagan’s challenge to Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev remains one of the most dramatic calls for freedom in our time. Thus I was heartened to find a passage from Reagan’s speech on the sample of the new Advanced Placement U.S. history exam that students will take for the first time in May. It seemed for a moment that students would be encouraged to learn about positive aspects of our past rather than be directed to focus on the negative, as happens all too often.

But when I looked closer to see the purpose for which the quotation was used, I found that it is held up as an example of “increased assertiveness and bellicosity” on the part of the U.S. in the 1980s. That’s the answer to a multiple-choice question about what Reagan’s speech reflects.

No notice is taken of the connection the president made between freedom and human flourishing, no attention to the fact that within 2½ years of the speech, people were chipping off pieces of the Berlin Wall as souvenirs. Instead of acknowledging important ideas and historical context, test makers have reduced President Reagan’s most eloquent moment to warmongering.

The AP U.S. history exam matters. Half a million of the nation’s best and brightest high-school students will take it this year, hoping to use it to earn college credit and to polish their applications to competitive colleges. To score well on the exam, students have to learn what the College Board, a private organization that creates the exam, wants them to know.

No one worried much about the College Board having this de facto power over curriculum until that organization released a detailed framework—for courses beginning last year—on which the Advanced Placement tests on U.S. history will be based from 2015 onward. When educators, academics and other concerned citizens realized how many notable figures were missing and how negative was the view of American history presented, they spoke out forcefully. The response of the College Board was to release the sample exam that features Ronald Reagan as a warmonger.

 

It doesn’t stop there. On the multiple-choice part of the sample exam, there are 18 sections, and eight of them take up the oppression of women, blacks and immigrants. Knowing about the experiences of these groups is important—but truth requires that accomplishment be recognized as well as oppression, and the exam doesn’t have questions on subjects such as the transforming leadership of Martin Luther King Jr.

The framework requires that all questions take up sweeping issues, such as “group identity,” which leaves little place for transcendent individuals. Men and women who were once studied as inspirational figures have become examples of trends, and usually not uplifting ones. The immigrant story that the exam tells is of oppressed people escaping to America only to find more oppression. That many came seeking the Promised Land—and found it here—is no longer part of the narrative.

Critics have noted that Benjamin Franklin is absent from the new AP U.S. history framework, and perhaps in response, the College Board put a quotation from Franklin atop the sample exam. Yet not one of the questions that were asked about the quotation has to do with Franklin. They are about George Whitefield, an evangelist whom Franklin described in the quote. This odd deflection makes sense in the new test, considering that Franklin was a self-made man, whose rise from rags to riches would have been possible only in America—an example of the exceptionalism that doesn’t fit the worldview that pervades the AP framework and sample exam.

Evangelist Whitefield, an Irishman who preached in the colonies, was a key figure in the Great Awakening, an evangelical revival that began in the 1730s. Here, however, he is held up as an example of “trans-Atlantic exchanges,” which seems completely out of left field until one realizes that the underlying notion is that we need to stop thinking nationally and think globally. Our history is simply part of a larger story.

Aside from a section about mobilizing women to serve in the workforce, the sample exam has nothing to say about World War II, the conflict in which the U.S. liberated millions of people and ended one of the most evil regimes in the history of the world. The heroic acts of the men who landed on Omaha Beach and lifted the flag on Iwo Jima are ignored. The wartime experiences that the new framework prefers are those raising “questions about American values,” such as “the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb.”

 

Why would the College Board respond to criticism by putting out a sample exam that proves the critics’ point? Perhaps it is a case of those on the left being so confirmed in their biases that they no longer notice them. Or maybe the College Board doesn’t care what others think.

Some states are trying to get its attention. The Texas State Board of Education, noting that the AP U.S. history framework is incompatible with that state’s standards, has formally requested that the College Board do a rewrite. The Georgia Senate has passed a resolution to encourage competition for the College Board’s AP program. If anything brings a change, it is likely to be such pressure from the states, which provide the College Board with substantial revenue.

Some 20 years ago, as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, I made a grant to a group to create voluntary standards for U.S. history. When the project was finished, I had standards on my hands that were overwhelmingly negative about the American story, so biased that I felt obliged to condemn them in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal called “The End of History.”

I learned an important lesson, one worth repeating today. The curriculum shouldn’t be farmed out, not to the federal government and not to private groups. It should stay in the hands of the people who are constitutionally responsible for it: the citizens of each state.

Lynne Cheney

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

 

Girls May Be the Ones To Suffer Most Under Common Core Math

 

Dear Friends,

A very important and informative article written by Anne Marie Banfield, a wife and mother of three children.  She is an advocate for academic excellence in education and volunteers her time as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action.

 

2.17.14 – New Hampshire Nashua

 

“Girls May Be the Ones To Suffer Most Under Common Core Math”

By Anne Marie Banfield

 

 http://patch.com/new-hampshire/nashua/girls-may-be-the-ones-to-suffer-most-under-common-core-math#.VQWw0Q4wzgg.twitter

 I remember when I was in 7th grade thinking math was so easy.  Understanding math is the key to learning math.  It’s also the key to getting  more students interested in careers involving mathematics.

This is why, years ago, I began researching education.  I particularly focused on math education.  I knew that if we took a math concept and made it easy to understand, we would unlock the door for many children to move through school with success and a real opportunity to go on to any career where math is a primary component.

We all hear about STEM career fields and that the future jobs involve knowing mathematics.  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)  However we have a nation of children and young adults who’ve grown up without the foundation in mathematics that would have allowed them to explore these careers.

As a researcher and one who has actually tutored students in mathematics, one thing is very clear to me, we are engaging in a process that not only confuses children but is also destroying any potential careers involving mathematics.
Where does this come from and what is killing opportunities that should be open to all children?  The biggest reason is “reform math”.  

Reform math or fuzzy math has been around for decades.  I remember when my oldest son was entering kindergarten over 15 years ago and looking at some of the textbooks that were being used in public schools.  I knew at that time, I had to avoid that disaster. 

I opted for a parochial school for many reasons, but one of them was because they were using a traditional textbook that focused on basic math.  There were no fads like: inquiry math, teachers as facilitators instead of instructors, multiple algorithms, strategies or vocabulary that was different.  It was just basic math.  

I didn’t have to do any work with my kids because the teacher taught the subject and it was easy to understand.  My kids were on their way to getting the much needed foundation I knew they needed in order to be successful in Algebra I and beyond.

I managed to connect with parents and experts across the country that were seeing something very different in their public school classrooms.  They were dealing with fuzzy math.

The effect of Fuzzy math on their children was heart wrenching to watch.   I’d hear the desperate cries by mothers who didn’t understand 3rd grade math.  I’d hear how their children were frustrated and angry because they couldn’t figure out the numerous ways to solve a long division problem.


Yes, there are now 
multiple ways to work a long division problem in fuzzy math.

What happens when you teach a child multiple strategies?  You create confusion and the inability to master one way, the most efficient and logical way.

What parents didn’t know was, the traditional long division algorithm is something a child must learn in order to do Polynomial long division when they get to Algebra.  I’m sorry to report that in some of the fuzzy math programs, the

traditional long division algorithm wasn’t even taught.


Is it any wonder our kids cannot do high school level math and beyond when we’ve subjected them to fuzzy math programs that never prepared them for anything beyond elementary school?

 

Wealthy families know how to handle this situation; they hire tutors.  Tutoring services in my own town of Bedford reported that they never had to offer their services until the district switched over to Everyday Math.    Everyday Math is a fuzzy math program found in many public schools throughout the United States.  It’s also one of the leading contributors to math illiteracy too.  I guess on the bright side, it has been profitable for tutoring companies.

So what happens to the children who come from homes where this is not an option, maybe due to lack of money or neglect?  If they are lucky, the school will catch them in a safety net called Title 1. 
Yes, we have schools contributing to math illiteracy by using fuzzy math programs then taking tax dollars to tutor the students they are failing.  It doesn’t make much sense, does it? 

This is something to keep in mind when schools ask for additional funding.  Maybe they should reconsider the curriculum selection so parents do not have to pay for outside tutoring and taxpayers do not have to pay for additional Title 1 teachers.  It kind of makes logical sense.

As a mother, a researcher and one who has tutored children in math, the biggest thing that bothers me is how this is impacting girls.  Not to say that our boys are not important, but what is this doing to the girls, and are we denying them an opportunity to the STEM careers by continuing down this to math illiteracy?

I’ve been researching this issue for years but it all came to a head recently when I read a few articles and posts on social media that summed it all up.   The first one was titled, “ Common Core Is Making Me Stupider”.   

In the example you can see the math problem given to a 3rd grade girl.  She is asked to round numbers in a way that her mother with a Bachelor’s degree and her father with a Master’s degree have trouble with.

This is not an uncommon story.  These problems have been around prior to Common Core and it shows that with Common Core, nothing is getting better.

What made this worse was 
when I saw this post by a mother who photographed her young daughter in tears as she tries to work on her Common Core Math homeworkYou can see in this photo the love of learning math begins the slow

death many math tutors have seen before.

 
As a young girl, I didn’t experience this kind of frustration but instead had good teachers
that taught me math the traditional way.  I wasn’t expected to learn several ways to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  I wasn’t expected to “discover” math through a “facilitator”.  Math was taught to me in a logical way and it was NOT “developmentally inappropriate”.  This is a term being used by child psychologists and teachers when describing Common Core Math.  They understand the problem with expecting young children to think abstractly when their brains do not work that way.

What we are seeing coming from the new Common Core aligned math textbooks do not fix these problems but seem to only add to these problems.  I wish those who insist on asking kids to struggle and discover math would realize that this kind of approach has serious consequences.  As I look to new ideas to promote STEM education, I wonder if those people have any idea where the real problems lie.  

 There is a focus on getting girls to take up an interest in the STEM fields.  Sounds wonderful but if you do not teach them basic math and you will leave them in tears and kill their love of learning the subject.  

Girls and boys who feel confident in math are a teacher’s greatest accomplishment.  When a tutor sees the confidence come back in the face of a girl who thinks she’s stupid because she can’t “inquire” her way through fuzzy math, there is a reward hard to describe.   

The focus on improving the quality of math has to come from advocates who recognize that confusing students doesn’t help them as a child and will never help them as an adult.  Those who are focusing on STEM Ed need to focus on improving the quality of math education in the classroom FIRST.

If you give a child the knowledge the confidence will automatically follow.  When they have the knowledge and the confidence, only then can children honestly look beyond to a career in STEM.

It is important to realize that Common Core is not leading our daughters or sons in that direction, and without that extra help, will deny many of them a real opportunity in life.

The path we are on right now will only work for children whose parents can identify the problem and pay to correct it.  That is a recipe that will leave many other children behind.

Additional Sources: 

1)  Lowering the Bar: How Common Core Math Fails to Prepare Students for STEM 

2)  Joanne Yatvin: The Common Core Standards May Be Harmful to Children

3) The Problem With MAP Assessments and Consequences 

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

Tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

“ Why Rolling Back Graduation Standards Is A Bad Idea”

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by William McKenzie, an editorial director for the George W. Bush Institute, former Dallas Morning News editorial columnist now working on school reform issues.

‘Why Rolling Back Graduation Standards Is A Bad Idea’

Here they go again.

As they did in 2013, Texas legislators are working to reduce the requirements for a high school diploma. Senators already have voted to let students graduate even if they haven’t demonstrated the skills for college or the workplace.

Students who’ve failed up to two of Texas’ five high school exit exams — in courses like English and math — still could graduate if a committee agrees. The panel would consist of the principal, relevant teacher, school counselor and/or parent, parent-designee or student.

Committees now determine whether students who fail state tests in fifth or eighth grade can move to the next level. The vast majority of those students go ahead, so struggling high school students are likely to get a diploma, too.

This is a bad idea.

Here’s why:

Students stand to lose the most.

Look at our world. Professional, managerial and technical jobs that require critical thinking have increased over the last three decades. Jobs that require routine manual or cognitive skills — clerical, repair and sales work, e.g — have declined. The only other jobs to increase noticeably are low-skills jobs like food service and personal care that come with less pay and less economic mobility.

How is it fair to kids if we hand them a diploma without any objective assessment of their readiness for jobs that will lead to more mobility, many of which require some college?

It’s wrong to think we should just give a diploma to students failing state exams because they’ll drop out and struggle to get work.

Instead of talking about making graduation easier, why not provide students intensive interventions so they can master English, math or other subjects?

Perhaps nothing can help the 28,000 students who could qualify this year for an altered path to a diploma. But long-term, Austin should be investing in interventions, especially for students struggling with English. Schools know which students are at risk. Focus on intervening with them instead of lowering their expectations. And start long before high school.

Colleges and employers need an objective way of knowing whether high schoolers are ready for the next level.

Arbitrary graduation standards make that hard. As SMU political science professor Matthew Wilson puts it: “A diploma is supposed to be a signal to universities and employers alike, but it is meaningless if we keep providing path after path to circumvent mastering a subject.”

It’s wrong to devalue diplomas just because we already have a remediation problem.

It’s true that colleges and employers already must play catch-up with too many high school graduates. But why lower graduation standards? If a student can’t pass a state exam, there is always the GED route. GEDs limit what you can do, but we would limit high school students by giving them a diploma without the skills.

The content matters.

People may question standardized tests, but Texas’ final English exam assesses whether students can read, write and communicate clearly. The State Board of Education, teachers, colleges and employers deem these skills important. Read the test questions yourself at http://bit.ly/1ywkLSM.

Don’t concepts matter, such as how to use a comma or figure the sales tax while shopping?

Finally, this path to a diploma is unfair to the 90 percent of seniors who have passed all their exit exams.

They’ve fulfilled their responsibility, even if passing some exams requires answering only about half the questions correctly.

Sure, students with special needs might need more time to take tests. Others might require substantial resources to help with challenges such as dyslexia. And those with the most serious cognitive disabilities rightly don’t have to pass the state tests.

But how is it fair to students to give them a diploma when they can’t show the ability to think critically, write effectively and solve problems? The real world will demand those abilities, and there might not be an escape hatch once they enter it.

A high school diploma is a ticket to the next stage of life. It won’t help them if that ticket lacks meaning.

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

“To Texas Lege: Do No Harm”

 

Dear Friends,

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

“To Texas Lege: Do No Harm”

http://www.educationviews.org/texas-lege-harm/ 

Almost any bills that Texas Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) offers have a questionable agenda behind them.  Even the left-leaning Dallas Morning News editorial board today is criticizing Seliger’s bill that weakens the power of regents of Texas universities to “vigorously question administrations and to gather the records required to do so.”  Seliger and other Texas Legislators are on a tirade because Wallace Hall, U. T. Regent, managed to uncover the fact that special admission favors were dished out to Texas legislators’ children and friends who applied to the U. T. Law School.    

Seliger is deeply tied to the wrong people. He is trying to get Gov. Abbott to appoint Marty Rowley (R – Amarillo) as the new chair of the SBOE.  [*Posted toward the bottom of this article, I have given my recommendation for the best person to be the SBOE chair.]  Rowley recently voted for Thomas Ratliff to become the vice-chair of the three-member SBOE executive committee that decides on the direction of the Board.  Thomas Ratliff is a long-time lobbyist for Microsoft; Ratliff managed to get himself placed on the SBOE Committee on the Permanent School Fund.  This committee makes decisions involving the PSF and millions of dollars’ worth of business with Microsoft. Bill Gates/Microsoft are behind the Common Core.  Ratliff is serving illegally on the SBOE because of his conflict of interest.  If Marty Rowley were to be appointed the chair of the SBOE, then Seliger and Ratliff would have an even bigger “seat at the education table.”

Seliger also works closely with TASA, TASB, TAMSA, Raise Your Hand Texas, and Teacher Parent PAC .  All of these organizations have common interests because they want to destroy the present Type #1 curriculum standards (TEKS) adopted by the SBOE from 2008 -2012 for each grade level and for each course.

 By destroying the Type #1 STAAR/End-of-Course tests (the “measuring stick”) that by law are aligned with the TEKS, then schools would be free to teach Type #2 undeterred by the Type #1 requirements.  Without a measuring stick based upon the measurable/objective data of the STAAR/EOC’s, schools would be rated on the soft data produced by subjective measurements and easily manipulated criteria.  

Yes, if these legislative bills to destroy the STAAR/EOC’s were to get passed, there would be massive celebrations all across Texas; however, the next day after the celebrations and the reality hits parents, they would be furious.  How would any parent (or taxpayer) know whether or not his local school district is doing a good job of educating students? How would a parent know whether his child is ready for the rigors of the next grade level?  How would parents know whether to get extra tutoring for their children or intensive remediation?  If a parent suspects that his child has been in a classroom where the teacher has inflated students’ grades, how would a parent know this without the “measuring stick” of the STAAR/EOC’s? Unless the STAAR/EOC’s are given at each grade level/course, who would both parents and administrators hold accountable for the gaps in learning?  

How would businessmen in the community know whether their future employees are prepared with basic skills?  It would be a delicate situation to fire employees once hired who do not have the basic skills to be good, well-prepared employees?

[Type #1 vs. Type #2 Chart — http://www.educationviews.org/comparison-types-education-type-1-traditional-vs-type-2-cscope-common-core/

SEN. SELIGER’S BAD BILLS

SB 149(http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=SB149) offers an escape mechanism for students not to learn and teachers not to teach the Type #1 curriculum standards (TEKS) adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education after numerous public hearings and thousands of grassroots citizens’ input.

SB 149allows students to graduate without passing the five STAAR/End-of-Course tests (English I, English II, Biology, U.S. History, and Algebra I) even though students have years to do so with released test questions, intensive remediation, and many different administrations of the test.  

 SB 313(http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=SB313) requires the SBOE to review and modify all of the TEKS for every subject and every grade level by Sept. 2018.  Of course, this is an impossible task for the SBOE to do it thoroughly and well in that short length of timealong with the myriads of other responsibilities that the SBOE has.  The SBOE members are unpaid volunteers who receive no remuneration for staffers nor offices.

Sen. Seliger’s SB 313would disrupt the well-organized plan already put in motion by the Texas Education Agency and the SBOE to review/modify the TEKS in a systematic order (http://tea.texas.gov/index2.aspx?id=25769817636).  As indicatedon the TEA website, currently the TEKS for English / Language Arts / Reading (ELAR) are up for consideration with writing teams being selected to review and modify them if necessary.   Seliger’s SB 313 is not needed and would be duplicative and confusing.  

SB 451authored by Sen. Seliger (http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=SB451) and its House companion piece HB 774(Mary Gonzalez– D — http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Companions.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=SB451) would not require students to be STAAR tested on writing, spelling, and grammarin Grades 4 and 7.  SB 451also would not require students to take the STAAR Social Studies test in Grade 8.  “What gets tested gets taught.”  It is the STAAR/EOC’s that hold teachers and their students accountable for having taught/learned the Type #1 TEKS.   

For years, Texas students have done worse on the writing portion of the STAAR/EOC’s (and the TAKS tests) than on any other section.  On the SAT in 2014, Texas students scored the lowest writing scores for the third consecutive year since the writing section was added to the SAT in 2006.  

As Education Commissioner Michael Williams has stated, “We must work together to assure our students are in a position to express themselves beyond 140 characters after they leave high school.” 

 It is hard for any thinking Texan to figure out why Sen. Seliger and Rep. Gonzalez would possibly want to pass legislation that would weaken our Texas students’ skills in writing/spelling/grammar.

 

 HB 742by Rep. Dan Huberty  (R — http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=HB742) is similar to SB 451/HB 774but even goes a step further by removing U. S. History from the STAAR/End-of-Course list. 

 It is also hard for any thinking Texan to figure out why Sen. Seliger, Rep. Gonzalez, and Rep. Huberty would want to de-emphasize the STAAR Social Studies test in Grade 8 and the U. S. History STAAR/EOC in high school.  Texas’ Social Studies TEKS are the most fact-based, Type #1, patriotic curriculum standards in the entire United States.  “What gets tested gets taught.”  Why would Sen. Seliger/Gonzalez/Huberty possibly want to hurt our Texas students’ chances to become patriotic American citizens?    

 *My recommendation to Gov. Abbott is to appoint Donna Bahorich as the new chair of the SBOE.  Donna is known by those who have worked with her closely as someone who has strong conservative principles, good verbal and writing skills, solid political experience, much common sense, a stable family situation, a background as a homeschool and private school mother, and work experience as a skilled negotiator.  

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS ON TEXAS LEGISLATIVE BILLS

3.13.15 — UPDATED ON 3.13.15 – “Good News: HB 3571 and SB 1711 To Get Rid of CSCOPE and Common Core” — by Donna Garner — http://www.educationviews.org/good-news-hb-3571-rid-cscope-common-core/

3.18.15 — “No Need for Another Appointed Commission – Tex. SB 1200” — by Donna Garner — http://www.educationviews.org/appointed-commission-tex-sb-1200/

2.19.15 — “Texas Schools and the Slippery Slope of Sen. Seliger’s SB 149” — by Donna Garner —

http://www.educationviews.org/texas-schools-slippery-slope-sen-seligers-sb-149/ 

2.14.15 – “Tex. Education Bills – Some Good, Some Bad” — by Donna Garner — http://www.educationviews.org/tex-education-bills-good-bad/ 

Good bill – Sen. Bob Hall SB 447  – http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=SB447

to make English the official language of Texas.  With our state becoming more diversified as time goes on, the number of languages that proliferate Texas is increasing exponentially.  To make sure that everyone in our state can communicate well with one another, we must make English the official language of Texas in government as well as in our public schools.  Being able to communicate in the same language is an important unifying principle of a strong society.

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Bill Ames HB 3403 by Leach serves notice to ISD’s on Curriculum

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Bill Ames.  Bill is an education activist who lives in Dallas.  His book, “Texas Trounces The Left’s War On History” (WNAenterprises.com)  tells the story of his experience in developing Texas’ U.S. history standard in 2009-2010. Ames reviewed CSCOPE lessons as part of the State Board of Education’s AdHoc Committee Project.  His work in his local school district resulted in Board reviews of both its social studies curriculum and project based learning implementation, as well as securing a superintendent commitment to modify the AP history course to be Texas standards (TEKS) compliant.  He welcomes reader comments at billames@prodigy.net

Education UPDATE: Texas ISD’s Should Comply with Texas Social Studies Standards

HB 3403 by Leach serves notice to ISD’s on Curriculum

By Bill Ames

 

Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – In 2010, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) adopted Social Studies Standards (TEKS) that provided balance to the leftist-ideological standardsthat had been in effect for ten years. These, and other positive historical facts, brought howls of indignation, as well as bizarre insults, from leftist educators, politicians, and the media.

The new standards include study of key pro-American ideals:

o    The concept of American Exceptionalism;

o    the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Founding Fathers; and

o    the study and meaning of “E Pluribus Unim” and “In God We Trust”.

 

Further, the new standards require the teaching of important historical facts summarily dismissed by the liberal education establishment:

o    The major military events of WWII

o    A significant number of communist spies worked in FDR and Truman administrations

o    The 1960’s civil rights legislation was generally supported by Republicans, opposed by Democrats

o    The free enterprise system, not government, is responsible for America’s success and technological superiority

 

These, and other positive historical facts, brought howls of indignation, as well as bizarre insults, from leftist educators, politicians, and the media.

For example, an especially egregious editorial in the January 27, 2010 Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle, typified the vitriolic attacks, condemning the SBOE’s “malignant stupidity”.

 

“A large and disruptive segment of the Texas State Board of Education is not only ignorant …..It is proudly and aggressively ignorant, which goes beyond simple ignorance and ventures into

the territory of malignant stupidity.

 

“The boobs on the State Board of Education aren’t historians, either. They aren’t even educators. For the most part, they are bottom-feeding politicians who have adopted the popular demagoguery of the day and have ridden it to membership on a little-known but very important state board.”

So much for rational debate.

In spite of the opposition, the new standards were adopted.

On May 27, 2010, current Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s TexasInsider.org article “SBOE, Thanks for Social Studies Curriculum Update” included the following quotes:

 

“The attacks on the State Board of Education ignored the transparent approach that the Board took toward developing curriculum standards for Texas school children, misstated many of the changes that the Board proposed, and sought to undermine the Board’s diligent work to execute its constitutional and statutory obligations.

 

“The Board (members) should be applauded for their conscientious efforts. Texas school children will be the long-term beneficiaries.”

Good so far.  But unfortunately, there was and is no oversight as Texas 1200+ school districts across the state develop or purchase their own social studies curriculum, supposedly based upon the new standards.

In my district, American Exceptionalism was initially ignored.  Locally prepared lesson plans hint that the United States embargo of Japan justified the attack on Pearl Harbor, significant post-WWI reparations justified WWII Nazi aggression, and Japanese internment resulted from American racism.

Some 900 small school districts purchased the controversial CSCOPE curriculum, complete with its lessons that the Boston Tea Party patriots were terrorists, and the 911 jihadists were freedom fighters.

The College Board’s controversial, revised Advanced Placement U. S. history course (APUSH) includes clearly anti-American bias.  When a patriotic school board in Colorado banned APUSH, the local teachers union recruited gullible students to take to the streets in protest.  When interviewed, student protesters were not even aware of APUSH course content.

A high school in New Mexico has recently designated “communism” as its theme for senior prom.

Last year the blog Campus Reform asked Harvard students if the United States or ISIS is the greater threat to world peace.  The students’ answer?  The United States.

And don’t forget that college professors across the country have signed a petition to ban the American flag on college campuses, in support of misguided students at the University of California, Irvine.

Bottom line, there is a nationwide, ongoing agenda to erase all that is good about America from our schools.

Contrary to all this anti-American negativity, the will of mainstream Texans and the legislature is well documented in Texas Education code.

 

“…..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.”

Not exactly what many school districts are teaching.

The legislature needs to send a clear message to Texas’ public school districts……teach to the state standards.

 

There are six elements in HB 3403 introduced by Texas State Representative Jeff Leach (right):

 

  1. The public school curriculum reflects the  importance of patriotism, United States citizenship, and promotes an appreciation for our free enterprise system and basic democratic values;
  2. Each historical event addressed in the public school curriculum meets a reasonable test of historical significance, considering the limited amount of time available for instruction;
  3. Each controversial issue addressed in the public school curriculum is presented in a balanced manner that reflects
    multiple viewpoints regarding the issue;
  4. The public school curriculum reflects an overall tone that portrays the United States as a country that has overcome its mistakes and has emerged as the freest, most democratic nation in the history of the world;
  5. The public school curriculum shall include the concept of American Exceptionalism and the Celebrate Freedom Week program;
  6. School district generated and purchased curriculum, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate social studies, must be in compliance with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.

 

Each year, Texas public schools graduate some 300,000 students into Texas society.  If we allow students to be indoctrinated to embrace the left’s social justice agenda, rather than teaching our kids to be proud Americans, the face of Texas will forever change.

It is absurd that an overwhelmingly conservative state allows its tax dollars to support the liberal education establishment’s indoctrination of our future citizens.

Ask your legislator to support Representative Jeff Leach’s HB 3403.

 

Respectfully,

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

Tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

An Unplanned Gift for Texas Public School Parents from Bill Gates

 

Dear Friends,

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

 [All states need to take notice of this article so that they, too, can turn the tables on Bill Gates and his other profit-making cronies.]

 “An Unplanned Gift for Texas Public School Parentsfrom Bill Gates”

 http://www.educationviews.org/unplanned-gift-texas-public-school-parents-bill-gates/

 Texas parents, here is an unplanned “gift” from EdReports.org, and Bill Gates helped pay for it!  Gates manipulated and “drove” the Common Core Standards into our nation’s schools to benefit him and his many vested interests.  Now he is trying to replace all instructional materials (IM’s) in America with Common Core curriculum.  Think of the billions of dollars this will put in Gates’ pockets and in the pockets of other education vendors and lobbyists.

 Without meaning to do so, however, Bill Gates has produced a “gift” which will help Texas public school parents to identify the IM’s which are ILLEGAL FOR USE IN TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOL.  Over 5 million public school students in Texas are NOT to use the IM’s rated highly by EdReports.org because they are Common Core-aligned!

 After the passage of HB 462 during the Texas 83rd Legislative Session, then-Senate Education Committee Chair Dan Patrick asked the Texas Attorney General for a ruling to make it crystal clear whether Common Core Standards curriculum materials are to be utilized in Texas public schools. 

 On 6.17.14, the Texas Attorney General ruled, “Texas school districts are required to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels, and pursuant to subsection 28.002(b-3) of the Education Code, they may NOT use the Common Core State Standards Initiative to comply with this requirement.”

https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/opinions/opinions/50abbott/op/2014/pdf/ga1067.pdf

The TAG ruling makes it very clear that IM’s in Texas public schools must follow the grade-level-specific/course-specific curriculum standards (TEKS) adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education.  Since Common Core-aligned curriculum materials follow the Common Core Standards and not the TEKS, the following math IM’s are ILLEGAL IN TEXAS PUBLIC SCHOOLS:

 Eureka Math(Grades K through 8 – Great Minds)

My Math(Grades 4 and 5 – McGraw-Hill)

Go Math(Grades 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Expressions(Grades K, 1, 2 – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Digits(Grades 6 and 8 — Pearson)

Math in Focus(Grade 8 – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

If the Texas public schools in your district are using these Common Core-aligned IM’s, then you, as a taxpayer whose dollars are helping to purchase these IM’s,  have the right and the responsibility to file a complaint locally and with the TAG’s office.  Ironically, you can take the ratings documented for free by EdReports.org to support your complaint.  

EdReports.org next plans to review high school math and K-12 English Language Arts materials.

========

3.4.15 – Washington Post

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/new-consumer-reports-for-common-core-finds-learning-materials-lacking/2015/03/04/3153d264-c1f6-11e4-9ec2-b418f57a4a99_story.html

“New ‘Consumer Reports’ for Common Core finds learning materials lacking”

By Lyndsey Layton

Excerpts from this article:

A new organization calling itself the “Consumer Reports” of K-12 textbooks has issued its first analysis of classroom materials in the age of the Common Core State Standards, and it found most of the materials lacking.

… “We created EdReports.org to provide educators a trusted resource for rigorous, independent and public reviews of the alignment and usability of classroom curricula, a sort of ‘Consumer Reports’ for school materials,” said Eric Hirsch, EdReports.org’s executive director.

… The free, online reviews are available at www.EdReports.org.

EdReports.org, a non-profit organization, looked at 20 sets of K-8 math materials in widespread use around the country and found just one series — Eureka Math for grades K-8 — met its criteria for being properly aligned with the Common Core for all grade levels. The organization first released its findings Wednesday morning.

…Funding for EdReports.org comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which played a major role in the development and promotion of the Common Core, as well as several other philanthropic organizations, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

 

Respectfully,

 Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Texas Senate | Panel OKs easing test policy

 

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Terrence Stutz, Deputy Bureau Chief of Austin Bureau/Dallas Morning News

Texas Senate | Panel OKs easing test policy

Those who don’t pass all 5 exams could still graduate under plan

AUSTIN – Senate Education Committee members Wednesday unanimously approved legislation that would allow thousands of high school seniors to get a diploma without passing state graduation exams – a requirement that has been in place for 28 years.

The measure by Sen. Kel Seliger would allow high school seniors who cannot pass all five Texas end-of-course exams to bypass the graduation test requirement if they qualify for a new exemption created by the bill. The proposal now goes to the full Senate.

Since 1987, high school seniors in Texas have had to pass a graduation test – or series of tests – to get a diploma. The requirement dates back to the landmark school reform law passed in 1984 that also included class size limits and the no-pass, no-play rule.

Seliger said his legislation was prompted by the estimated 28,000 seniors from the Class of 2015 who are in danger of not receiving their diplomas because they have not passed all five end-of-course tests required for graduation. Those exams measure knowledge and skills in Algebra I, biology, English I, English II and U.S. history.

“Without a high school diploma, these students cannot attend college, join the military or qualify for many jobs,” Seliger said, adding that many of the students will simply drop out if they repeatedly fail the EOC exams, part of the STAAR testing program. “We want to make sure there aren’t any artificial impediments to these students graduating,” he explained.

His bill would create an “individual graduation committee” for each student who has failed EOC exams on multiple tries. The committee – made up of the principal, teacher, counselor and parent – could exempt the student from the test requirement with a unanimous vote. The panel would first consider other factors such as course grades and attendance.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said parents and local school officials have complained of a “big disconnect” between test results and how students perform in class. “We have some real questions about the test. It is keeping some students from graduating who have done all their coursework and passed all their courses but just can’t get past this test,” he said.

Some senators, however, worried that many students would see the new exemption policy as a loophole in the law that would allow them to easily circumvent the graduation test requirement. And some critics of the idea predicted that most of the students who can’t pass the exams will now be allowed to skirt the requirement under the legislation.

Students who fail three or more of the five EOC exams would not be eligible for the exemption. This year, more than 90 percent of all seniors have already passed all five end-of-course tests. The other 28,000 students have one more chance to pass in the spring.

 

“It appears to politically appease anti-test parents and educators by extending social promotion to include the awarding of diplomas”.

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

tincymiller35@gmail.com

www.tincymiller.com

Two Experienced SAT Tutors Criticize New Redesigned SAT

 

Dear Friends,

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

 

“Two Experienced SAT Tutors Criticize New Redesigned SAT”

by Donna Garner  3.6.15

 

http://www.educationviews.org/experienced-sat-tutors-criticize-redesigned-sat/

 

ACTION STEP:  What the public needs to remember is that the way to “defang” the SAT is to drive the College Board that produces the SAT, the Pre-SAT, and all Advanced Placement tests out of business.  Some call this “starving the beast.”  Other tests and avenues through which to get admitted to colleges/universities do exist; and who knows, some entrepreneur company watching the outrage that the public is voicing about all Common Core products may decide to capitalize on this outrage by producing alternative products. 

 The new redesigned SAT is to be administered for the first time in March 2016.

 Below, I have posted two views of the new SAT by long-time SAT tutors. The first was sent to me by a successful, long-time SAT tutor.  I will call her “Sally Jane.” 

 The second is an article written by Lynn O’Shaughnessy; she is a nationally recognized college expert.  Jed Applerouth, PhD, founder of Applerouth Tutoring Services went through the SAT practice set of questions released by the College Board in December 2014.  Jed gave Lynn  permission to share his views of the new SAT.  I have posted some of my comments about the “present” SAT before giving the link to Lynn’s article.

 

BACKGROUND OF THE NEW MARCH 2016 SAT

 David Coleman is called “the architect of the Common Core.” When he finished his damaging work there, he went over to become the president of The College Board (CB). He has stated publicly numerous times that all College Board products will be aligned to the Common Core.  He is busily carrying out his pledge.  CB products include the SAT, Pre-SAT, and all Advanced Placement (AP) tests. 

 Starting in the fall of 2014, the AP U. S. History (APUSH) was completely redesigned to indoctrinate America’s finest and best 500,000 students to hate America. Other redesigned AP tests are in the pipeline.  

 Now we see what Common Core alignment means in the new SAT as these two long-time SAT tutors describe it. – Donna Garner]  

 

TESTIMONY #1 FROM SALLY JANE

 I just looked over the College Board’s new SAT practice material posted on the College Board website, and I’m reeling from the experience.

 Several sample texts were about such things as: how bad cars are, how people should live in “megaregions,” or how the biggest growth sector between 2010 and 2020 will be in urban planning — all Agenda 21 indoctrination.

 Interestingly, students will no longer be penalized for guessing as CB will no longer subtract ¼ point for a wrong answer. And there will be only 4 choices per question instead of 5 — a bonus for the guessers.

 I found the so-called reading section questions very difficult and not really about reading comprehension per se. In one example, they asked an odd interpretive question which, if you missed that question, you would also get the next question wrong since it was directly based on your previous answer.

 I pity the poor students.

 The truncated “verbal” section now is also studded with math/science questions asking the students to read graphs and answer word problems, somewhat like the ACT science section. I dislike having that portion in the English section. It doesn’t test verbal skills.

 There was no literature in the samples the CB provided.

 And, sadly, the essay has been downgraded into an AP English-type exercise: Students are strictly forbidden from expressing an opinion about the passage they must read. What kind of a message does that give our young people? They must merely cite what rhetorical devices, etc., the author uses to build his argument.  In other words, students have to “parrot” back what the author has stated – a prime way to indoctrinate students.

 I weep for these students.

 As for myself, my main source of income for many years now has been tutoring high school students, primarily working with them on SAT preparation — essay writing, grammar, vocabulary — not to mention often mentoring them, inspiring them to read literature, to learn to love language, and to take pride in their writing, and, when possible, teaching them what it means to be an American.

 I teach only the English portion of the exam, but that has worked well for me since the test was two-thirds English. That won’t be so in 2016.

 But even if the demand for SAT tutoring were to continue, I’m not sure I’d have the stomach to guide the students down the labyrinth of totalitarian indoctrination embedded in the forthcoming reading passages.

 And do please let me know if a patriot comes up with an alternative exam. I’d love to use it!

 Thanks so much,

  

TESTIMONY #2 FROM CEO OF SAT TUTORING COMPANY

 [2.29.15 — Comments from Donna Garner – The following article is written by Lynn O’Shaughnessywho is restating the comments made to her by Jed Applerough, PhD, the founder of Applerough Tutoring Services. Applerough encourages this year’s sophomores to avoid taking the new SAT but instead to take the present SAT (implemented in 2005) or else to take the ACT. 

 What I am anxious to find out is whether the redesigned 2016 SAT Writing section will retain the similar sub-sections and sub-scores of the present SAT (i.e., SAT Reasoning Test) which has three parts – Math, Critical Reading, and Writing. 

 The Writing section presently has two sub-scores – essay and grammar/usage (multiple-choice questions).  The grammar/usage section is weighted heavily — 70% of the Writing score — and is made up of 49 multiple-choice grammar/usage questions. The essay only counts 30%.

 The College Board added the grammar/usage to the 2005 SAT because of the downward spiraling of students’ English proficiency skills, and the 70% sub-score was meant to entice K-12 teachers across the country to emphasize correct grammar/usage in their classrooms.

 Because of the advent of technology devices and the social media, however, students’ grammar/usage skills have grown increasingly worse in the last few years.  Will the new redesigned SAT continue to emphasize correct grammar/usage by weighting that section heavily (70%)? 

 If I were to offer a guess, I would say the new redesigned and Common Core-aligned SAT will de-emphasize English proficiency; and if there is any grammar/usage on the test at all, it will be given minimal scoring weight.  This de-emphasis on grammar/usage will lead to the further erosion of the English language. – Donna Garner]  

  1.29.15 – “Why You Should Worry About the New SAT Test” – by Lynn O’Shaughnessy – The College Solutionhttp://www.thecollegesolution.com/why-you-should-worry-about-the-new-sat-test/

 Respectfully,

 Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

gtince@aol.com

www.tincymiller.com

Texas Math Standards

 

Dear Friends,

A most timely and informative article on “Texas Math Standards”, written February 22, 2015 by Nakonia Hayes a member of Math TEKS Writing Committee.

 

 www.educationviews.org/nakonia-hayes-texas-math-standards

 

I have searched my memory bank trying to remember how the “Introduction” with its focus on “process” was developed for the 2012 Math TEKS. I do remember that a subcommittee was formed to write it in the waning hours of our last meeting days. I can remember thinking it used popular verbiage of the feel-good crowd, but my focus was on arguing for inclusion of non-use of calculators in the “Introduction.” And, there actually was no time to fight over its other substance because we had literally run out of time.

The truth is, I thought the subsequent energy of teachers and parents would be spent on the specific standards and not on the “Introduction.” It never dawned on me that proponents of Common Core would use that “Introduction” to sneak Common Core standards and activities into Texas schools since that would violate state law.

 So rather than allow them to drive us to maddening distractions, let’s remember some vital points, some of which include legalities: 

 (1) Texas HB 462 makes it illegal to use “any aspect of a common core state standards curriculum. (See the bottom of my message for the law’s wording.) Common Core  supporters insist that “curriculum” is much more than “standards” as they try to downplay the impact of the standards on the actual teaching program. “Curriculum,” they say, means all the resources and activities that go into teaching a discipline–standards, materials, activities, teacher training, assessments, etc. All of these factors, then, are considered “any aspect” of a common core standards curriculum.”

 As I keep saying, that means schools and others using “Common Core-anything” are breaking the law. The response is not to argue with them. It is to repeat over and over, “You are breaking the law.” If the state is not going to step in and rectify this violation, then perhaps parents need to seek legal counsel in a class action suit against school districts. (I know. It is said such suits are likely to lose. Maybe. Maybe not.)

 (2)  If teachers white-out Common Core information and copy the papers for distribution, they are violating copyright laws (and Common Core is copyrighted). This violation should be reported to the district’s school board and then to the Texas Education Agency.

 (3)  If teachers are hiding Common Core’s authorship and using materials without attribution, they are also plagiarizing material. That is unethical. It should be reported to the school board and the TEA.

 (4)  Letters, phone calls, and visits to legislators are needed. Tell them the violations of the law(s) and the confusion that is running rampant among parents, educators, and children. This is creating a hostile learning environment for children. That is child abuse and professional negligence. Does Texas want that image?

 (5) Children who are confused and scared about not understanding the lessons should be told (repeatedly) there is nothing wrong with them as students with regards to those programs. Help them learn that sometimes programs are wrong, but do not bad-mouth the teachers. That puts the children between the parents and the teachers. That’s a no-win situation for the kids. Some of the teachers are trying to keep their jobs. Others are too tired to fight. Others are brainwashed.

 Parents can determine whether or not to have their children work the lessons. They may have to teach the children basic foundational knowledge while all of this is going on. God help any school that fails a child in this situation. (Keep documentation of conversations, e-mails, meetings, etc.)

 (6)  Let the children see that adults are willing to band together and NOT ARGUE with those in charge when all that has to be said is, “You are breaking the law.” That’s the clarity of the issue. The mere words “Common Core” have no place being spoken when any educator discusses standards, lessons, or assessments in Texas public or charter schools. When they are, stop the conversation and say, “Common Core is a violation of state law.”

 (7)  Even if districts can choose 50% of their material, it cannot be connected to Common Core. There are other materials to use that can meet the 2012 TEKS.

 (8)  If educators say the SAT and ACT are aligned with Common Core standards, so what? If students are taught basic, strong, foundational knowledge and skills, they can pass those tests. Ability to read, discern, analyze, compute, remember, synthesize, and evaluate are major learning and performance abilities. Tests that play mind games with well-prepared learners are easily spotted by capable students. They will win those games, I promise.

As a principal, I told my staff I didn’t care if they stood on their heads or danced a jig on their desks as long as the students showed mastery on the ITBS [Iowa Test of Basic Skills]. It, at that time, was excellent as a norm-referenced test. Our Washington state test was a God-awful fuzzy example of progressive thinking. Even so, the students at my school were in the top five percent of the state with it because of their solid competencies in reading, writing, and computing.

 If Texas students have a solid foundation in knowledge and skills, it will show on the STAAR/End-of-Course tests, which are designed to give objective, not subjective, measurement.

 From Texas HB 462 at http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/texas-bans-common-core/:

 (b-3) A school district may not use common core state standards to comply with the requirement to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels under Subsection (c).

(b-4) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code, a school district or open-enrollment charter school may not be required to offer any aspect of a common core state standards curriculum.

Nakonia (Niki) Hayes

 

Respectfully,

 

Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12

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