When Will We Ever Learn: Dissecting The Common Core State Standards


Dear Friends,

Informative question and answer segment on Common Core.   Shared by Donna Garner a retired teacher and an education activist.  Dr. Mark Bertin is a board certified development behavioral pediatrician.


[Please read and notice what Dr. Louis Moats said over two years ago. She was already beginning to see the damaging impact of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). She was already sorry that she and Marilyn Adams had taken part as contributing writers of the CCSS because their work was not incorporated into the final standards To Put it nicely, Dr. Moats, Marilyn Adams (and probably other noteworthy researchers) were “used” by David Coleman to make the CCSS look more official and researched-based; but in reality, the CCSS were written by those chosen by Coleman who did not have the deep content knowledge that Dr. Moats and Marilyn Adams had. – Donna Garner]


When Will We Ever Learn:

Dissecting The Common Core State Standards with Dr. Louisa Moats

By Mark Bertin, M. D


Dr. Louisa Moats, the nationally-renowned teacher, psychologist, researcher and author, was one of the contributing writers of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS initiative is an attempt to deal with inconsistent academic expectations from state-to-state and an increasing number of inadequately prepared high school graduates by setting high, consistent standards for grades K-12 in English language arts and math. To date, forty-five states have adopted the standards. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the implementation of the CCSS with Dr. Moats.

Dr. Bertin:   What was your involvement in the development of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?

Dr. Moats:   Marilyn Adams and I were the team of writers, recruited in 2009 by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel, who drafted the Foundational Reading Skills section of the CCSS and closely reviewed the whole ELA (English Language Arts) section for K-5. We drafted sections on Language and Writing Foundations that were not incorporated into the document as originally drafted. I am the author of the Reading Foundational Skills section of Appendix A.

Dr. Bertin:   What did you see as potential benefits of establishing the CCSS when you first became involved?

Dr. Moats:  I saw the confusing inconsistencies among states’ standards, the lowering of standards overall, and the poor results for our high school kids in international comparisons. I also believed that the solid consensus in reading intervention research could be reflected in standards and that we could use the CCSS to promote better instruction for kids at risk.

Dr. Bertin:  What has actually happened in its implementation?

Dr. Moats:  I never imagined when we were drafting standards in 2010 that major financial support would be funneled immediately into the development of standards-related tests. How naïve I was. The CCSS represent lofty aspirational goals for students aiming for four year, highly selective colleges. Realistically, at least half, if not the majority, of students are not going to meet those standards as written, although the students deserve to be well prepared for career and work through meaningful and rigorous education.

Our lofty standards are appropriate for the most academically able, but what are we going to do for the huge numbers of kids that are going to “fail” the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test?  We need to create a wide range of educational choices and pathways to high school graduation, employment, and citizenship. The Europeans got this right a long time ago.

If I could take all the money going to the testing companies and reinvest it, I’d focus on the teaching profession – recruitment, pay, work conditions, rigorous and on-going training. Many of our teachers are not qualified or prepared to teach the standards we have written. It doesn’t make sense to ask kids to achieve standards that their teachers have not achieved!

Dr. Bertin:   What differences might there be for younger students versus older students encountering it for the first time?

Dr. Moats:   What is good for older students (e.g., the emphasis on text complexity, comprehension of difficult text, written composition, use of internet resources) is not necessarily good for younger students who need to acquire the basic skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Novice readers (typically through grade 3) need a stronger emphasis on the foundational skills of reading, language, and writing than on the “higher level” academic activities that depend on those foundations, until they are fluent readers.

Our CCSS guidelines, conferences, publishers’ materials, and books have turned away from critical, research-based methodologies on how to develop the basic underlying skills of literacy. Systematic, cumulative skill development and code-emphasis instruction is getting short shrift all around, even though we have consensus reports from the 1920’s onward that show it is more effective than comprehension-focused instruction.

I’m listening, but I don’t hear the words “research based” as often as I did a decade ago – and when CCSS proponents use the words, they’re usually referring to the research showing that high school kids who can’t read complex text don’t do as well in college. Basic findings of reading and literacy research, information about individual differences in reading and language ability, and explicit teaching procedures are really being lost in this shuffle.

Dr. Bertin:  What benefits have you seen or heard about so far as the CCSS has been put in place, and what difficulties?

Dr. Moats:   The standards may drive the adoption or use of more challenging and complex texts for kids to read and a wider sampling of genres. If handled right, there could be a resurgence of meaty curriculum of the “core knowledge” variety. There may be more emphasis on purposeful, teacher-directed writing. But we were making great inroads into beginning reading assessment and instruction practices between 2000-2008 that now are being cast aside in favor of “reading aloud from complex text” – which is not the same as teaching kids how to read on their own, accurately and fluently.


Dr.  Bertin:  What has the impact been on classroom teachers?

Dr. Moats:  Classroom teachers are confused, lacking in training and skills to implement the standards, overstressed, and the victims of misinformed directives from administrators who are not well grounded in reading research.  I’m beginning to get messages from very frustrated educators who threw out what was working in favor of a new “CCSS aligned” program, and now find that they don’t have the tools to teach kids how to read and write. Teachers are told to use “grade level” texts, for example; if half the kids are below grade level by definition, what does the teacher do? She has to decide whether to teach “the standard” or teach the kids.

Dr. Bertin:  You’ve raised concerns elsewhere that CCSS represents a compromise that does not emphasize educational research.  How do the CCSS reflect, or fail to reflect, research in reading instruction?

Dr.  Moats:   The standards obscure the critical causal relationships among components, chiefly the foundational skills and the higher level skills of comprehension that depend on fluent, accurate reading.  Foundations should be first!  The categories of the standards obscure the interdependence of decoding, spelling, and knowledge of language. The standards contain no explicit information about foundational writing skills, which are hidden in sections other than “writing”, but which are critical for competence in composition.

The standards treat the foundational language, reading, and writing skills as if they should take minimal time to teach and as if they are relatively easy to teach and to learn. They are not. The standards call for raising the difficulty of text, but many students cannot read at or above grade level, and therefore may not receive enough practice at levels that will build their fluency gradually over time.

Dr. Bertin:  How about recommendations for writing?

Dr. Moats:   We need a foundational writing skills section in the CCSS, with a much more detailed progression. We should not be requiring 3rd graders to compose on the computer. Writing in response to reading is a valuable activity, but teachers need a lot of assistance knowing what to assign, how to support writing, and how to give corrective feedback that is constructive.  Very few know how to teach kids to write a sentence, for example.

Dr. Bertin:   In an article for the International Dyslexia Association, you wrote “raising standards and expectations, without sufficient attention to known cause and remedies for reading and academic failure, and without a substantial influx of new resources to educate and support teachers, is not likely to benefit students with mild, moderate, or severe learning difficulties.”   You also mention that 34% of the population as a whole is behind academically in fourth grade, and in high poverty areas 70-80% of students are at risk for reading failure.

How does the CCSS impact children who turn out to need additional academic supports for learning disabilities, ADHD or other educational concerns?

Dr. Moats:   I have not yet seen a well-informed policy directive that addresses the needs of these populations. There are absurd directives about “universal design for learning” and endless accommodations, like reading a test aloud, to kids with learning disabilities. Why would we want to do that? The test itself is inappropriate for many kids.

Dr. Bertin:   How does it relate to concerns you have about teacher training in general? 

Dr. Moats:   What little time there is for professional development is being taken up by poorly designed workshops on teaching comprehension of difficult text or getting kids to compose arguments and essays. This will not be good for the kids who need a systematic, explicit form of instruction to reach basic levels of academic competence.

I’ve been around a long time, and this feels like 1987 all over again, with different words attached to the same problems. When will we ever learn?



Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12



Comparison – Two Types of Education

Dear Friends,


A comparison chart on two types of education, shared by Donna Garner (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com) a retired teacher and an education activist.   Original chart produced by Education Consultant Carole H. Haynes, Ph.D.


                                  Type #1 (Traditional) vs. Type #2 (CSCOPE & Common Core)



Type#1 Traditional

Classical Learning



Type #2 CSCOPE/CommonCore

Standard Progressive, 

Radical Social Justice Agenda

Instruction Direct instruction by teacher Self-directed learning, group-thinkEmphasis on:Subjectivity, feelings, emotions, beliefs, multiculturalism, political correctness, social engineering, globalism, evolution, sexual freedom, contraceptives, environmental extremism, global warming and climate change, victimization, diversity, acceptance of homosexuality as normal, redistribution of wealthDe-emphasis on:Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Constitution, national sovereignty, Founding Fathers, American exceptionalism
Curriculum Academic, fact-based, skills, research Social concerns, project-based, constructivism, subjective, uses unproven fads and theories
Teacher’s Role Authority figure; sets the plan for the class; academic instruction Facilitator
Student’s Role Learn from teacher; focus on factual learning, develop foundation skills for logical and analytical reasoning, independent thinking Students teach each other; focus on feelings, emotions, opinions; group-think
English, Language Arts, Reading (ELAR) Phonics; classical literature; cursive handwriting; grammar; usage; correct spelling; expository, persuasive, research writing Whole language, balanced literacy,Guided Reading; no cursive writing instruction so cannot read primary documents of Founding Fathers
Mathematics “Drill and Skill,” four math functions learned to automaticity Fuzzy math, rejects drill and memorization of math facts, dependent on calculators
Social Studies Focus on American heritage and exceptionalism, national sovereignty, Founding documents Diversity, multiculturalism, globalization, revisionist history, political correctness
Character Development Pro-faith, self-control, personal responsibility, self-discipline, solid work ethic Secular, moral relativism, anti-faith, victimization
Equality Equal opportunities Equal outcomes
Assessment Students evaluated by earned grades, objective tests Inflated grades, subjective assessments evaluated based upon value system of grader, group grades
Outcomes Objective tests (right-or-wrong answers), emphasis on academic skills and knowledge Subjective assessments; emphasis on holistic, “feel good” scoring




Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12



Open Letter from Kim Belcher to the State Board of Education

Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Kim Belcher, a Katy Texas ISD parent.  Shared by Donna Garner, (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com) a retired teacher and an education activist.

Open Letter from Kim Belcher

To The Texas State Board of Education and Texas Legislature

 It is with remorse, frustration and somewhat without knowing what is next that I write to you, following the viewing of the hearing by the Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability that was held in Austin yesterday.

I am appalled by Governor Greg Abbott’s choice of appointment of Texas Education Commissioner, Mike Morath.  While we witnessed a despicable display of arrogance by the Commissioner, I was grateful to finally hear him take ownership of the Common Core and national alignment in our state standards.  Not only did he grace us with his humor and his wit as it pertains to being dismissive of our State laws, but he took a gleeful sort of pride in his ownership of this behemoth.

We learned from the Governor’s Commissioner and some of his supporters that our children are a profit and loss tick for the end game of Education Reform. We learned that he fully intends to comply with Federal mandates and “what the Federal government expects.” We now understand that he fully intends to monitor our children from cradle to grave for the purposes of “workforce development.”  These measures are not just of academic performance, but actual physical responses to circumstances in the classroom.  I was taken aback by the number of times “real time” was referred to and the number of metrics that will be supplied by this real time data initiative.

This Commission and any of our elected bodies that do not stand against are working toward pitting the people of this State against the government.

This is a pivotal point for education in our State because the powers that be are no longer hiding their intentions.  Monitoring of our children at a Federal level, while denigrating the quality of their education is reminiscent of Communist models that the world has experienced in the past.

Social engineering, diminishing reading, writing and arithmetic in exchange for teaching values, attitudes and beliefs, tracking the moment by moment performance and emotion of school children, dictating the outcomes of their adult lives through the use of data, nanny state government in education… these things are the antithesis of Liberty.  Remember Liberty?  Remember the Republic?  Remember individual sovereignty?  Remember the enumerated powers?

This is a historical movement that will have your names on it.  Which side of the equation will you be on?  We know what to expect of the Beltran’s in this shift, but several of you identify yourselves to your constituents as Conservatives.  Conservatives are liberty minded and understand the rights of the individual. Are you going to sign off on this knowing that it violates every premise that this country was founded upon?  Will you let that rest on your shoulders?  Will you be able to sleep at night knowing that you didn’t at least attempt to stand up for our kids, our state and our nation?

We will soon see because the time to stop it is now, before it fully makes its way into the classroom.  You are either with the children or you are not. Make your position known today.





Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12



Comments on the Teaching of Common Core Mathematics in the Lower Grades


Dear Friends,

An excellent article written on Common Core Math, by Dr. James Milgram, Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University, shared by Donna Garner, (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com) a retired teacher and an education activist.

 “Some Comments on the Teaching of Common Core Mathematics in the Lower Grades”

I don’t often get furious about the idiocies that daily emerge from the Common Core universe, but a recent statement by a lead writer of the Common Core math standards, Jason Zimba, got me there.

As I’ve noted before with Dr. Sandra Stotsky (a fellow member of the Common Core Validation Committee), the developers and promoters of Common Core have perpetrated a gigantic fraud on this country. Now Zimba wants parents to sit back and stop trying to minimize the damage.

In an article published in The Hechinger Report, Zimba addressed nationwide parental frustration at nonsensical math assignments by warning parents to do what he does with his children — basically shut up and let the teacher follow the standards. “The math instruction on the part of parents should be low,” Zimba said. “The teacher is there to explain the curriculum.” To encourage such submission, Zimba suggested, schools should consider more parental re-education about the standards.

So when a child sits for hours at the kitchen table struggling over math strategies that are counter-intuitive, inefficient, and blindingly stupid, his parents should not ease his pain and improve his education by showing him the simple and efficient way to work the problem. Rather, they should remind him that the teacher is the “expert” and then let him flounder through the rest of his K-12 career without ever learning how to actually do math.

I ran into this sort of thing when my eldest child was about the age of Zimba’s daughter (and when California was first imposing the failed math pedagogies that are now resurrected in Common Core). As a professor of mathematics at Stanford University, I happened to know something about the subject. Once I understood the idiotic and inappropriate things my son was being asked to do, I told him to do what his teachers wanted, to the best of his ability, but as soon as possible to come to me and I would explain what was really going on.

My son finished his education with a Ph.D in molecular biology and worked for years on projects such as the human genome. If I had acted as Zimba advises, my son almost certainly would have had trouble even getting to the level of doing real college work.

History repeats itself in my own family. Just a few weeks ago, my son had been working with a child for whom he’s the guardian, a fourth-grader, to make sure she understood some basic math concepts about place value and how they work in the standard algorithm for long (stairstep) multiplication.

Her fourth-grade teacher would not let her use it.

Instead, she was required to draw pictures of lines, points, and squares, and then laboriously count them up to achieve the product of two whole numbers, each less than 100. She complained to my son, understandably, that she was totally confused and didn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to use the standard method that she both understood and realized was tremendously more efficient.

I gave her the same advice I had given my son years ago: Do what’s expected at school, but then come home to learn the math that really matters.

Zimba disapproves of this advice, perhaps because it suggests the Common Core standards he crafted are in some way deficient, which is glaringly obvious to any parent, much less any mathematician. But parents must deal with reality: especially in math, where everything builds on the material learned before. It’s critical that children understand what actually matters and what is supposed to be happening. If they waste a year ensnared in mathematical idiocy, they won’t be able to pick up what they need when they need it later. So asking parents to sit back and watch the sabotaging of their children’s mathematical future rather than intervene to straighten it out is asking them to abdicate their responsibilities as parents.

Perhaps Zimba decries effective parental assistance because it gives the fortunate children, whose parents know what’s going on and what should be going on, a huge advantage later in their schooling (as was almost certainly the case with my son). In modern education, where “equity” trumps all, I realize that this is considered unacceptable. But parents aren’t here to sacrifice their children to some cosmic and badly flawed principle of equity – their job is to make sure their children get the education they need. And they manifestly won’t get that from Common Core math.

Zimba can do what he wants with his own kids. But he needs to understand that it is almost criminal to try to prevent other parents from doing what they think necessary with theirs. 





Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12



Ted Cruz’s Plan to Dump the Common Core and the U.S. Dept. of Education


Dear Friends,

A very informative article written by Ted Cruz regarding his policy on Common Core and U.S. Department of Education shared by Donna Garner, (Wgarner1@hot.rr.com) a retired teacher and an education activist.

Ted Cruz’s Plan To Dump the Common Core

and the U. S. Dept. of Education



Educational opportunity thrives on choice, ingenuity, and diversity; the Department of Education squelches all three. Largely created as an outgrowth of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, the Department of Education has existed in its current form since 1980. Despite its stated aim to bring equal access to all, it has failed to close the gap between low-income communities and other communities, and instead has led to one-size-fits-all solutions imposed on millions of students with differing educational needs.

Eliminating the Department of Education not only restores the states’ constitutional power and saves taxpayers billions of dollars, it returns decision-making to parents and local communities, and liberates students and teachers from a failed top-down approach. The growing federal role in education spurred by the Education Department has led to perverse mandates such as Common Core and counterproductive laws such as No Child Left Behind.

We should repeal every word of Common Core. And, as President, I will direct the Secretary of Education to immediately end the federal government’s mandates that seek to force states to adopt this failed attempt at a universal curriculum.

Even more broadly, we need to get the federal government out of education altogether. The Department of Education has the third largest discretionary budget in the federal government, and it provides 10 percent of funding for K-12 education.

Yet, with that 10 percent share, it imposes significant requirements on states and schools, forcing them to submit to federal bureaucrats. Education has traditionally been a state matter; the people closest to students know them best – parents and teachers know far more than Washington bureaucrats – and we are already witnessing remarkable reforms by state and local governments to increase school choice and resist Common Core standards. We need to restore parent and student choice and remove federal barriers to children’s success.

A Cruz Administration will eliminate the programs in the Department of Education that are wasteful, ineffective, and fail to achieve better student outcomes. We will perform a careful review of remaining programs to assess how best to return those responsibilities to state and local communities.

The lion’s share of K-12 funding will be block granted to the states, including Title I funding and the Individuals with Disabilities Education program, while the Indian Education program and Federal Impact Aid will be transferred to existing departments. Pell Grants will also remain intact and can be transferred to the Treasury Department. This will result in higher quality education, more tailored to local needs, at a lower cost.

The D.C. Public School Funding and the Opportunity Scholarship Program will persist because Washington D.C. is under the federal purview of Congress and it is constitutionally appropriate for those programs to continue to be overseen at a federal level. But those programs can be run by another department, and the Education Department can be shut down.

Ineffective Spending:

  • Since the Department’s inception in 1980, the federal government has spent nearly $1.5 trillion on education.
  • It cost the U.S. $151,000 per student to put the graduating class of 2009 through public school; adjusted for inflation, that is nearly three times the amount we spent on the graduating class of 1970.
  • Despite this outrageous spending, education outcomes have either stagnated or declined. The nation’s report card, first administered in 1992, shows that the disparity between white and black 12th grade reading scores has increased – showing African American students half a grade further behind their peers, and totaling a nearly three grade-level difference.






Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12



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 — http://www.keepeanesinformed.com/i_smell_a_rat.htm).  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: http://www.voicesempower.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2015_11_19-STAAR-2014-2015-Comparison.pdf  

Link to Mr. Houchin’s Short Testimony: https://www.facebook.com/randy.houchins.1/videos/957156274346329/

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 –https://www.facebook.com/randy.houchins.1/videos/957779214284035/?pnref=story 


The Texas Education Agency staff reported that they have acted upon the requirements of HB 1613 (passed in the last Legislative Session – http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=HB1613) 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 – EdViews.org — 11.19.15 —


11.17.15 — “Thomas Ratliff Trying To Make Himself Relevant” – by Donna Garner – EdViews.orghttp://www.educationviews.org/thomas-ratliff-relevant/

Donna Garner  Wgarner1@hot.rr.com



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 sboecargill@sbcglobal.net.



Tincy Miller

SBOE Member, District 12



Exclusive: Stanley Kurtz: AP U. S. History Battle Worse Than Common Core


Dear Friends,

An informative interview with Stanley Kurtz by Dr. Susan Berry author at Breitbart News.  Mr. Kurtz is an American conservative commentator.  He graduated from Haverford College and holds a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Harvard University. He did his field work in India and taught at Harvard and the University of Chicago. Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former adjunct fellow with Hudson Institute, with a special interest in America’s “culture wars.” He has published extensively on family life, child rearing, religion, and psychology in various parts of the world.

“Exclusive: Stanley Kurtz: AP U. S. History Battle Worse Than Common Core”

In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, conservative “culture war” commentator Stanley Kurtz discussed his recent work in reviewing the Advanced Placement U.S. History framework and why he believes this battle is even worse for America than that over the Common Core standards.

Kurtz recently disagreed with Wall Street Journal deputy editor Daniel Henninger that conservatives had won a victory over the College Board’s decision to make some changes to its Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) framework. Henninger wrote that the College Board — led by president and “architect” of the Common Core standards David Coleman — had ditched its left-wing bias as a result of conservative backlash.

 During a forum on federalism in New Hampshire, where the senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center spoke about APUSH, Kurtz tells Breitbart News: “The College Board claims that they fixed it, but that’s bogus.”

“Yes, they took out some of the more biased language, but the underlying approach still leans very far to the left and, more importantly, the College Board hasn’t really revised the textbooks or the exam itself, the course syllabi or any of the guts of the actual course,”he explains. “So, most of the changes the College Board is touting were just for public consumption.”

Kurtz mapped out how the issue of AP courses is of far greater magnitude than some might think:

The APUSH battle is the leading edge of what is rapidly becoming a national curriculum controlled by the left. The reason why APUSH is the tip of the iceberg on this is because the AP program is run by the College Board and that program is now expanded to cover about one-third of America’s students. However, the College Board — and some of the government folks who subsidize the College Board — want to expand it even further. They’d like to see it move up to maybe 40 percent, 50 percent of American students.

The AP program covers every single subject in the curriculum, and we’re talking about one-third, and maybe 40 percent, 50 percent of American students, perhaps more. So, if you control the curriculum for every single AP course, you have in effect created a national curriculum. You have made an “end run” around the states and the districts and, of course, the voters and parents they represent, and you have literally handed control of America’s curriculum to the leftist college professors who advise the College Board.

Kurtz, whose writing has appeared in many publications, including National Review and the Wall Street Journal, states the battle with the College Board is only just beginning.

 What’s happening is the College Board is issuing these long curriculum guidelines for every single one of its AP courses. APUSH was just one of the earliest ones,”he explains. “Now, the College Board has released a curriculum framework for AP European History, and that one is every bit as bad as the original APUSH framework.”

He continues:

AP European History focuses on the evils of colonialism and the supposed evils of capitalism, and it has very little to say about the problems of socialism. It has very little to say about religion — and when it does it’s negative — and very little to say about the development of representative democracy, which used to be a focus. We used to study the Magna Carta and the development of Parliament in England. In future years, we’ll have a framework on U.S. Government and Politics, World History, Literature — eventually the whole curriculum.

Kurtz said that the AP frameworks in many subjects will go beyond the 30 to 50 percent of students who are eligible to take the advanced level courses.

“A lot of teachers double up and they teach some regular classes and some AP classes,” he continues. “And if they are doing one curriculum for their AP classes, they’re going to draw on the basic ideas for their other classes.”

“In addition, the College Board is now pushing something called ‘Pre-AP,’” he adds, “where now they’re going to try to set you up as early as sixth grade for the future AP courses you’ll be taking.”

Kurtz believes that competition for the College Board is essential to countering the monopolyover the AP program.

“If you’re going to hold the AP program, and there’s no competition, and you set the curriculum, you have just set the curriculum for the entire country,” he says. “And you can push it down to grade levels. So, even the Common Core doesn’t go quite this far.”

“In a sense, if David Coleman’s Common Core falls apart — and it’s quasi falling apart right now — he can achieve all of his ends and maybe even more successfully through controlling the AP program,” he warns.

Kurtz hopes interest will soon develop in starting another testing company that will compete with the College Board.

“We need to start a company that’s advised by the very best traditional scholars, the kind of people who will provide a real alternative to the left-leaning scholars who advised the Common Core,”he explains. “If and when that happens, I hope and believe that some time within the next year or two it will happen, then we will need the support of the public.”

“There will be action at the federal and state levels that could be taken to open up that AP testing market to competition,” he foresees, adding:

What we’ve got right now is a massive set of government subsidies to the AP program which has enriched the College Board and made it untouchable. So, if a state or district is upset with the College Board, there’s very little they can do. Even if they were to threaten to withdraw, the College Board is so rich it wouldn’t really hurt them.

“It would be a different matter if the money that goes to pay testing fees for these kind of tests had to be competed for by different companies,” he says. “Right now, though, what we in effect have is a government-supported monopoly.”

“It’s a roundabout way for the Obama administration — it isn’t directly controlling AP — but through pushing on these subsidies,” Kurtz continues, but notes that Republicans are involved in subsidizing the AP program as well.

“In effect, they’re handing David Coleman the power to set a national curriculum regardless of what any state or school district does,” he observes. “It completely flies in the face of any constitutional notion of federalism. The founders would be rolling over in their graves. We have to start debating this as a nation. With luck, we’ll have some competition and then the public will really have to mobilize.” 




Tincy Miller

SBOE,District 12



Why Common Core is Bad for American Education


Dear Friends,

A timely and interesting new book on Common Core written by Pioneer Institute, an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.


‘Drilling through the Core’

The Common Core K-12 standards have gone from “inevitable” to “poisonous.” A new book adds to the woes of Common Core’s supporters by bringing together academic critiques from over a dozen scholars who provide an independent, comprehensive book-length treatment of this national standards initiative. The book arrives at a moment when popular support for the Common Core is declining.

Two national polls show widespread opposition; repeal and rebranding efforts are underway in numerous states; it has become toxic for presidential candidates; and the number of states participating in Common Core-aligned testing consortia has dwindled. The Common Core standards have lost credibility with the general public, parents, and teachers.
Pioneer Institute’s timely new book, Drilling through the Core, puts into a single volume the results of five years of research.
Common Core standards were developed by a group of Washington, D.C.-based education trade organizations and pushed on the states by the federal government through the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative.
“The impact of the research in this book illustrates the power of ideas in public debates,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute and author of the book’s preface. “The key chapters highlight Common Core’s inferior academic quality and illegal federal government overreach. Its unfunded mandates impose prohibitive costs on states and localities, even as the money is spent driving an agenda that aims for mediocrity.”

This book addresses questions often asked by three main stakeholders:

  • For parents, are the Common Core standards academically rigorous?
  • For states, how much will it cost to implement?
  • For Congress, are the Common Core standards and federally funded tests legal?

Drilling through the Core examines Common Core’s dramatic reduction of classic literature; its failure to prepare students for college courses in science and math; and its flawed, “cold-reading” approach to historical documents. The book also refutes the claim that adoption of Common Core was “state-led” and “voluntary.” The federal government has illegally spent $360 million to fund two Common Core-aligned testing consortia.
The introduction by Peter Wood to Drilling through the Core summarizes the debate, and serves as an appropriate prelude for the scholarly chapters by national experts on the academic, fiscal, and legal features of these controversial standards.
“The Common Core is another in a long line of failed attempts to reform American education by wresting control away from local and state authorities,” said Dr. Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars. “The Common Core beguiled both liberals and conservatives with its promise of bypassing both public debate and close examination of the details. In the end, those efforts to avoid public discussion proved to be its weakness. The scholars featured in this book over and over again reveal fatal mistakes that would never have occurred if the Common Core’s proponents had trusted the American people to make their own decisions.”
Three chapters examine the English language arts standards and how they shape student learning generally, in the area of poetry and in the discipline of American history. Three additional chapters focus on the mathematics standards, comparing Common Core’s inferior academic quality to math standards from various high-standards states. Additionally, they examine whether these national standards prepare students to undertake college work in science, technology, engineering, and math.
One chapter assesses whether the Common Core and the process by which states adopted the standards violate federal laws. A final chapter estimates that the transition to Common Core-aligned standards and testing will cost nearly $16 billion.


Click the link below to watch the video.





Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12



Educators Who Say Test Results Are A Valuable Road Map


Dear Friends,

A very informative article in the Dallas Morning News Sunday August 23, 2015 written by William McKenzie, an editorial director for the George W. Bush Institute.

All teachers hate standardized tests?   FALSE

“William McKenzie Found Educators

Who Say Results Are A Valuable Road Map”

Today’s headlines are often full of voices that decry the tests in our schools, especially standardized tests. You might think there are virtually no teachers, principals or superintendents who see the value in using tests and the data they produce to improve classrooms.

But that’s not the case. There are educators who view annual, independent tests as something other than the agent of all evil. They believe information from those exams, plus results from classroom tests, can help students learn.

I have spent time the last few months talking with educators who see testing this way. Each one, independent of the others, has made the same point: Both students and teachers can benefit from testing.

One of those educators is Jessie Helms, a third-grade teacher in the Dallas Independent School District. “If you don’t know where they are, how do you get them where they need to be?” Helms asked as we sat in her classroom at Ascher Silberstein Elementary in southeast Dallas. “How can you help them be successful?”

Helms, now 27, came to Silberstein in 2012 as a rookie educator. She was skeptical of the emphasis on testing students, including standardized exams. “I came here not a big fan of testing,” she said.

That changed once she got her students’ first set of six weeks tests back. She realized she had not prepared them well enough in math. “I saw that I hadn’t given them the tools to think past third-grade math.” Soon, she came to realize the importance of testing and, as she says, “how it builds classrooms.”

For one thing, good, well-constructed tests create an incentive to “teach higher.” She gives her students difficult problems so they can learn to solve them long before they take any test. Together, they talk about the problems, and students work on showing they can perform functions such as addition, subtraction and multiplication in the same word problem.

Strategies such as “teaching higher” increase the chances that tests will not trip up a child. Instead, they allow students to demonstrate what they know, even if taking a test makes some of them nervous.

Helms’ attitude and approach reflect a generation of educators who actually believe in assessing students regularly and using the results, gleaned from pilloried standardized tests such as Texas’ STAAR exams, to guide their instruction and help students meet higher standards.

The attitude is common in high-performing charter school networks such as Uplift Education in Dallas, as well as in leading public schools. Educators don’t shun tests. They use them as tools to drive achievement.

That includes Silberstein, a school where almost 98 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged homes. The campus earned four of five distinctions on the state’s 2015 ranking system. Similarly, it earned five of six distinctions in Texas’ 2014 rankings. By anyone’s definition, that is a high-performing school, one that shows poverty need not limit achievement.

Since we first talked in the spring, Helms has changed schools. She starts the fall semester as a third-grade teacher at Annie Blanton Elementary School in Pleasant Grove. Blanton is one of seven underperforming campuses that former Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles put in a cluster with targeted resources to accelerate student achievement.

Laura Garza, Helms’ former principal at Silberstein, is now leading Blanton. She, too, believes in using testing data to help improve student achievement, and she plans to take the data-driven Silberstein approach to Blanton.

“Data speaks to your teaching,” she says.

In her previous role as a reading coach, Garza would use data as a tool to help her teachers develop. At Silberstein, she used assessments created by teachers, in addition to the district’s twice-yearly independent exams and STAAR tests, to get a better reading of the students’ strengths and weaknesses.

The school would get data in late December, immediately after the first installment of DISD’s own exams. The campus would break down the results to see where it needed to improve before STAAR exams in the spring and the second installment of district tests at the end of the year.

Silberstein didn’t hide the data, either. Garza and her team put it up on the walls. Data was broken down by classes and grade level. Teachers then could use the information to work on gaps and build up their strengths. Garza sees helping teachers learn how to use data as a big part of her job.

None of this could be done without testing kids. “If you don’t test, how do you know if your work is worth a grain of salt?” she asked. “Doing away with standardized tests could lead to mediocrity.”

Dionel Waters, the principal at Paul Dunbar Learning Center near Fair Park, takes a similar approach. One of the first things you see upon entering his school is a data wall that makes classroom performance immediately transparent.

Dunbar teachers also have access to a data room, where results from the district’s achievement tests and other exams are posted on the walls. The goal is to to help teachers draw from testing data as they shape their instruction. His school has not reached Silberstein’s level of academic achievement, but the data helps in securing resources.

Like Helms, Waters favors “teaching higher,” so state tests are not such a big deal. When he first started teaching at Uplift’s Hampton Prep, he didn’t look at old state tests. He focused on the state standards, which detail what the State Board of Education wants students to know. “If we teach standards to fidelity, tests will take care of themselves,” he said.


To be sure, Waters, Garza and Helms think testing can be overdone. They’re right.

Schools and districts can overdo “benchmark exams” that they give during a year to see if students are on track. Those exams might not be accurately aligned to the state’s standards, and they might be administered too frequently. A Center for American Progress study found one Kentucky district tested students 20 times a year, while the state required only four. Overloading students with too many benchmark exams is not an effective use of their time or school resources.

Still, educators like Helms, Garza and Waters see value in tests and the data they produce. And they are not alone.

The New York Times recently reported that “some school districts, taking a cue from the business world, are fully embracing metrics, recording and analyzing every scrap of information to improve school operations. Their goal is to help improve everything from school bus routes and classroom cleanliness to reading comprehension and knowledge of algebraic equations.”

What’s more, a recent poll conducted by the national Teach + Plus organization found that 80 percent of teachers agree “that part of the value of tests is to have objective, comparable data that allows them to see how their students are progressing toward state standards.”

And a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll revealed recently that Hispanic parents in California consider standardized tests important. Fifty-five percent of them believe such tests improve education, the most supportive of any group in the state.

Tests and the data they produce are no magic bullet. In fact, there are no magic bullets in education.

But there are strategies that can make a difference in students’ lives. Well-constructed exams, particularly independent ones, are among them. They provide a road map for educators and students alike.

In fact, those who know how to use testing data can worry less about exams, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. They don’t have to “teach to the test” or cram information in at the last minute. They use the data to prepare ahead of time, focusing their schools and classes on teaching and learning. Tests are only a tool of that teaching and learning.

Then, when the state’s annual tests roll around, students have a chance to show what they’ve learned. “When we use data effectively,” Helms concluded, “we prepare them. They are ready for the tests. I’m OK with testing because I’ve seen kids do well.”

You can reach William Mckenzie at wmckenzie@bushcenter.org.


Tincy Miller

SBOE, District 12