Texas Legislators: Determining Students’ Fate
by Donna Garner 5.14.13
*Do not miss the short response that I wrote back to Sen. Dan Patrick – posted at the bottom of this e-mail.
Today HB 866 and HB 2836 will be debated in the Senate Education Committee. If passed, both bills would destroy the writing skills of our Texas public school students.
I would hate to be in these Texas Legislators’ shoes and leave behind the legacy from the 83rdLegislative Session as being the one that destroyed students’ chances to live fulfilling lives, both hindering their future choices and limiting their opportunities in life.
TEXAS LEGE ON WRONG TRACK
On 4.30.13, the Texas House passed unanimously HB 2836. This bill removes STAAR testing of Writing in 4th and 7th grades, the only two grade levels below high school in which Writing is tested on the STAAR.
Writing is communication. When done well, good communication occurs. When done poorly, communication breaks down.
If HB 2836 and HB 866 were to make it out of the Texas Legislature, the public accountability for teachers in K-8 to teach children to write well would be lifted. The end result:
“What gets measured gets treasured.”
“What gets tested gets taught.”
“What doesn’t get tested does not get taught.”
IMPORTANCE OF GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Written communication involves two different factors: (1) clearly worded content in English and (2) grammar/usage/spelling/punctuation in English that clearly communicate the writer’s message.
Yes, good writing is an important communication skill for a multitude of reasons.
However, guess what the weakest score on the 9th grade STAAR/EOC’s given last year was…Writing.
STAAR/EOC TESTS: WRITING IS WORST
On 1.29.13, the Texas Education Agency announced the STAAR end-of-course test results from last year’s 9th graders. Below are the percentages (cumulative) of students who failed the Spring 2012 STAAR/EOC’s:
- English I Writing — 27.4%
- Algebra I — 15.3%
- English I Reading — 18.8%
- Biology — 9.0%
- World Geography — 15.2%
Also released on 1.29.13 were the Grades 4 and 7 STAAR Writing results:
29% (cumulative) of all Grade 4 and 7 students failed the STAAR Writing test.
TEXAS LEGE MUST NOT DUMP ACCOUNTABILITY FOR GOOD WRITING SKILLS
It is the lack of college-ready and workforce-ready skills in written communication among our Texas high-school graduates that frustrates employers and college professors the most.
Our Texas public school students desperately need to improve their abilities to communicate in writing.
All the way from K through Grade 12, our Texas students need teaching and accountability in both aspects of composition: (1) clearly worded content and (2) grammar/usage/spelling/punctuation that clearly communicate the writer’s message.
These skills are not going to improve over night; we cannot wait until 9th grade to hold students accountable for good written communication skills.
The new curriculum standards in English / Language Arts / Reading (ELAR-TEKS) adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education in May 2008 carefully lay out grade-level-specific writing elements that teachers need to teach and students need to learn. These ELAR/TEKS grow in depth and complexity from one grade level to the next, and the composition requirements do the same.
The slow, steady progression of rigor in composition skills along with the public accountability on the STAAR/EOC Writing tests is what will result in Texas high-school graduates who can communicate well in writing.
*HB 5 which also passed the House does not require students to take the STAAR/EOC in English III. This is a capstone grade level. The STAAR/EOC in English III is meant to hold students (and their teachers) accountable for sophisticated composition skills.
As students progress through school, their composition skills will improve if it is evaluated for both (1) content and (2) grammar/usage/spelling/punctuation.
To dump 4th and 7th grade STAAR Writing tests will send a message to both students and teachers that written composition is not important; and, therefore, other subject matter tested on the STAAR tests will supplant an emphasis on quality composition skills.
GREEN, YELLOW, AND RED PEOPLE: CATEGORIES IN EDUCATION
Generally, I believe there are two different types of philosophies of education; and nearly all educators, curriculum, vendors, organizations, and advocacy groups fall into one of these two categories. (3.3.13 — “Type #1 and Type #2 — Two Completely Different Philosophies of Education” –
Next, there are also three different types of individuals involved; and we can see this all across America.
The “green” people are those who go-along to get-along; they go with the status quo and are content to follow whatever teaching fad is in vogue at the present time. These people are not bad people but are easily deceived by those who have ulterior motives (e.g., drive-by media, national educator organizations, left-leaning politicians, CSCOPE, Common Core Standards).
The “yellow” people are those who are driven by greed, money, power, and fame. Many of these people are vendors, lobbyists, or school employees who look past the egregious content of their products so long as they themselves are benefitting. Into this group fall some CSCOPE/TESCCC/ESC employees, Thomas Ratliff, Mike Moses, Pat Jacoby, TASA, TASB, etc.
The “red” people know exactly what they are doing. They have long-term goals to change America, and they realize that the best way to do this is to indoctrinate this and succeeding generations of school children in their classrooms. Into this group fall such people as Obama, Arne Duncan, Linda Darling-Hammond, Bill Ayers, the National Education Organization, and many other left-leaners.
Politicians can come in all different colors – green, yellow, and red. Those who blindly follow are green. Those who seek fame, fortune, and/or control for themselves are yellow. Those whose aim is to change America from a capitalistic, free-market Republic into a Socialist, Communist, Marxist country are red.
I do not believe that very many of our Texas Legislators fall into the “red” category, but I do believe many of them do fall into the “green” or “yellow” categories.
Guess whose daughter is a lobbyist for Raise Your Hand…Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock’s, the chair of the House Education Committee. He has even been known to stop the proceedings on the House floor to call Raise Your Hand to get their “blessing” on education issues. I wonder who Aycock called!
Guess which organization is totally committed to preserving the “yellow” people…Raise Your Hand which is led by Bill Ratliff, Mike Moses, and the education establishment (TASA/TASB, etc.).
Is it any wonder that this session’s legislators are giving the ed establishment every wish they could possibly ever desire?
MY COMMENTS BACK TO SEN. DAN PATRICK ON 5.11.13
I have written extensively about the importance of keeping the New Plan in place. What you and Aycock as the education leaders in the legislature are doing is destroying the progress that we conservatives have worked for well over 10 years to put into place – Type #1 TEKS, Type #1 STAAR/EOC’s, individual accountability for both teachers and students through having grade-level-specific goals, a graduation plan that would, if allowed to be fully implemented, eventually elevate the college and career readiness of our high-school graduates.
What you and the other legislators are doing is going to throw us back into the same 1997 – 2007 mess our public schools were in for ten years, thus allowing Type #2 to continue to do its damage. Without the public accountability at each grade level to grade-level-specific Type #1 curriculum standards, there will be no incentive for teachers to teach the new Type #1 TEKS; and they will go right on teaching their Type #2 curriculum units. Without the STAAR/EOC’s at each grade level, the parents will have no measuring stick to prove whether their children have been taught Type #1 or Type #2.
I have tried over and over to explain to non-educators what it is like in the public schools; and by now after going through this CSCOPE mess (largely created because of SB 6), you should understand how vicious and hard-nosed the education establishment can be. The only way to force them to change direction from Type #2 to Type #1 is to hold them publicly accountable individually.
Without the STAAR Writing tests being given from K to 8, English teachers are simply not going to teach students grammar/usage/spelling/cursive writing/expository/persuasive/research and will fall back to the same Type #2 holistic scoring that has turned out the type of graduates we have right now.
By not requiring all students to take World History and World Geography, irreparable harm will be done to students’ grasp of America’s place in the history of this world; and we will see low-information voters fall for any charlatan who comes along.
Not requiring at least Algebra II for all students will allow many students to take the path of least resistance while they are young and immature; and many of them when they arrive in their senior year of high school will suddenly realize that they are unprepared for their future choices.
Students need four rigorous years of high school. The New Plan requires students to spend four rigorous years of high school – no more sloughing off the junior and senior years. The idea of basically allowing students to choose a career pathway early in their high-school career and then de-emphasizing the 4 x 4 rigor of the junior and senior years is indeed the Marc Tucker plan.
The following article (and enclosed links) says it best: