FROM BARBARA CARGILL, CHAIR OF TEXAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
Dear friends and supporters,
Now is the time to ride the wave of public concern and outrage about CSCOPE. Although many past lessons may have been corrected or changed, why was there poorly written, biased content in the first place? (I read the lessons myself, using my own assigned password.) This issue is only the tip of a huge iceberg. There are other instructional materials that contain questionable content, and they are not being reviewed for the quality of their content.
In 1995 the legislature voted to limit the State Board of Education’s authority over the review of textbook content. Since that time, there has been no public, transparent, citizen-led process for vetting the quality of content in our children’s textbooks. Now that almost all textbooks are online, this becomes an even greater issue of concern because content can be changed with a few strokes on a keyboard.
How were textbook reviews done in the past? Before 1995, the board could instruct review panels (consisting of volunteer parents, teachers, industry leaders, and other citizens) to check for factual errors and also to review the quality of the content.
Here are a few things panel members could review prior to 1995:
· Does the textbook content present positive aspects of U.S. heritage?
· Does it contain balanced, factual treatment of political and social movements?
· Does the textbook promote respect for citizenship, patriotism, recognized authority, individual rights, the free enterprise, and respect for the work ethic?
· Does it reflect an awareness of various ethnic groups?
· Does the book reflect the positive contributions of individuals and groups on American life?
What changed? In the board’s current textbook review process, panelists are instructed to check for factual errors and for TEKS coverage, period. Checking for TEKS coverage is NOT checking for the quality with which the TEKS are covered. For example, George Washington is required to be covered in American history, since he is listed several times in the TEKS. How he is covered in the content, however, is not part of the review.
It is time for the citizens of Texas to demand change and to regain the right to vet the quality of content in our children’s textbooks! The same public passion that resulted in content changes in CSCOPE lessons must be harnessed and directed toward state policy-makers who can reinstate the vetting of content quality to the board’s adoption process.
What can you do? As we approach the 2014 election season, please ask candidates their position on this issue. Talk to your elected officials in the legislature and on the SBOE. Start spreading the word about this by e-mail, social media, speaking to your clubs and groups, etc. Many of us on the board understand the rights of parents and citizens concerning this issue. Invite us to speak to your group or club. This message must be shared on behalf of our schoolchildren!
UPDATE ON SBOE ISSUES:
1. Science, Math, and Technology Apps textbook review
Right now, the review of K-12 science and K-8 math instructional materials is taking place. These online textbooks will be used in classrooms starting in 2014. Citizen-led reviewers have been hard at work for several months. Many of them told me they feel restricted because they cannot evaluate the materials for how the content is presented. They can, of course, report factual errors and fill in a checklist verifying that each TEK is covered.
PLEASE NOTE: Final evaluations will be sent to the publishers in mid-September, who will then decide whether to address the concerns or not. Another public hearing will be held during the SBOE’s November meeting with the FINAL VOTE BEING TAKEN ON NOVEMBER 22. That vote will determine which science, K-8 math and Tech Apps textbooks are put on the state adopted list. See below under “Action Items” for more details about testifying.
2. Graduation Requirements
The State Board of Education is seeking input from educators and community members as it begins to restructure graduation requirements as mandated by House Bill 5 (HB5), passed by the Texas Legislature this spring.
The new plan requires the state board to make a number of policy decisions, such as deciding which courses will count as advanced and determining the requirements for each endorsement area. The endorsement areas are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); business and industry; public services; arts and humanities; and multidisciplinary studies.
The board will hold a public hearing Sept. 17 at 9:00 A.M. in Austin to receive input about the changing graduation requirements. As updates become available about the graduation programs, they will be posted at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/graduation.aspx.
3. CSCOPE Update
The Chair’s AD Hoc committee has been reactivated to review the CSCOPE social studies lessons for factual errors and/or bias. Because hundreds of school districts have said they will continue using the CSCOPE lessons, it is important that they are reviewed. It is my hope that local school districts will carefully read the posted evaluations.
The comments from the review panelists should also help school districts to implement SB 1474 which mandates that teachers, district employees, members of the public, and local school board members be a part of the decision-making process to implement major curriculum initiatives. That means that your school district must have a public hearing about CSCOPE if they are using it, whether it is new to the district or not.
I highly encourage you to ask your child’s teachers what curriculum and textbooks they use. Parents must stay informed about what is being taught in the classroom! It is your statutory right. According to the Texas Education Code 26.006, parents are “entitled to review all teaching materials, instructional materials, and other teaching aids used in the classroom of the parent’s child; and review each test administered to the parent’s child after the test is administered.“
This link to the CSCOPE review process gives more details. http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=25769804296
1. How to Review the Proposed Science, K-8 Math, and Tech Applications textbooks
Are you concerned about how science is taught to your child? What about math? Tech Apps? The K-12 science, K-8 math, and Technology Applications instructional materials are available for your review at each of the 20 regional Education Service Centers in Texas. In addition, a school district may request links to the materials if it is easier for you to view them locally. I encourage all parents, teachers, industry leaders, and interested citizens to make the time to review these instructional materials. Please contact the SBOE at email@example.com with questions or concerns about the books. Read below for more information about having your voice heard!
2. Public Hearings
On Tuesday, September 17th at 9:00 A.M., the board will hear testimony about HB 5, the bill that changed our state’s graduation plans. At 1:00, the board will hear testimony about the current textbook adoption which includes K-12 science, K-8 math, and technology applications.
**Note: Based on past hearings, there will be a large number of people who sign up to testify about how science is presented in textbooks. If this is important to you, please consider coming to Austin to be among the many citizens who will share their views with board members. If you cannot travel, you can always contact the board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individuals may register on the Texas Education Agency website or by FAX between 8 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 13 through 5 p.m. on Monday the 16th; or, in person or by telephone between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the 13th or 16th.
(512) 463-9007, FAX: (512) 936-4319; Address: 1701 N. Congress, Austin, TX 78701.
HOW TO REGISTER TO TESTIFY: Copy and paste this link http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=1156; Then click Registration Form for Public Testimony; This will direct you to read information about the hearings. Note: There are guidelines posted that are specific to the textbook hearing. Please be sure and read them before you testify!
Then click on: I acknowledge that I have read the above instructions and procedures and am ready to proceed to registration. At this point you may fill out the registration form.
OTHER EDUCATION NEWS:
Commissioner of Education Michael Williams announced recently that the Texas high school on-time graduation rate has set an all-time high, reaching 87.7 percent for the Class of 2012. The graduation rate for the Class of 2012 is 1.8 percentage points higher than the previous record set by the Class of 2011 and marks the fifth consecutive year the rate has increased.
“Last year, the Class of 2011 in Texas set a graduation rate that was among the highest in the nation, and now the Class of 2012 has bested that number,” said Commissioner Williams. “All those working in Texas education should be proud of our strong numbers and the strides we continue to make as a state.”