Last time the SBOE approved social studies books in 2010, the process was contentious. This photo, from The Christian Science Monitor, shows protests on the books; photo by Larry Kolvoord, Austin American-Statesman
Good news a few days ago was that the Texas State Board of Education approved science books that teach real science, for use in Texas schools.
But the Road Goes On Forever, and the Tea Party Never Ends: Social studies books are up for review, now.
TEA is looking for nominations for reviewers for books in social studies, math and fine arts. Here’s the notice I got in e-mail:
The Texas Education Agency is now accepting nominations to the state review panels that will evaluate instructional materials submitted for adoption under Proclamation 2015.
Proclamation 2015 calls for instructional materials in the following areas:
♦ Social Studies, grades K-12
♦ Social Studies (Spanish), grades K-5
♦ Mathematics, grades 9-12
♦ Fine Arts, grades K-12
State review panels are scheduled to convene in Austin for one week during the summer of 2014 to review materials submitted under Proclamation 2015. The TEA will reserve hotel lodging and reimburse panel members for all travel expenses, as allowable by law.
Panel members should plan to remain on-site for five days to conduct the evaluation.
Panel members will be asked to complete an initial review of instructional materials prior to the in-person review.
Panel members will receive orientation and training both prior to the initial review and at the beginning of the in-person review.
Panel members might be asked to review additional content following the in-person review.
Because many of the samples will be delivered electronically, panel members should be comfortable reviewing materials on-screen rather than in print.
Panel members should also have a working knowledge of Microsoft Excel.
Upon initial contact by a representative of the TEA, state review panel nominees begin a “no-contact” period in which they may not have either direct or indirect contact with any publisher or other person having an interest in the content of instructional materials under evaluation by the panel. The “no contact” period begins with the initial communication from the Texas Education Agency and ends after the State Board of Education (SBOE) adopts the instructional materials. The SBOE is scheduled to adopt Proclamation 2015 materials at its November 2014 meeting.
The state board has already begun working on its once-a-decade adoption of science textbooks for Texas classrooms. And for years, an anti-science faction of that board has done all it can to undermine the science of evolution and climate change by giving equal weight to nonscientific beliefs like climate change denial and the idea that dinosaurs and humans coexisted.
We’ve got news for those folks: Big Tex and T-Rex didn’t ride the range together.
Click here to sign our petition and help us reach our goal of 5,000 signatures of Texans demanding that the State Board of Education approve science textbooks that are based on sound, peer-reviewed scholarship.
This fight is personal for me because from an early age, both my kids have loved science. In fact, my oldest son is enrolled in the “tech academy” at his middle school, where he’s learning about cool high-tech careers and honing computer skills that already put me to shame.
But whether you have school-aged kids or not, this fight is too important to the future of Texas and the nation to ignore. With over 5 million students, Texas is one of the country’s biggest buyers of textbooks. And that has an impact on other states because book publishers often follow our lead so that they don’t have to create different versions of the same science books.
I want my kids and every child to have classroom materials based on modern, mainstream science that gets them ready for college and prepares them for those high-tech jobs my son is learning about. Anything less handicaps their future and sets them up to fail.
Texas State Board of Education District 15, TFN image – “District Overview District 15 is huge, covering all of northwestern Texas. It is also arguably the most Republican SBOE district, giving more than 74 percent of the vote to Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election and more than 70 percent to Gov. Rick Perry in the 2010 gubernatorial race.”
It’s a district where science plays a big role, and should play a bigger one. The 15th includes those lands in Texas where the Dust Bowl got started, where unwise plowing based on inaccurate readings of climate contributed to one of the greatest man-made natural resources disasters in all of history. It’s the home of Texas Tech University, where members of the chemistry faculty created a wine industry based on the chemistry of grape selection and fermentation, and where geologists learn how to find oil.
This area leads Texas in wind power generation, a considerable factor in the state that leads the nation in wind power generation.
In short, science, engineering and other technical disciplines keep this area economically alive, and vital at times.
Of the two candidates, Democrat Steve Schafersman is a scientist, and a long-time, staunch defender of science education (what we now cutely call “STEM” subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). If the race were decided by a test in STEM subjects, Schafersman would be the winner. Schafersman lives in Midland.
Do you vote in Midland, Lubbock, Amarillo, Dalhart, Abilene, San Angelo, Dallam County, Tom Greene County, Cooke County or Montague County? You need to vote for Steve Shafersman. Do your children a favor, do your schools a favor, and do your region of Texas a favor, and vote for the guy who works to make education good.
Shafersman is the better-qualified candidate, and probably among the top two or three people with experience making the SBOE work well, in the nation. He deserves the seat, and Texas needs him.
Discussion: Gladwell appears to confirm, for testing results, the old aphorism attributed to Henry Ford: “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, you’re right.” Gladwell seems to be saying that the student’s view of his or her abilities at the moment the test starts rules in a significant way how the student performs — worse, for teachers, it’s the student’s unconscious view of his or her abilities. As a final shot in class, I have often had students predict their performance on state tests. I have them write what they think they will scores. Then I ask them to predict what they would have scored, had they applied themselves seriously to study of history — and of course, almost always the students have a fit of honesty and predict their scores would have been higher. Then I ask them to pretend they had studied, and cross out the lower predicted score and replace it with the higher predicted score. At the schools where I’ve taught, we do not administer the tests to our own students, and such exercises are prohibited on the day of the test. Too bad, you think?
Another exercise I’ve found useful for boosting scores is to give the students one class period, just over an hour, to take the entire day-long TAKS social studies test, in the on-line version offered by the Texas Education Agency. Originally I wanted students to get scared about what they didn’t know, and to get attuned to the questions they had no clue about so they’d pick it up in class. What I discovered was that, in an hour, clearly with the pressure off (we weren’t taking it all that seriously, after all, allowing just an hour), students perform better than they expected. So I ask them to pass a judgment on how difficult the test is, and what they should be scoring — almost unanimously they say they find the test not too difficult on the whole, and definitely conquerable by them.
What else could we do with students, if we knew how to prime them for tests, or for writing papers, or for any other piece of performance on which they would be graded?
With one exception, my administrators in Dallas ISD have been wholly inuninterested in such ideas, and such results — there is no checkbox on the teacher evaluation form for using online learning tools to advance test scores, and administrators do not regard that as teaching. The one exception was Dorothy Gomez, our principal for two years, who had what I regarded as a bad habit of getting on the intercom almost every morning to cheer on students for learning what they would be tested on. My post-test surveys of students showed those pep talks had been taken to heart, and we got much better performance out of lower-performing groups and entire classes during Gomez’s tenure (she has since left the district).
Also, if psychological tricks can significantly affect test scores, surely that invalidates the idea that we can use any test score to evaluate teacher effectiveness, unless immediate testing results is all we want teachers to achieve. Gladwell said in this clip:
To me that completely undermines this notion, this naive notion that many educators have that you can reduce someone’s intelligence to a score on a test. You can’t.
I don’t vouch for the book — yet, at least. I’ve not read it. I find the study of science, and especially of evolution, offers no barrier to my faith, nor does my faith offer any barrier to my study of science. My faith, which requires an ethical life, offers barriers to creationism — a subject of other posts. But thank God for Charles Darwin? Sure.
“Thank God for Charles Darwin.” T-shirt design from Redbubble
We also need to thank the federal courts, where the First Amendment is enforced, keeping unreasonable fables from diluting science education in public schools.
Some Texas educators are disappointed that no one like Mike Moses got the job. Moses is a long-time public school educator who was a very popular and knowledgeable. But disappointment was tempered by relief for what might have happened. Gov. Perry earlier in 2007 named a creationist and hard-back conservative to chair the State Board of Education. Scott is not thought to be that deep into right-wing political ideology.
Scott is a policy wonk, coming out of legislative staff to staff TEA. This is the second time he was acting commissioner. Oddly, he is so little known that it is unclear whether he is the Robert Scott who appears to have acted contrary to ethics and law in an earlier TEA contract problem, or whether it was another TEA employee also named Robert Scott. People who would usually know the difference in such situations, appear not to know in this one.
Were there a stock market in state educational attainment, Texas’s stock would have dropped 8% yesterday, with analysts saying it was better than the expected 12% decrease.
Can teachers alone save Texas’s education system? It’s a risky experiment.
We've been soaking in the Bathtub for several months, long enough that some of the links we've used have gone to the Great Internet in the Sky.
If you find a dead link, please leave a comment to that post, and tell us what link has expired.
Retired teacher of law, economics, history, AP government, psychology and science. Former speechwriter, press guy and legislative aide in U.S. Senate. Former Department of Education. Former airline real estate, telecom towers, Big 6 (that old!) consultant. Lab and field research in air pollution control.
My blog, Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, is a continuing experiment to test how to use blogs to improve and speed up learning processes for students, perhaps by making some of the courses actually interesting. It is a blog for teachers, to see if we can use blogs. It is for people interested in social studies and social studies education, to see if we can learn to get it right. It's a blog for science fans, to promote good science and good science policy. It's a blog for people interested in good government and how to achieve it.
BS in Mass Communication, University of Utah
Graduate study in Rhetoric and Speech Communication, University of Arizona
JD from the National Law Center, George Washington University