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.
July 21, 2011, Austin — Far fewer people than usual signed up to testify on the electronic science book supplements the Texas State Board of Education is considering in lieu of new textbooks (no money for texts from the legislature, you recall).
So, in keeping with Chairman Barbara Cargill’s wishes, testimony concluded at 4:06 p.m. CDT, just six minutes later than scheduled.
Good deal. The air conditioning in the first floor hearing room still doesn’t work well.
Since 2003, the most visible difference in these hearings is the back wall. That’s where the electrical outlets are, and so those seats get taken up by publishers, lawyers, lobbyists, and a few bloggers.
When the board reconvenes at 4:30, the board will take up consideration of the supplemental materials. If they follow the testimony, there will be a quick vote to approve all of the supplements still standing.
But this may be where the fireworks get lighted.
Most witnesses asked the board to simply approve the supplemental material favored by staff at the Texas Education Agency and by the panels of teachers and experts the board appointed earlier. Those recommendations excluded the only pro-creationism materials by a small, first-time publishing company.
Andrew Ellington, the biology whiz from the University of Texas, gave another great presentation — limited to two minutes under the new rules. Most pro-evolution witnesses got no questions.
Josh Rosenau, the out-of-state champion for evolution (from the National Center for Science Education – NCSE, and Sciblogs blogger at Thoughts from Kansas) made the case for hard science. Walter Bradley, the champion for creationism, didn’t show up. He sent a substitute to read his testimony, in which he urged rejection of all the proposed materials because they don’t savage Darwin. He also gave thanks to God for the Texas SBOE.
Schafersman wrote, and you may wish to note:
My friends at Texas Freedom Network (TFN), Ryan Valentine and Dan Quinn, are also live blogging this meeting at TFN Insider. Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education is also here live tweeting at at @JoshRosenau and @NCSE (using hashtag #txtxt). TFN informs me they are also live tweeting at #SBOE. Abby Rapoport of the Texas Observer will also be tweeting about this meeting using #SBOE.
The Board reconvened promptly at 4:30. After a typical, SBOE-style confused discussion of the process, submissions for science supplements for grades 4, 5, 6 and 7 were quickly approved on a show-of-hands vote. The room has an electronic voting system which could offer quicker results. A show-of-hands is folksy and friendly, but leaves a poor record for tracking. Is this an intentional stab against transparency?
Discussion stalled at 8th grade materials. Question raised about whether striking a publisher’s materials requires just one objection or a majority vote (should be majority vote — the chair’s description sorta said that).
One publisher disputed two of 132 found errors — staff agreed with the publisher that there was no error. Chemistry. Chair Cargill announces that chemistry, physics and IPC curricula for high schools will be considered first — biology last. (Fireworks then?).
[Much of this discussion carries little significance. Among the errors officially tallied: “Judgment” is misspelled. Gail Lowe makes it clear that she has what she thinks are significant errors identified for one publisher, in the biology materials- Pearson,Technical Laboratory Systems, Chemistry I think. Fines can be levied for publishers who fail to correct errors.]
This discussion is so much inside baseball that the board takes a recess to figure it out.
It looks like — correct me if I’m wrong — the board is working to take potshots at some publisher’s biology stuff, and kill it.
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.
I am a little bit concerned in looking at some of these science online supplementary materials. I looked at one of the links and there was a picture of a — a graphic of a human fetus next to a gorilla fetus talking about how they only differ by one amino acid. Therefore, universal common decent. So that is of some concern. And I am not quite sure if we are going to have the votes to overturn that. We will work diligently to rectify and correct some of that. But remember we lost a conservative seat, so we’re down to six.
In this unguarded moment, Cargill drops the double-speak and is honest about her plan for the first meeting over which she will preside as chair — pressure publishers to censor scientific information from their materials and to insert bogus information questioning evolution. And she knows exactly what her task is: to get the extra votes necessary to accomplish this.
Stay tuned to TFN Insider on Thursday and Friday as we give you a front-row seat at the contentious hearing and board vote.
Live blogging the meeting starting at about 10:00 a.m today at TFN Insider at at Steve Schafersman’s blog, from the Texas Citizens for Science.
I get important e-mail from the Texas Freedom Network; they’re asking for help next week to fight creationism and other forms of buncombe popular in Texas:
Science and the SBOE: One Week to Go
Next week, the Texas State Board of Education will take a critical vote on science in our public schools. We need people like you to make sure the vote is in favor of sound, well-established science.
Up for board consideration are science instructional materials submitted by a number of publishers and vendors who want their product used in Texas classrooms. Even before the board meets, far-right groups have been hard at work trying to ensure materials approved by the board attack and diminish evolutionary science and include the junk science of “intelligent design”/creationism.
The attacks include one from a little-know firm out of New Mexico, International Databases, which submitted instructional materials rife with creationist propaganda.
It gets worse. Far-right SBOE members last month appointed creationists with questionable scientific credentials to teams tasked with reviewing the materials and making recommendations to the board.
And new board chair Barbara Cargill upped the stakes when in a speech just last week she framed the debate over science as a “spiritual battle.”
The board will hold just ONE public hearing on the science materials. Your participation is crucial.
Please note: The deadline to sign up to testify is 5 p.m. Monday.
We must insist that the SBOE keep junk science – including “intelligent design”/creationism – out of our children’s classrooms. The board must approve only instructional materials that are accurate, that are in line with sound and well-established science, and that will prepare Texas children to succeed in college and the jobs of the 21st century.
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Copyright 2010, Texas Freedom Network
Trying to carve out time here. Can you help?
Hearings will be most interesting. Support for the Texas State Board of Education actually comes, often, from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). TEA this week laid off just under 200 workers, to deal with the 36% budget chopping done to the agency by the Texas Lege. Word comes this week that curriculum directors at TEA were let go, including the director of science curriculum.
It’s rather like the first 20 weeks of World War II in the Pacific, with the aggressors advancing on almost all fronts against science. When is our Battle of Midway?
Probably not enough pressure to get the board to act, but the Dallas Morning News turned a cannon on the Texas State Board of Education this morning, asking that they fix the damage done to social studies last year.
The paper’s editorial board keyed off of the Fordham Institute’s grading of state standards — Texas failed, with at D.
Editorial: Report offers new reason to rewrite standards
Just in case you think it’s only us warning about Texas’ new social studies standards, check out the awful grade that the respected Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave those benchmarks in a report released Wednesday.
A big, fat “D” is what Texas got for the history, economics, geography and cultural standards the State Board of Education approved last year for Texas’ elementary and secondary school students.
Some of that awful mark was for the way the standards are organized. Fordham researchers likened their confusing structure to a jigsaw puzzle. But much of the national organization’s critique was about how politicized the State Board of Education has made those standards.
We were particularly struck by Fordham’s conclusion that the hard-right faction on the board, which dominated the writing of the standards, made the same mistake left-wing academics have made in approaching such subjects as history and economics. The Fordham study puts it this way:
“While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the hard right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points.”
Oh, it gets worse. Back to the report: “The strange fusion of conventional left-wing education theory and right-wing politics undermines content from the start.”
For the record, Fordham is not a left-wing outpost of American thought. Its leader is Chester Finn, a former Reagan administration official and one of education’s most recognized voices. At the least, his organization’s critique is not a predictable one.
The institute echoes the complaint this newspaper has had since the 15-member Texas board rewrote the state’s social studies standards. Its hard-right faction at the time insisted on inserting its slant on those important subjects, such as suggesting Joe McCarthy wasn’t so bad, that international treaties are a problem and that the separation of church and state is misguided.
The warped view is why the revised board must go back and rewrite the standards this spring. And that should be possible.
Voters were so frustrated with the board’s work last year that they elected more moderate Republican members. Moderates now have enough of the upper hand to fix these standards before schools start planning for next year and before publishers start drafting new history and social studies textbooks.
Some on the new board may believe that rewriting the social studies standards will be too difficult. But surely Texas students deserve better than a “D” when it comes to what the state wants them to learn in some of the most critical subjects.
Texas fails among its peers
How big states fared on the Fordham Foundation report on social studies standards nationwide:
Tell Your Congress Member to Support Education over Politics
The Texas Freedom Network and the Texas Faith Network this week joined nearly two dozen national organizations in support of a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on the State Board of Education to stop playing politics with the education of Texas schoolchildren. We have signed on to a letter to U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, supporting House Resolution 1593. Congresswoman Johnson introduced the resolution in the U.S. House on July 30. The resolution, which has four other co-sponsors from Texas, calls out the state board for disregarding nearly a year’s worth of work by teachers and scholars who wrote initial drafts of new social studies curriculum standards. It also notes that more than 1,200 history scholars have warned that the heavily revised standards, which the board adopted in May, “would undermine the study of the social sciences in public schools by misrepresenting and even distorting the historical record and the functioning of United States society.”
Teachers and scholars should write curriculum standards and textbook requirements, not politicians.
Texas schools should give our schoolchildren an education based on sound scholarship that prepares them to succeed in college and their future careers. Decisions about curriculum and textbooks shouldn’t be based on the personal and political agendas of state board members.
Because of the size of Texas, publishers often write their textbooks to meet curriculum standards in this state and then sell them to schools across the country. Texas should be a model for good curriculum and textbooks, not a national laughingstock.
You can do three other things to stop radical members of the State Board of Education from promoting their political and personal agendas in our kids’ classrooms:
This post is seventh in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.
This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.
Generally I’ll not comment on these planks just yet, but I must say that I take delight in the perhaps unintentional commentary offered in the title of this plank. I suspect the intent was to point to the bias of the State Board of Education, an imbalance of political views, and not to the sanity of the board. But, I could be wrong — the title may be just an official Democratic labeling of the Board’s actions as unbalanced behavior.
REFORM OF THE UNBALANCED STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
The right-wing Republican extremists who have dominated the State Board of Education have made a laughingstock of our state’s process for developing and implementing school curriculum standards that determine what our students learn. The damage they have done is no laughing matter. In rewriting the curriculum for social studies, English language arts, and science, they repeatedly have dismissed the sound advice of professional educators. Personal ideology, not high academic standards, has guided their work. Their skewed vision slights the contributions of racial and ethnic minorities. Their slanted versions of American history and of science mislead students and violate the separation of church and state. They use loaded language to favor the roles of right-wing organizations and activists. Led by a Rick Perry appointee as chair, this State Board of Education wants to indoctrinate, not educate, the schoolchildren of Texas. Their actions are unlikely to encourage a company to relocate and bring jobs to Texas. Any substantive changes to curriculum must be reviewed by non-partisan experts, and that review must be made public prior to any changes in curriculum by the State Board.
Texas Democrats will realign the State Board of Education with mainstream Texas values, will realign the state curriculum with objective reality and the facts of history and science, and will insist on the exercise of sober fiduciary responsibility for the Permanent School Fund, exposing and prohibiting conflicts of interest.
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.
When considering the political scene of the moment, it is difficult not to see how historical allegory plays an important role in the public spectacle known as the Tea Party movement. From the name itself, an acronym (Taxed Enough Already) that fuses current concerns to a patriotic historical moment, to the oral and written references by some of its members to Stalin and Hitler, the Tea Party appears to be steeped (sorry) in history. However, one has only to listen to a minute of ranting to know that what we really are talking about is either a deliberate misuse or a sad misunderstanding of history.
Misuse implies two things: first, that the Partiers themselves know that they are attempting to mislead, and second, that the rest of us share an understanding of what accurate history looks like. Would that this were true. Unfortunately, there is little indication that the new revolutionaries possess more than a rudimentary knowledge of American or world history, and there is even less reason to think that the wider public is any different. Such ignorance allows terms like communism, socialism, and fascism to be used interchangeably by riled-up protesters while much of the public, and, not incidentally, the media, nods with a fuzzy understanding of the negative connotations those words are supposed to convey (of course some on the left are just as guilty of too-liberally applying the “fascist” label to any policy of which they do not approve). It also allows the Tea Partiers to believe that their situation – being taxed with representation – somehow warrants use of “Don’t Tread On Me” flags and links their dissatisfaction with a popularly elected president to that of colonists chafing under monarchical rule.
While the specifics of the moment (particularly, it seems, the fact of the Obama presidency) account for some of the radical resentment, the intensity of feeling among the opposition these days seems built upon a total lack of historical perspective.
I get e-mail from the NAACP; the rest of the nation is paying attention to the follies run by the conservative bureaucrats at the SBOE:
I wouldn’t want to be a Texas State Board member this week.
Last week, we asked you to write to your representative, telling him or her that rewriting Texas history textbooks is ignorant and unpatriotic.
Over 1,500 people have already written in, filling the inboxes of our school leaders.
This week, we’d like to offer you one more chance to get involved. The NAACP is planning rallies, hearings and press conferences in Texas to stop the state board from rewriting history. But we can’t do it without you.
An issue as controversial as rewriting history elicits strong emotions, and we want to give you the chance to speak out. Do you have something you would like to say at the hearing?
The NAACP works to ensure equal rights and to eliminate discrimination against all racial and ethnic groups. The proposed changes to our textbooks threaten our mission. This is not about Republicans or Democrats — it’s about our shared history as Texans. That’s why we want to use the words of our Texas supporters to turn the tide.
The Texas textbook vote is just two weeks away, so we need to push ourselves harder now than ever before.
The future of our children’s education is in the hands of just a few State Board members. Your voice could be the one to tip the scale.
Take a moment to tell us what you think about the Texas State Board rewriting history. The best submissions will be read at the hearing on May 19th.
What? The Texas State Board of Education is doing such a shoddy job of writing social studies standards that they don’t even name the current president of the U.S.?
It’s a cautionary tale of overprescribing, and of looking at everything as if it has some ulterior motive. But is there any rational reason why the SBOE refuses to utter the name “Obama?”
Who is this man? Texas social studies standards let his identity remain a mystery, despite the historical significance of his election.
SBOE should stop gutting social studies standards and vote to simply accept the updates provided by teachers, historians, economists and geographers. The process is out of control, embarrassing to Texas, and damaging to education.
TSTA President Rita Haecker created a stir among legislators today when she testified, at a hearing hosted by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, that the State Board of Education, in its recent rewrite of social studies curriculum standards, had refused to name President Barack Obama.
That bit of news seemed to catch several lawmakers by surprise. They already knew that the right-wing bloc on the board had attempted to rewrite history. But to go so far as to omit the name of the historic, first African American president of the United States seemed preposterous, even by conservative leader Don (the Earth is 5,000 years old) McLeroy’s standards.
Haecker was correct. Barack Obama’s name, so far, has not been included in the history curriculum standards on which the SBOE is scheduled to take a final vote next month. The standards do note the “election of first black president” as a significant event of 2008, but they don’t say who that black president is.
Haecker urged legislators to make changes, if necessary, to the curriculum setting process to protect educator input and ensure that “scholarly, academic research and findings aren’t dismissed or diminished at the whim of a board member’s own political or religious view of the world.”
State Education Commissioner Robert Scott accepted the caucus’ invitation to voluntarily testify on the curriculum adoption process. He said his and the Texas Education Agency’s role was mostly in technical support of the SBOE.
Board Chairwoman Gail Lowe of Lampasas, who also had been invited, declined to attend, even though the caucus had offered to pay her travel expenses.
Predictably, Lowe was skewered for her failure to show up by the mostly Democratic legislators who attended the caucus hearing. Lowe must have figured it was better to be skewered in absentia than in person.
You can read Rita Haecker’s prepared testimony here:
During the primaries, Texans voted against the most extreme and hyper-political SBOE candidates, sending a clear message about their approach of injecting politics into our classrooms.
Last month, I called on Rick Perry to ask his appointed chair of the SBOE to either send changes back to expert review teams or delay the vote until new board members are seated.
Perry’s response has been to say that he’s not going to “try to outsmart” the SBOE. He declined to show leadership, refusing to ask his appointed chair of SBOE to rein in the hyper-political curriculum amendment process.
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