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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Will Texas State Board of Ed Adopt ‘Common Core-Compliant’ Standards?

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. | September 9, 2016   Texas Insider

Review groups were formed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to review and simplify the current English/Language Arts/Reading curriculum standards.  However, these teams ignored their mandate and went out on a wild rewriting spree.

 Violation of TEA Mandate

The rogue teams changed the centuries-old successful classical teaching philosophy of the current standards to Common Core-compliant standards which will force teachers in every classroom in Texas to teach Common Core. And this change in direction will not stop with ELAR.  This is just the nose of the camel in the proverbial tent of curriculum standards as others come up for review.

Compare the Common Core-compliant handiwork of the “rewrite” teams with the current classical education standards --“Side by Side Documents.”   Overwhelming minutia and endless number of phrases.  So much for simplifying the current standards!

To add further confusion, the rewrite teams changed the clearly worded strands to nebulous phrases that require major mind reading to understand the intent.

Violation of Texas Law

But the teams didn’t stop there.  They added a new strand -- “collaboration.”  Now here is the problem.  They just broke the Texas law!  “Collaboration” is a teaching method.  The Texas Education Code clearly states, the board may not adopt rules that designate the methodology used by a teacher or the time spent by a teacher or a student on a particular task or subject.”

New Strand Is Not Measurable As Required

That brings us to the next violation. The standards must be measurable and collaboration cannot be measured.  What kinds of test questions can be used to measure collaborative skills -- or will the score be merely the opinion of the grader or the teacher?

Proposed TEKS Are Common Core-Compliant

Now here is the next giant boondoggle of the rewriting teams. With the new TEKS, teachers would be required to use the new methodology strand of collaboration.

Now collaboration is not just any old method, mind you; it is a Common Core-compliant strategy!  The new TEKS would force Common Core teaching strategy in every Texas classroom!  Common Core Standards identify collaboration as a 21st century work skill for the global world.  A hot education fad using the collaborative approach is Project Based Learning, an early to mid-20th century Progressive retread touted as a key strategy to develop deeper understanding of content.

However, public schools are still entrenched in the John Dewey philosophy of “learn by doing” instead of academic knowledge.  One cannot have a deeper understanding if there is no foundation of knowledge.  In most PBL models, acquiring knowledge is incidental with the emphasis being on team work and the project. Texas teachers are required by law to teach the curriculum standards (TEKS) to prepare students for the STAAR/End of Course tests.  Because so much class time is wasted on PBL, teachers have very little time to teach the subject content in the standards. To make up for the lost class time, many teachers conduct “crash courses” to try to help their students memorize their way through the STAAR/EOC test questions. The result…lackluster STAAR/EOC test scores that show little-to-no academic achievement progress being made by Texas students.

PBL is the main vehicle for learning in many classrooms.  The teacher becomes the learner while the student becomes the expert.  When slower students are unable to keep up with the pace of the group, the faster students give them the answers to maintain the work pace of the group.  Slower students are then left with big gaps in their acquisition of knowledge and skills. This is a highly critical problem when PBL is employed in the elementary years when children are building their knowledge base.

Students complain frequently about free riders in PBL classes -- a few do the work while others get a free ride.  All too often, the students who work hard to complete their part of the project have to do the work of the laggards so the group won’t fail. Students are given a group grade with laggards receiving unearned credit.  Group projects obviously then don’t reflect individual knowledge.

If this exercise in team work is supposed to teach real world skills, then allowing goof-offs to get the same grade/salary as those who work sends the wrong message.  

Additional Tax Burdens on Texans

PBL is an expensive fad because schools must be reconfigured with open-classrooms to accommodate group work.  Many schools have issued multi-million dollar bonds to build new schools or to reconfigure existing spaces. Taxpayers are being saddled with new debt without any idea this is another failed liberal strategy. Since PBL is a retread, knowing the outcome of this destructive education fad does not require a genius brain.

In the 1960s and 1970s the open-classroom education fad swept across America.  In these open classes with large numbers of students, chaos reigned.  Students, especially those at risk, could not hear above the din of noise or focus on the teacher’s lesson or their own reading and writing.  Discipline problems mounted dramatically and students fell behind in their performance and grade levels. Teachers left the public school system in droves to teach in schools that were traditional.  Ultimately, school administrators had to undo their costly mistake – both financial and academic.  Schools had to be reconfigured to get rid of the open-classroom -- at additional expense to taxpayers.         

In the not too distant future, we will see a tide of rage sweeping across the nation as students discover their futures have been sold down the river -- they have great team skills but are poorly prepared for college or trade school and 21st century work challenges. And for Texans, even more of our money will have been wasted.

The SBOE must not be allowed to impose a failed teaching philosophy upon millions of Texas children that will teach them to hate America and our Judeo-Christian values as Common Core surely does.  Texans must take the TEA and SBOE to task and require the review teams to do as mandated -- REVIEW the CURRENT TEKS only to simplify. 

Let your voice be heard! Testify at the next SBOE meeting: Wednesday, September 14th. Call to register from September 9th-12th at (512) 463-9007.

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