Texas Education Agency looking for social studies books reviewers (and math and fine arts)

December 2, 2013

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

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.

To nominate yourself or someone else to serve on a state review panel, please complete the form posted at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=25769808256&libID=25769808258 and submit it to the TEA on or before Friday, January 24, 2014.

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.

Nominations are due on or before Friday, January 24, 2014.  The nomination form is posted on the TEA website at http://www.tea.state.tx.us/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=25769808256&libID=25769808258.

If you have any questions, please contact review.adoption@tea.state.tx.us.

***********************************************************

Thank you for your commitment to serving Texas students.

Social Studies Staff, Division of Curriculum, (512) 463-9581

Social Studies in Texas include history, geography, economics, government (civics), and (oddly) psychology and sociology, and “special topics.”

Please pass word along to the teachers you know in social studies, fine arts and math.

We recall that old Bette Davis line, playing Margot Channing in “All About Eve”:  “Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

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They’re coming for the science textbooks, again; join me in speaking up

July 23, 2013

I get e-mail, sometimes from the Texas Freedom Network. In this case, I’m happy to share. You need to know this.

Would you sign the petition?

Stand Up for Science

SUFS-Tex and T-Rex

Click Here to Sign the Petition

Dear Ed,

I’m worried about my kids’ future because of six words.

The Texas State Board of Education.

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.

It’s time to Stand Up for Science.

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.

For our children’s future, let’s win this.

Sign our petition to Stand Up for Science.

Regards,
Ryan Valentine
Deputy Director, Texas Freedom Network

They’re coming for Texas science textbooks, again; please stand up and speak out for science, for accuracy, for good education.

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Steve Schafersman, Texas State Board of Education District 15

November 6, 2012

District 15 for the Texas State Board of Education covers 77 counties in Texas’s northern Panhandle.  It’s oil (Midland), cotton, Texas prairie and small towns, and lots of schools, and some surprisingly good colleges and universities.

Texas State Board of Education District 15, TFN image

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.

The GOP candidate in the race is religiously anti-science, Marty Rowley of Amarillo.  As a good-ol’-boy, former pastor, he’s got a lot of support from the usual suspects.  Rowley’s views on science, technology, engineering and mathematics run contrary to the business and farming interests of his entire district.  Do his supporters look to the future?

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.

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Steve Schafersman campaign flier:

Shafersman for Texas State Board of Education District 15

Schafersman for Texas State Board of Education District 15 – click image for larger version


Test “priming”: Malcolm Gladwell on how to push test results, and why tests might not work

July 31, 2012

Who is the interviewer, Allan Gregg?

From the YouTube site:

Malcolm Gladwell in an interview about Blink explains priming, and re-states some of the examples of priming from Blink with CC (closed captions)

Here’s a longer excerpt of the interview; from TVO (TVOntario)?

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.

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Thank God, and the Courts, for Charles Darwin

July 6, 2008

Rev. Michael Dowd has a book out, ThankGod for Evolution, and he wrote an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News on July 1 (as I understand it — wasn’t in Dallas that day).

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.

We also need to thank the federal courts, where the First Amendment is enforced, keeping unreasonable fables from diluting science education in public schools.

Which gets us to this: Chris Comer, the former science curriculum expert for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) who was fired for sending out an e-mail seen as supportive of evolution, is suing TEA, to get her job back (it’s illegal to fire public employees for bad religious reasons).

Watch that suit.

Rev. Dowd’s essay, courtesy of Sam Hodges and the Dallas Morning News Religion Blog, below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


Texas creationism scandal only one of many

December 6, 2007

McBlogger has an interesting, Texas-based take on the scandals at the Texas Education Agency: It’s a hallmark of Republicans in Texas government.

In other words, other agencies are similarly screwed up, and the common thread is Republican appointees out of their depth and unaware of it.

(Do short posts make this place start to look like Instapundit? Looks only — check the substance.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Bluedaze.


Unintelligent designs in Texas

November 29, 2007

The Texas Education Agency has lost its mind.  Again, or still.

P.Z. has details. I’m off to discuss economics with economics teachers.  Talk among yourselves until I get back later tonight.

If someone organizes a march on the TEA with torches and other farm implements, somebody text message me, please.


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