The Houston Chronicle’s coverage of the Texas State Board of Education meetings this week is not well indexed on the web. Following a couple of odd links I found Gary Sharrar’s article (he’s the Chronicle’s education reporter), though the Associated Press Story shows up for the paper’s main article on most indices I found.
Sharrar adds a few details of Kommissar McLeroy’s war on English education, but the significant thing about the story is in the comments, I think. One poster appears to have details that are unavailable even from TEA. Partisans in the fight have details that Texas law requires to be made public in advance of the meetings, while the state officials who need to advise on the regulations and carry them out, do not.
TEA has an expensive website with full capabilities of publishing these documents within moments of their passage. As of Sunday morning, TEA’s website still shows the documents from last March. Surely Texas is not getting its value from TEA on this stuff.
Two different outside groups offered opposite reactions. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free-market think tank, favored the board’s action.
“It is obvious that too many Texas public school students aren’t learning the basics with our current curriculum,” said Foundation education policy analyst Brooke Terry. “We are glad the new curriculum will emphasize grammar and writing skills.”
Texas public schools fail to adequately prepare many students for college or the workplace, she said, citing a 2006 survey by the Conference Board found that 81 percent of employers viewed recent high school graduates as “deficient in written communications” needed for letters, memos, formal reports and technical reports.
But the Texas Freedom Network, which promotes public education, religious freedom and individual liberties, called the board divisive and dysfunctional.
“College ready” generally means reading well, and reading broadly in literature. From a pedagogical standpoint, emphasizing “grammar and writing skills” over the reading that is proven to improve grammar and writing skills will be a losing battle. I hope the details of the plan will show something different when TEA ever makes them available to the taxpaying/education consuming public and English teachers. NCLB asks that such changes be backed by solid research — it will be fascinating to see whether there is any research to support the Texas plan (not that it matters; this section of NCLB has been ignored by the right wing from the moment NCLB was signed).
Prior to this week’s series of meetings, Commissar McLeroy expressed what sounds like disdain for reading in the English curriculum to the El Paso Times:
But chairman McLeroy said he would fight against some of the measures the educators want, especially the comprehension and fluency portion.
Their suggestions, he said, would have students waste time on repetitive comprehension strategies instead of actually practicing reading by taking in a rich variety of literature.
“I think that time is going to be lost because they’ll be reading some story, and they’ll just overanalyze,” he said.
By the way, calling the Texas Public Policy Foundation a “free market think tank” is misleading. The group is quite hostile to public education, and features on its board several people who have led fights to gut funding for public schools and impose bleed-the-schools voucher programs. The Foundation appears to endorse preaching in public schools and gutting science standards, among other problems.
If it’s good work, why is it done in secret? Remember that I spent years in right wing spin work in Washington. Here’s what I see: Either McLeroy’s administration at the state board is incredibly incompetent and can’t even get the good news right, and out on time, or there is another, darker and probably illegal agenda at work.
Below the fold, the full text of the comment from “WG1” at the Chronicle’s website.
Read the rest of this entry »