Texas ELAR standards debacle (evolution next?)

The Texas State Board of Education’s shocking action Friday (May 23, 2008) in adopting new standards for K-12 English/Language Arts & Reading is being viewed by some as a harbinger of things to come for the new science standards, which are the next to be revised.

After receiving a draft developed with input from English Language Arts and Reading teachers, the Board was forced to vote on a substitute document, almost 100 pages, that was slipped under their hotel room doors an hour before the meeting.

Reporting for the San Antonio Express-News, Gary Scharrer reports that

A three-year effort to rewrite English language arts and reading standards for the state’s public schools came down to a last-minute cut-and-paste job Friday.

On dallasnews.com, the AP reports and quotes:

“I find it’s really wild that we can work for three years on a project and then the board is so qualified they can pull it out of their hat overnight,” said board member Pat Hardy, a Fort Worth Republican who, like other board members, received the substituted document when it was slipped under her hotel door less than an hour before their meeting was set to convene Friday morning.

Some social conservatives on the board prepared the latest version overnight.

“I’m appalled by the process that we’ve taken part in,” said board member Bob Craig, a Republican from Lubbock. There’s been “no opportunity to review it, no teacher group is involved, not even the (Texas Education Agency) staff was involved or had seen it.”

From R.A. Dyer, for the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth:

The curriculum decision is important because it will affect the teaching of reading, writing and grammar in kindergarten through 12th grade as well as the content of the state’s high-stakes standardized tests.

But the process has been anything but smooth, with board factions complaining that they had little time to review the technical proposals or that they were being railroaded by their opponents.

On Friday, for instance, many members complained that the nearly 100-page document had been distributed to them just before the meeting.

“How am I supposed to vote on a document when I’ve had it in my hands for slightly over an hour?” asked board member Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi.

From a press release by the Texas Freedom Network:

The State Board of Education’s confused, divisive and needlessly prolonged process for adopting new language arts curriculum standards has exposed how dysfunctional the education panel has become under the chairmanship of Don McLeroy, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said today.

“The state board is split between members who respect the opinions of teachers and education experts and, on the other side, Chairman McLeroy and other members who clearly don’t,” Miller said. “So this board is increasingly unable to complete tasks with efficiency and a respect for informed debate and expert opinion. This is not how you develop smart education policies.”

This action shows that the Right-Wing school board majority is not above doing anything they can — without regard for either fairness or for competence — to get whatever outcomes they’re committed to. That’s unfortunate for the English and literacy education of Texas students.

As for science, however, I think this incident means that those supporting science education will be prepared to preempt or counter tactics and strategies that they might otherwise have thought to be beyond the capacity for malfeasance of even this board majority.



  1. Posted May 25, 2008 at 4:17 am | Permalink

    Tony, do you know where there’s a copy of the document? Last time a last-second switch was made, there were .pdfs available within a few hours. This time, so far as I can see, nothing.

    This is a violation of the spirit of Texas’ open meetings act, and it speaks to either great disorganization among McLeroy’s staff, or great evil intent. I wonder which.

  2. Posted May 25, 2008 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Ed asks

    Tony, do you know where there’s a copy of the document? Last time a last-second switch was made, there were .pdfs available within a few hours. This time, so far as I can see, nothing.

    I don’t know where they are. Since the vote was at a Friday meeting before a holiday weekend, maybe we should give them till the middle of next week before drawing inferences.

    and he comments:

    This is a violation of the spirit of Texas’ open meetings act, and it speaks to either great disorganization among McLeroy’s staff, or great evil intent. I wonder which.

    In response, I would quote this from the AP report (also linked above):

    After first saying he would not give board members time to go over the new document during the meeting, Chairman Don McLeroy, a Republican from College Station, eventually relented, allowing a quick run through of the new document with an explanation of the changes.

    But the squabbling did not end there.

    “Mr. Chair you’re going so fast … you’re moving so fast we can’t find it in the other document,” Berlanga said, shortly after the page-by-page explanation began.

    After more complaints, McLeroy declared that he would continue at the fast pace.

    “The ruling is you’re being dilatory in dragging this out,” McLeroy said.

    I think they might have reached that situation through incompetence, but how they handled the situation was not innocent. I would not characterize their intent as “evil,” though. Their certainty of acting for the cause of good guarantees them that whatever they have to do in service to that cause, it cannot be evil. It seems to me that they are not so much “evil” as they are “unscrupulous,” in the literal and precise sense of that word.

  3. Carol Crowell
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 3:52 pm | Permalink


    Have the documents for the new ELA standards been made public yet and if so, do you know where I’d find them?



  4. Posted June 2, 2008 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    My reply to Ed (above) suggested waiting till mid-week after Memorial Day before drawing inferences about motivation. Well, that was last week, and now Carol asks (above) if they are public yet.

    In an email message sent this afternoon (June 2), Steven Schafersman, President of Texas Citizens for Science, writes that

    [The] final ELAR standards document still has not yet been released publicly, so the ELAR teachers cannot review it and comment on it; it remains a secret, and the longer it remains so, the more suspicious we may reasonably become.

    His email comment (mostly concerning science standards) is quite long and informative, but I don’t feel free to repeat any more of it, which will appear later in some form at http://www.texscience.org .

    Commenting on a later post, Ed argues:

    Revenge? I think that falls on the “evil” side of the scale.

    I wasn’t suggesting revenge as the motive. I think the motive was to railroad through the outcome they regard as righteous. The fact that this was done after the public call for McLeroy’s replacement seemed relevant to me not as suggesting revenge as the motivation, but as making it impossible to believe that the procedure used was anything so innocent as incompetence or lack of organization. The procedure clearly was a conscious and deliberate ploy to force the outcome by precluding any opportunity for deliberation or questioning — much less for any opposition or alternatives.

  5. Suzanne
    Posted June 26, 2008 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Please direct me to a copy of the new English Language Arts and Reading curriculum standards which were approved May 23. I teach 4th and 5th English and would love to read what I will be teaching! Thanks

  6. Posted June 26, 2008 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I’ve looked again, and I still can’t find them.

    Texas seems to do things differently than other states.

    When the Kansas SBOE decided to change the definition of “science,” for example, all their stuff was on their website in advance of the decision (imagine!), where it could be found afterwards along with full hearings transcripts and documents.

    Once the decision is made, it certainly should be public. Teachers are supposed to be preparing to teach to these new standards in the coming year. The TEA website still has the standards from 1997.

    This would not be tolerated in my state, by the teachers or by parents and the public.

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  1. […] Tony’s curricublog Tony Whitson’s blog on curriculum-related matters « Texas ELA standards debacle (evolution next?) […]

  2. […] Texas ELA standards debacle (evolution next?) […]

  3. […] the Board’s travesty with the English, Language Arts, and Reading (ELAR) standards, many saw that process and outcome as a bad omen for the upcoming revision of the science […]

  4. […] Texas ELA standards debacle (evolution next?) […]

  5. […] Texas ELAR standards available The hotly contested new Texas standards for English Language Arts & Reading are now available from the Texas […]

  6. […] that should be no surprise, in light of what they did with the ELAR standards. This entry was written by Tony Whitson and posted on November 28, 2008 at 10:47 pm and filed […]

  7. […] classes in the public schools, and other matters. McLeroy’s outrageous conduct as Chair (most notably with the ELAR standards) resulted in the failure of his renomination by Gov. Rick Perry to be confirmed by the Texas […]

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