SBOE: The Missing Episodes

Although I have been pretty thorough getting the audio files posted on the Science TEKS proceedings, and then the September [oops — I guess I haven’t posted these yet — and I don’t have time now. I do have them saved, and I’ll get to posting them when I can] and November sessions on the Social Studies, there have been sessions dealing with Social Studies — sometimes with ramifications for Science and other TEKS subjects — that have been missing here.

I had been thinking that, after the March meetings on the Science TEKS, I could wait for the SBOE meeting in September, when the Board was to hear from its Social Studies “experts” , before I would need to plunge back into the mess for Social Studies.

I was wrong. Stuff happens, in Texas, even when you’re not looking. Although the March agenda was about the Science standards, a right-wing McLeroy appointee to one of the writing teams (who was initially rejected by TEA staff) prematurely shared the working draft with McLeroy, who passed it on to the like-minded Texas Public Policy Foundation, which colluded with Chairman Mc in setting up an ambush to derail the process. The audio for this is a bit hard to find, since it appears in the minutes under an item that was to be taken up near the end of the meeting of the Committee of the Full Board on March 26, but it was actually the first substantive item taken up that morning. Anyway that part of the SBOE session (58 minutes) is now posted here. You can click here to play it with your browser’s media player or right-click to download and save it, or you can click the player icon below to play it on this blog’s WordPress media player (same thing for the other links below):

One outcome of that session was the cancellation or indefinite postponement of the writing team sessions that had been scheduled for the following week. Instead, a special meeting of the Committee on Instruction was to be convened in April to take up the issues that were raised. This meeting, chaired by Barbara Cargill, took place on April 22, with all CoI members plus some other SBOE members present. There is nothing for this meeting on the web page for SBOE minutes. Maybe that’s an oversight, or maybe it’s because there were no action items on the agenda for that day. There is audio in the archives, however, which I have captured and posted in two mp3 files.

The first file (click here) is for a 2½-hour morning session in which the CoI was briefed by TEA staff on the TEKS development process, with discussion by the Board members present (this 17MB mp3 file could take a while to load or download). Much of the session addressed the TEKS process in general, but parts of it were more focused on the Social Studies standards. It can be played or downloaded from the link above, or played in the player here:

After lunch, they heard testimony on the social studies (this might have been all writing team members, as I recall). That session (2 hours & 10 minutes) is posted here:

There are many things in these sessions that I would like to write about; but I won’t have time to do it now, so I decided that I should just get these things posted for now anyway.

There are accounts online elsewhere. Although the audio of these “missing episodes” has been a bit hard to locate, I’m the one who was “missing” when these things transpired. TFN was there, however, and you can start with this August post on their blog and then follow their links back to cover these developments since the March meeting.

This post at Texas Insider gives a pretty good account of the April meeting. Of course I don’t agree with their stance on all of this, but I think their account does represent the tone of those proceedings — they did not need to add their own bias this time to the biases that were already there on display.

Although I don’t have time now to write about everything in these sessions that I’d like to comment on, there is something that I think I do need to call attention to:

In these and subsequent occasions, McLeroy appointee Bill Ames has been insisting that the Board is proceeding in violation of the statutory mandate that “The State Board of Education, with the direct participation of educators, parents, business and industry representatives, and employers shall by rule identify the essential knowledge and skills of each subject of the required curriculum that all students should be able to demonstrate and that will be used in evaluating textbooks under Chapter 31 and addressed on the assessment instruments required under Subchapter B, Chapter 39″ [Sec. 28.002 (c), emphasis added]. Ames wrongly insists that this statute requires that both TEKS writing committees and textbook review committees must be constituted to represent a political “cross section” of Texans, and cannot be dominated by expert subject-matter specialists and educators.

Bradley appointee Paul Owens contends, more specifically, that the majority on each committee should be non-educators, appointed as employers, taxpayers, parents, etc. The Board members have seemed pretty much accepting of these contentions, with the exception of the pushback from Pat Hardy in this 2½-minute exchange, in which Owens gives an example of why employers should be included on the committees:

Hardy contends that the very example Owens chose to make his case shows, to the contrary, why a majority on these committees should be educators. But note: (1) Hardy could be in the SBOE minority on this point, from what we hear in these sessions, and (2) the very fact that this issue is framed in terms of whether non-experts and non-educators should make up the majority, or something less than a majority, on these committees, is something quite alarming in itself.

Consider how much the work of a committee can be disrupted by just one committee member who comes with no understanding of the subject matter or of pedagogy. Owens was appointed by Bradley for his ideological agenda; but his Vancouver example might come even from an honest and well-meaning non-ideological employer with strong personal beliefs on sundry points like that. And what if there’s an agenda that is politically driven and well connected, from a committee member who goes in with the intention to bring the matter as a complaint to the Board or to a legislative committee if they don’t get their way? Consider, for example, Bill Ames complaining that the writing team that he was on “would not agree to add the point that higher percentages of Republicans than Democrats in Congress voted for the various civil rights bills of the 1960s” — a point which, in isolation from the history, is literally true, but which, in isolation from the history, is despicably dishonest and misleading (see here and here).

The committees did not seriously entertain these points for inclusion raised by Ames or Owens; but as a consequence, their good work is being threatened with rewriting by the Board members themselves, who are explicitly not interested in any further input or review by experts in the subject matter. What if every committee had to take time dealing with such issues, and creating documentation of the rationales for not including wrong or merely frivolous ideas? And what if the experts are in the minority on those committees, so that they need to convince an uninformed majority who have been appointed based on representation of special interests, or of a “cross-section” of public opinion in the state?

It’s been reported that Barbara Cargill suggested having SBOE members seek help from members of the local school boards to find ISD residents who would be eager to populate these committees. Although Cargill (presiding as committee chair) embraced the idea, the idea was actually proposed by Peter Morrison, another Bradley appointee to one of the writing teams. Morrison is a self-employed home-schooling opponent of public education (like Dunbar) who is a member of his local Board of Education. Here’s what the Beaumont Enterprise has had to say about his service there:

It’s unfortunate that Lumberton school board member Peter Morrison isn’t focusing on the needs of his district. It’s gratifying, however, that other board members are resisting his distractions.

***

Any school board can find itself saddled with a member like Morrison. When that happens, other members should just keep doing their jobs diligently and trust that voters will fix the problem in the next election.

From what we hear in these proceedings, there could be an SBOE majority, along with the Commissioner, who are open to this kind of politicization of committee membership, not only for TEKS development, but for textbook approval as well. They have the power to do this even thought it’s not really required by the statute (as Ames falsely claims that it is). Still, in case the claim about the statute will not be put to rest by the Board’s TEA lawyer, the sane attorneys Craig and Berlanga must be prepared to request an opinion from the Attorney General, which would decisively shut down this claim by the appointees of Bradley and McLeroy.

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2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] the Texas A&M Republican, at a special meeting in April, 2009, defending the work of his writing team against the charge that they had underhandedly subverted […]

  2. […] conducted on the basis of political representation, rather than on academic expertise (see, e.g., here and here). People who care about social education need to be prepared for these upcoming […]

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