The 84th regular session of the Texas Legislature is now history and we will now be sifting through the results and soon enough know what good it has accomplished and what damage it has done, and there certainly have been some of both.
But what is already clearly evident to me and has been so for some time is the damage that has been done over the past two legislative sessions to the educational expectations we should have for our young people.
Six years ago Texas adopted what was then considered by national organizations the best public school standards and accountability system in the country, a standard that for the first time required a Texas high school diploma to truly represent college and career readiness for all of our students. This was a very big deal.
This meant that, after full implementation of the system, Texas would have moved from a “passing” standard to a “readiness” standard, so that when a student walks across the stage and receives a Texas high school diploma it would mean that he or she is prepared for college and the 21st century workforce, or full postsecondary readiness, without the need for remediation.
We had been on a journey leading to this standard and these expectations for our students for over twenty years, and this journey was supported by a consensus of educators, business leaders, elected officials, and advocacy groups across partisan lines.
Unfortunately, almost immediately upon reaching the culmination of this effort, the vested interests of the status quo rose in opposition and have been successful in rolling back many of these advancements, and this rollback has continued in this session.
And we all know that the brunt of these rollbacks in rigor will fall disproportionally on minority kids, many of whom will be “tracked” into lower expectations. For what President Bush 43 called “the soft bigotry of low expectations” for our kids, particularly our minority kids, is the bane of our effort to provide a quality education for all of our children.
We have a lot of work to do to repair this damage. If you want to know how you can help, visit www.texaseducationreform.org.
The legendary former president of the University of Chicago, Robert Maynard Hutchins, posed the question, “shouldn’t every American citizen have the right to the best education we can deliver?” And he quickly responded to his question by saying “The best education for the best is the best education for us all.”
I believe that this is the motto we should adopt for Texas. It truly represents the civil rights revolution of the 21st century.
Sam Altimore says
Until there is restoration of the family unit, particularly with minorities, there will be little done to achieve true education. Many minority kids have no Father figure to guide them and direct them. That said, there is no role model to exemplify what achievement and hard work can accomplish. Discipline is almost totally absent in these classrooms, primarily due to little or no discipline at home.
On the other hand gangs are more than ready to recruit many of these kids at very early ages with money and fancy new cars, and many other “glamorous” perks for these young ones to seek. And our courts have virtually given up on controlling much of the illegal and illicit activity. Law enforcement literally has their hands tied due to the liberal and social agenda of the “left”.
In our youthful days, not only did our family expect us to do well and achieve, but they were not afraid to appropriatly reprimand us if we didn’t put forth the effort. Law enforcement in the 50’s and 60’s did not hesitate to attempt to break up gangs (the few that existed). That was the expectations and lives of “middle America”. Minorities were not typically on that same page; but it certainly wasn’t the way it is today. Even though most in the minority community did not have the same opportunities as the white community, most were hard working, honest people. Unfortunately, the road to success and achievment was much more difficult to be had.
Somewhere along the way the Socialist Left found that by developing the Welfare State, political votes were there to be had. So, now rather than High expectations, developed at home and then in education, our government simply bribes with the welfare state and protects the status quo by watering down the law and prohibiting what little there is to be enforced.
Sandy Kress says
I agree with much of what Sam has written here. There is no question that social, moral, and cultural developments have had an extremely negative impact on the prospects for our young people.
But this truth misses another truth.
Because of the reforms that you and others have pushed, Jim, even with all our problems and challenges, we made extraordinary gains in Texas and the nation from the early ’90s to the late 2000s. Just to illustrate, on the National Assessment (not state tests that could be gained), African American 8th graders are now achieving at a level of two and a half grade levels ahead of where they were in 1992. Progress against the odds has been made, and can be made.
The problem is the forces of the status quo began an attack on the reforms in the late 2000s that only grows in scope and intensity. As a result, the progress has already halted, and the sour fruit of their action is really just beginning to come off the tree.
The National Assessment results, which had been going up in Texas better than almost every other state, are now flat-to-down. And the growth in postsecondary completions in Texas has slowed considerably in the last two years.
Jim, I hope you keep writing and preaching about this. I intend to, with all the spirit in me.
Our fellow Texans need to wake up to the reality of what’s happening and stop it. Current leadership is weak and going in the wrong direction. If we don’t turn the ship, we’re headed to a much worse future than the incredible Texas we inherited and helped build.
Jim Windham says
Friends: Clearly, I agree with you both in most respects, but Sam, Sandy is correct that, in spite of the moral deterioration and the serious damage that has been dealt to the American family by 70 years of the welfare state, we had managed to make serious progress in closing the student achievement gaps in Texas until the mindless onslaught of the past three legislative sessions.