A few odds and ends on the education front:
**As difficult as it might sometimes be to come to the defense of the Texas State Board of Education, I must do so in the case of the recent revision of the social studies standards, particularly as it pertains to the history textbooks. Yes, some of it was over the top prescriptive, such as lists of people who died at the Alamo, etc., but the accusations that were highlighted in newspaper op/eds, such as “the elimination of Thomas Jefferson from the history books” were totally without foundation. Basically, rather than “revisionism”, much of what resulted was a rebalancing of historical perspective that has skewed far to the left over the past several decades under the influence of multiculturalism, postmodernism, and related biases. And, incidentally, the most vocal critic of the process and its result was the Texas Freedom Network, possibly the most misleading name I can imagine to describe an organization so far out of the mainstream that any objective observer should not want them within 100 miles of a school history textbook.
**The recent death of Jaime Escalante reminds us of the extraordinary courage of one man who took on the entire education “blob” and won some huge battles until he was finally crushed by the Los Angeles teacher union because his success in advancing the achievement of at-risk children exposed the vested interests of too many adults in the system whose interests trump those of the kids. In his memory, we should retrieve the 1988 movie, “Stand and Deliver”, based on his story, which is essentially about how he completely destroyed the myth of low educational expectations for poor inner-city children. The battle still rages. RIP
**I was initially in favor of Texas participation in the competition for the Obama adminstration’s Race to the Top grant funds, and even joined in signing an editorial piece to that effect. The principle sticking point for Texas, which ultimately did not file an application, was the weighting of the criteria for joining the national Common Core State Standards Initiative. Now that I have seen the first draft of these standards for math and reading, and reviewed a critique of them by people in whom I have high regard, I am more inclined to agree that Texas was correct in not participating. So far, the draft reflects lower rigor and expectations than we already have in our Texas standards and don’t meet the college/career standards that we recently achieved in House Bill 3 in the last session of the Texas Legislature.
**It was just announced that Texas is to receive over $330 million under the federal School Improvement Grants program to turn around its persistently lowest achieving schools. Of course, there are the usual federal guidelines for compliance and I haven’t seen these; I can only imagine. But if there is not wide-ranging authority for innovation, deregulation, competition, and, most importantly, complete control over human resources, including contract set asides for all personnel, substantially all of this money will be wasted, as has many millions spent on turnaround projects before these. Of all the “reform” efforts of the past twenty or so years, the one major area in which progress has lagged most prominently is failing school turnaround, particularly with the high schools, primarily because we have not allowed these practices to be fully implemented throughout the feeder pipeline.
Meanwhile, our organization, the Texas Institute for Education Reform, and its allies continue to plow ahead. For updates, go to our web site, www.texaseducationreform.org, and please keep us in mind when budgeting your tax-deductible contributions.