1.14.10- Donna Garner – This took real courage for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Commissioner of Education Robert Scott to stand up to the federal government today and in essence say, “We do not want national standards (orchestrated behind the scenes by federal and national organizations) tied to national tests tied to national curricula tied to teachers’ salaries.”


[This took real courage for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Commissioner of Education Robert Scott to stand up to the federal government today and in essence say, “We do not want national standards (orchestrated behind the scenes by federal and national organizations) tied to national tests tied to national curricula tied to teachers’ salaries.”


It is amazing that all other states (except for Texas and Alaska) have committed to Common Core Standards without ever having seen the final versions; the standards are not even out yet.  How many of us would commit to buy a new car without ever having seen it?   


From what I have heard, people “in the know” say the standards writing teams are having all kinds of battles among themselves. The early drafts indicate a dumbing down of standards rather than a raising of the bar, and the deadline for the release of the national standards looks as if it will have to be extended.


The writing teams have almost no classroom teachers on them; and the few that are there may not be those with the courage to stand up to the high-powered professors, consultants, and political appointees who proliferate the writing teams. 


Typical classroom teachers want curriculum standards to be clearly worded, explicit, grade-level-specific, and measurable so that there is no confusion for them and their students; but typical classroom teachers are not writing these national standards.  


Upon the national standards will be built national tests, and that is where the vendors and lobbyists will make their millions by supplying public schools with national curricula.


For the 46 states to have a better chance of getting the Race to the Top funds, student test scores have to be tied back to their teachers. This means that teachers will be forced to teach to the test, and students will have a steady diet of test-prep every day.


Over the last several years, Texas has written excellent new-and-challenging English / Language Arts / Reading TEKS (standards) and world-class Science standards. The Texas State Board of Education is in session right now, and they are in the midst of adopting new Social Studies standards that are sure to be excellent.  


The Houston Chronicle said today in one of its articles that 130 people have signed up to testify to the SBOE about the Social Studies standards.  I ask you:  “Just where would common, everyday people go to testify about national standards?” 


“Just  where would parents go to complain if their son or daughter came home from school after having been taught some outrageously biased and/or erroneous curricula built upon the national standards?” 


It would be pretty hard for a parent to tackle” the entire Beltway! 


On top of all this, the Common Core Standards with its national tests and accompanying national curricula are illegal according to the provisions in the No Child Left Behind laws passed by Congress.  I have posted the pertinent provisions (highlighted in yellow) at the bottom of this e-mail.


Kudos go to Texas Gov. Perry and Commissioner Scott for their courage, and I am also very pleased to see that two of the Texas teachers’ organizations are in complete agreement with the decision not to take the carrot being dangled by the federal government.  After all that carrot would only bring Texas $75 to $150 per student.  How ridiculous to let that small amount of money steal our Texas public school children away from us Texans! -- Donna Garner]



Perry won’t let Texas compete for federal school money

By ERICKA MELLON Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle

Jan. 13, 2010, 2:32PM

Gov. Rick Perry said today that Texas will not compete for up to $700 million in federal grant funding for schools.

His decision to snub the Race to the Top grant competition defied pleas from several Houston-area school leaders who said their districts could use the money. But Perry, joined by state Education Commissioner Robert Scott, said the money was not worth the federal mandates.

Texas, Perry said, “reserves the right to decide how we educate our children and not surrender that control to the federal bureaucracy.”

The Republican governor made the announcement at the Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston.

Perry’s decision drew praise from some teacher groups and several lawmakers who said the federal funding would have come with too many strings.

The U.S. Department of Education plans to dole out $4 billion to those states that embrace certain reform ideas such as adopting national curriculum standards — an effort Perry and Scott oppose. Texas and Alaska are the only two states that have not joined a common standards initiative.

Based on its size, Texas could have qualified for about $350 million to $700 million — or $75 to $150 per student.

“Everybody can use money,” said state Rep. Rob Eissler, a Republican from The Woodlands who chairs of the House Public Education Committee. “But if you look at a one-time infusion of $80 per child and then having to change your laws permanently – I think we’re better off doing what we’re doing.”

Some states such as California and Florida scrambled to change laws to qualify, while Perry delayed announcing whether Texas would apply until one week before the application was due.

As of last week, Texas Education Agency staff had spent 700 to 800 hours on the application in case the governor gave the green light.

The Texas Classroom Teachers Association and the Texas-American Federation of Teachers had urged Perry and Scott not to apply for Race to the Top.

“It’s hard to justify the adoption of policies that we think are detrimental to Texas for such a minimal investment,” said Linda Bridges, president of Texas-AFT.

Bridges said the grant encouraged “draconian” measures to fix struggling schools, such as closing them. She also disagreed with its call to link student test scores to high-stakes personnel decisions — a move the Houston school board plans to make this week.



  1. Bob

    Funny, but the English Language Arts TEKS were foisted upon folks largely sight unseen. While I applaud Gov. Perry for rejecting this latest federal takeover, to think that the state hasn't bought standards without serious review beforehand would be hypocritical. In my humble opinion, Texas practices, on the state level, much the same stifling micromanagement that it rejects from the feds. Neither should be the norm.

  2. Scott Hays

    Bob has hit the nail on the head, and I concur. The interesting point is that I am a retired California public school teacher with no experience related to the process of developing standards in Texas, but with plenty out here in the Golden State. I was one of only three classroom teachers on the 40-member committee that wrote contentious science standards in 1997 (and the only one actually still in the classroom) … for those who are missing the history, two separate groups had lined themselves up to write those standards: one represented a position of inquiry-based, student-centered instruction while the second represented a textbook-based, teacher-centered approach. By means of compromise, twenty representatives of each group were appointed to write the standards. Each side crammed as many nobel-winning laureattes as possible onto their teams (there were six, total), which were further padded with prominent professors and politically connected hotshots. The textbook industry was well-represented through proxy members on the one side, while all three teachers were from the inquiry-based side. The cards were stacked before the first meetings ever took place, as the Curriculum Commission (which would make the final decisions, based upon the "recommendations" of the writing committee) was dominated by textbook-centered proponents. The battles within the various subcommittees were furious (one subcommittee for each of the three disciplines of science), and all battles ultimately resolved in favor of the one side.

    In short, what was to have been a somewhat democratic process became a strongly partisan and pre-ordained exercise. The curriculum commission flexed its muscle to impose a new regimen on the independent districts of California, and turned almost fifteen years of reform on its head. As Bob suggested, the standards were imposed from above, much as the feds impose requirements on the states. And, as Donna implied in her article, this was done with little regard for the opinions or expertise of classroom teachers.

  3. GilNGarcia

    Cut off your nose to spite your face, I believe, is the proper link here. There is nothing in the ARRA initiatives that would even smack of "Federal take over". The fact remains that dismal student achievement, high student drop out rates, and low grade schools are a persistent and in some case, self induced State problem. The ARRA funds that can be bid for can help and should be seen as the very financial assistance needed now, given the economics of most states. On the other hand, how many taxpayers do you know that would agree to no accountability for their tax dollars?

  4. Concerned teacher

    Texas has certainly not been a "friend" to public education. We have Texas to thank for the pernicious NCLB, as it was modeled after measures already taken, and often failed, in Texas.

    Perry and the teachers' groups are correct: the federal government has no business in public education, which is a states' right.

    There is not a single school that is failing. There are complex circumstances that lead to schools posting strong test scores and others posting weak test scores. Most of the time the scores mimic the SES within the neighborhood.

    Also, there has been no serious, systematic, wide-scale research on what it actually takes to metamorphose schools in high poverty communities into "successful" schools. Instead, our politicians and their appointees have assumed that by channeling money to privates, change will occur.

    For a government that has made such strong calls for "research-based" educational practices, I would like to see the empirical, research-base for turning around schools. Instead, we have faddists taking shots in the dark that sometimes hit their target.

    Remedies for complex issues require local solutions. Perhaps in a bizarre way charter schools (initially) were exactly that, locally operated public schools that were meant to be small and nimble enough to respond to their students' needs. Sadly, the charter school movement has become one more business opportunity for the friends and associates of Wall Street. Large, sometimes for-profit, firms are replacing school districts. These businesses do not promote an inquiring, research orientation to solving the plethora of problems that impact students in low SES neighborhoods. These firms create a one-size-fits all (usually strict and no nonsense)approach to education that works for subgroups of students, the ones whose parents have been willing to jump through the hoops,attend the orientation meetings, and sign the contracts to get their child enrolled. Typically, a small few are profiting handsomely for their efforts.

    While we have nothing to thank Texas for, at least they are partially correct. I wonder, though, Donna, are teachers actively involved in the writing of these new standards in Texas?

  5. Sue Jennings

    The nationally normed exisiting tests such as the Iowa Basic and the Stanford Nine have been proven effective in measuring student progress. These tests require no preparation from student or teachers. There is no”money trail” involved . They are cost effective and easy to adminster.

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January 13th, 2010

Donna Garner EducationNews Policy Commentator

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