Common Core Alive and Well in Texas
Activists across the nation applaud Texas for refusing Common Core, but Texas may not be the safe haven people think it is. It might come as a surprise to some that the Houston Independent School District was awarded nearly $30,000,000 in grant money in a Race to the Top competition for school districts.
A meme created by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association quotes Professor Andrew Hacker of Queens College as saying “Texas has opted out of the Common Core. And you know, I’m gonna tip my hat to Texas.”
Those setting up Texas as an example note the passing of House Bill 462 in 2013 that specifically says no to Common Core. However, the philosophy of Common Core is alive and well in Texas. Perhaps the meme would be more accurate had it read, “You think Common Core is bad? Wait til you see what they have in Texas!”
Ginger Russell, who is running for Magnolia ISD school board, spoke about Common Core during a phone interview on education reform. “Comment Core is definitely in Texas. It’s more than a set of standards. It’s a transformation of the entire educational system.” She described how she sees Common Core infiltrating Texas classrooms. “Children are taught by working more in groups. The focus is more on the collective than individual achievement.”
But it doesn’t end there. The lone star state is no sanctuary from Common Core. Districts are “aligning interests” with Common Core. Parents complain about Common Core materials in the classroom.
CSCOPE, TEKS, and Common Core
As other states adopted Common Core State Standards, Texas used what they called CSCOPE. CSCOPE is an online curriculum system created by a coalition of what’s called Education Service Centers. These service centers aggressively marketed CSCOPE to schools as a complete replacement for print textbooks.
Critics of CSCOPE said that it was a one-size-fits all curriculum that took away teacher freedoms in the classroom and diminished local control. In states that adopted Common Core, critics echoed those same sentiments on the new Common Core State Standards. Although Common Core is not a curriculum in itself, it is a top down approach to education that embraces a one-size-fits-all mindset that constricts local control.
CSCOPE made national news when parents discovered certain lessons to show anti-American and liberal bias. One lesson compared the Boston Tea Party to terrorists. Lessons also were said to have a high tilt of instruction on Islam when compared to other mainstream religions. The controversy led to the demise of CSCOPE though most CSCOPE materials are now public domain and can be accessed through the Texas Tribune. Common Core aligned curriculum has also been making the news with its convoluted process for basic math equations, questionable history lessons, and controversial reading recommendations.
The Marlin Democrat reported that at an October 15, 2013 Marlin Independent School District board meeting, curriculum director Jamey Johnson said that CSOPE has been renamed as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills Resources. Instead of logging into CSCOPE, teachers and parents log into the TEKS Resource System.
Comparison of Texas Education and the Common Core
Standardized Testing Consortiums: In 2011, Senate Bill 1557 called for the commissioner of education to select schools for the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium (THPSC).
Common Core states passed bills authorizing their participation in either the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium (SBAC) or the Partnership Assessment for Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC).
Teacher Evaluations and High Stakes Testing: Texas is in the process of changing its teacher evaluation system so that a significant portion of the evaluation will be based on student test scores in order to qualify for No Child Left Behind Waivers. In Common Core states, teacher evaluations are based on student test scores, ranging from 20% in states like NY to 50% in states like Colorado.
College Readiness Mantra: Texas subscribes to the overarching Common Core theme of producing “college and career” ready students. In 2009, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board created the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS).
In the 2011 Self-Evaluation Report to the Sunset Advisory Commission, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, states, “Since adoption, Texas has received independent verification that the CCRS are largely aligned with the Common Core State Standards Initiative led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.”
Standards Comparison: The official Texas standards are called Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which lay out what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Interestingly, the pro Common Core Fordham Institute graded the Texas ELA standards at an A-, while it gave the Common Core State Standards a B+. However, Fordham has been accused of fudging its rating on standards and called out as an organization that is accountable to no one.
There have been no audits on the validity of its rating system.
Regardless of whether states adopt the copyrighted Common Core State Standards, Texans know that Common Core is more than a name and more than a set of standards. It’s a philosophy permeating the state education system from the Federal Department of Education to the governor’s office down to local school districts.
Retired teacher and popular author of numerous science activity books, Janice Van Cleave, stated in a January 2014 post in an open letter to Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams “Governor Perry mandated that Common Core not be used in the Texas Schools, not one peep has been heard from him about the ESCs having conventions with workshops using common core or TASA going to common core conventions.”
TASA is the Texas Association of School Administrators. It lists numerous companies who either support or profit from Common Core as partners, including Pearson, the College Board, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Amplify.
ESCs are Education Service Centers—the same ones that developed CSCOPE—that offer teacher development and training workshops. In several training advertisements, ESCs throughout Texas promoted Common Core.
Texas may have rejected Common Core State Standards, but their educational system has been described as that of Common Core on steroids. Consider the college and career readiness mantra in Common Core relative to the 2013 Texas House Bill 5 that mandates students to choose their career pathway in grade 8.
Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education will be visiting Texas in June to motivate Common Core supporters at the 2014 National PTA Convention. Perhaps Arne Duncan will tip his hat to Texas for embracing the Common Core mindset.