Barbara Cargill, chair of the Texas State Board of Education, wasn’t honest with her audience at a candidate forum in Conroe (north of Houston) last night. Speaking at the forum (which was hosted by the Montgomery County Eagle Forum), Cargill claimed that she and other board members didn’t push through substantial last-minute changes, over the objections of teachers and curriculum specialists, to new language arts standards the board adopted in 2008. From the Magnolia News:
It is “absolutely false” that curriculum changes were snuck into the standards; the SBOE was “bogged down” and it was recommended the board bring in a facilitator to help with the process, which is what happened, Cargill said. Six months later, the curriculum changes were completed, she said.
“We listen to our teachers and parents and business leaders,” Cargill said of the SBOE.
But objective observers know that’s not true. Here’s how the Associated Press explained what happened at that notorious final state board meeting on the revised language arts standards in May 2008:
The State Board of Education’s debate on new English and reading standards took another turn Friday as members approved a never-before-seen version of the lengthy document that materialized less than an hour before the board was to take a final vote.
After a terse debate on the new curriculum, the board voted 9-6 in favor of the new version, which will remain in place for the next decade and sets standards for state tests and textbooks, as well as classroom teaching.
Experts and teachers have been working on the new curriculum standards for 21/2 years.
“I find it’s really wild that we can work for three years on a project and then the board is so qualified they can pull it out of their hat overnight,” said board member Pat Hardy, a Fort Worth Republican who, like other board members, received the substituted document when it was slipped under her hotel room door less than an hour before their meeting was set to convene Friday morning.
Some members of the board prepared the latest version overnight.
“I’m appalled by the process that we’ve taken part in,” said board member Bob Craig, a Republican from Lubbock. There’s been “no opportunity to review it, no teacher group is involved, not even the (Texas Education Agency) staff was involved or had seen it.”
A three-year effort to rewrite English language arts and reading standards for the state’s public schools came down to a last minute cut-and-paste job Friday.
But the final document didn’t change any minds as the State Board of Education voted, 9-6, to approve a plan that teacher groups again rejected. And educators who criticized the curriculum found fresh ammunition in the last-minute process the board employed.
Houston’s Alana Morris, past president of the Coalition of Reading and English Supervisors of Texas, accused Cargill of patronizing teachers “by pretending that their plucking our document apart is the same as including our input and validating our experience.”
She noted that educators will not get another opportunity to create an English language arts and reading standards document for at least a decade.
“Our one hope is that some of these arrogant board members, who align with special interest groups, who have no interest in the success of public education, will have been unseated by that time,” Morris said.
And that hasn’t been the only time Cargill and her political allies on the state board have rejected the advice and work of teachers and curriculum specialists. Even more infamously, they made hundreds of ill-considered, ideologically driven changes to proposed science and social studies curriculum standards in 2009 (science) and 2010 (social studies). The National Center for Science Education subsequently gave the new Texas science standards a grade of “F.” The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute gave the new American history standards a “D,” calling them a “politicized distortion of history” with “misrepresentations at every turn”:
“Complex historical issues are obscured with blatant politicizing throughout the document.”
Cargill, R-The Woodlands, is seeking re-election to her District 8 state board seat. Her opponent in the GOP primary, Linda Ellis, a consultant and retired educator also from The Woodlands, spoke at Thursday’s forum as well. You can read more about the forum and comments from both candidates here.