Report for Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Says New History Standards Fail on College Readiness

November 7, 2011

A new report for the board that manages higher education in Texas confirms that the State Board of Education (SBOE) recklessly put politics ahead of getting students ready for college when adopting new social studies curriculum standards for public schools last year, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said today. This new report follows a scathing review earlier this year in which the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute called the standards a “politicized distortion” of American history filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.”

“Our state’s elected leaders, from Gov. Perry on down, would have to be deaf not to hear the clanging alarm bells,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “It should be impossible to deny now that members of the State Board of Education are sacrificing the education of Texas kids on the altar of their own personal and political beliefs. Yet for three years in a row Gov. Perry has appointed rigid political ideologues to chair the state board, and legislators have refused to pass any bills reforming the curriculum revision process.”

The new report for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and the Social Studies Faculty Collaborative (which includes college and university faculty and was established by the coordinating board) warns that the public school American history standards adopted last year are “ineffective,” “fail to meet the state’s college readiness standards,” and “ignore the principles of sound pedagogy.” The report, “Bridging the Gap Between K-12 and College Readiness Standards in Texas: Recommendations for U.S. History,” lays fault partly in the State Board of Education’s politicized process for adopting those standards:

“(M)idway through the process the board of education abandoned its committees (composed of practicing educators) and its expert reviewers (some of whom were trained historians and college professors). Over the course of eight months, the lawyers and realtors and dentist on the board made hundreds of changes to the standards. As the politicians squabbled over the politics of who should be in or out, they tacitly adopted a bi-partisan agreement to ignore principles of sound pedagogy.”

The report offers numerous recommendations for how teachers can bridge the gap between the deeply flawed curriculum standards and the College and Career Readiness Standards prepared by the THECB. Some recommendations directly challenge specific curriculum standards adopted by the SBOE.

In one section, for example, the report notes that the supposed causes of American Civil War listed in the curriculum standards include “states’ rights” even though Texans at the time ”did not talk about states’ rights.” The report asks “why would modern members of the State Board of Education cite a reason that historical Texans did not” in their “Declaration of Causes” for secession? The report charges that at least one section of the standards is plagiarized from Wikipedia.

The report specifically criticizes “a widespread pattern of neglect of college readiness skills” in the state board’s new history standards:

“No student will succeed in college or the workplace if he confuses writings with speeches, conducts a one-sided analysis, or simply spits back a string of memorized information. No Texas parent would desire this for her child and no profit-minded Texas business leader would hire a graduate who had attained only these abysmal standards.”

The report from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is available here. The 2010 report from the Fordham Institute is available here.


The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan public education and religious liberties watchdog based in Austin.