TX SBOE Chair Is Trying to Hide the Truth

by Dan Quinn

The news media is picking up on the story we broke Monday about a report for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that sharply criticizes new history curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education (SBOE) last year. And as the controversy grows, SBOE Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, is trying desperately to hide the truth about just how badly the state board screwed up.

In a statement to public radio station KUT in Austin and the Dallas Morning News, Cargill claims that the state board “works diligently” to develop curriculum standards that prepare Texas kids for college:

“I fully support the recently adopted social studies curriculum standards. The U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Founding Fathers, citizenship, patriotism, and American Exceptionalism are at the core of these standards. The State Board of Education works diligently to ensure all Texas students are exposed to curriculum standards aimed at college-preparedness, and these TEKS reflect those efforts.”

Unfortunately, that’s simply not true, and at least one of Cargill’s board colleagues and ideological allies — former chairwoman Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas — has admitted as much.

Here’s what the Austin American-Statesman reported in March 2010 as the state board’s revision of the social studies standards spiraled downward into a politicized mess:

“[I]n the social studies debate, college readiness has been overshadowed by ideological content battles, such as those over the religious motivations of the Founding Fathers and a perception that the word ‘capitalism’ has a negative connotation.

Board Chairwoman Gail Lowe , R-Lampasas, said the appointed groups of teachers and others who wrote early drafts of the standards were instructed to consider college readiness.

But Lowe said she had not followed up on whether the readiness standards have been incorporated. Nor has there has been much public discussion by board members about ensuring that the new curriculum standards will prepare Texas students to succeed in college.

An American-Statesman analysis of the standards for high school U.S. government, U.S. history and world history showed that fewer than 5 percent of the changes to the existing curriculum standards were noted in the documents to have stemmed from the focus on college readiness.”

The board ultimately made scores of ill-considered changes to the standards that had been drafted by teachers and scholars. Then Lowe, Cargill and other board members arrogantly rejected appeals to delay final adoption of the standards so that scholars and education experts could review the changes for accuracy and to ensure that they actually helped prepare students for college-level work.

Cargill knows that, but she hopes no one else was paying attention. So now she’s sending out absurd statements based on fiction, not fact.