Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Thurday Video-conference, Textbooks Update & My Daughter's Principled Stance Against the TAKS Test

Dear Students, Friends, and Colleagues:

You are invited to participate tomorrow in a statewide video-conference—Thursday, April 21st at 6 pm to continue the dialogue on the transition from high-stakes testing to accurate assessment. We will be joined in Austin via video-conference by teachers, parents, students, superintendents, school board members in Dallas, El Paso and the Panhandle. The video-conference will be simulcast on the web and you can watch it live with the link available on Representative Olivo’s website . Please sign up. I will be moderating this event. Also, you should know that...

House Bill 220 is making it through the legislature now (see text below). The bill was tabled yesterday evening with some of us suspecting—at least in part—because LULAC was present to testify against this bill at the wee hours of the morning (Tuesday, April 20, Committee on Public Education Hearing).

All of this can and should be interpreted in light of the pieces of legislation listed below, as provided earlier by the Texas Freedom Network (see below).

Incidentally, Dora Olivo’s anti-high-stakes testing bills (HB1612 and 1613) were supposed to have been heard yesterday evening (Tuesday, April 19), but Chairman Grusendorf decided to postpone a hearing on her legislation until next Tuesday because he allegedly had “too many bills” to hear yesterday—one of which was supposed to be HB220 by Charlie Howard (see for a complete update on her multiple measures/accurate assessment legislation).

In the meantime, we hear the voices of children who are feeling abused by our state’s testing system—including, presently, my own twelve-year-old, 6th grade daughter—who is protesting the TAKS test (we’ve had a wonderful past 2 days together, by the way [these were TAKS-testing days]).

What’s very sad is that Chairman Grusendorf and his colleagues are supportive of bills that are anti-public education (e.g., privatization and school vouchers) and now he’s prioritizing the erasure of minorities’ already anemic representation in children’s history textbooks (HB 220) over the pleas of children who are suffering because of the negative psychological and social impact of these exams on which so much hinges (retention/promotion & graduation/non-graduation).

My daughter is not exactly “suffering” as she is an exceptional student in a very good elementary school. However, she does think that the many tests that students take, take up too much valuable class time while scaring kids unfairly. She hopes to inform children of the nonsensical impact of a single exam and also of their right to protest.

It’s interesting as a parent to now be on the receiving end of all of this with my daughter herself wanting to be counted in that number of students who are refusing to take the test. Yesterday, she shared with me the following: “Before, I only protested (she’s attended rallies, written to President Bush, and submitted testimony to the Texas state legislature [two years ago at the age of 10]); and now, I’m actually doing something about it.” Anyone who knows her knows that she doesn’t like to draw any attention to herself. So it’s neat to see her stand firmly right now on principle—given that hers is indeed a position that will surely draw attention in her direction. Her parents are, of course, very proud of, and inspired by, her principled decision and stance.


H.B. 2534 by Rep. Chisum allows the State Board of Education (SBOE) to determine content requirements and limitations for facts and theories (theory of evolution), citizenship, patriotism and free enterprise (history and social studies), divergent individuals and groups (“may not encourage lifestyles that deviate from generally accepted standards of society”). This bill would set into law the kind of textbook censorship TFN has fought at the SBOE for the last 10 years. The bill has been referred to committee, but a hearing has yet to be scheduled.

H.B. 220 by Rep. Howard, R-Sugar Land, would give the SBOE the authority to reject a textbook or require its revision simply because it did not conform to the political or religious beliefs of SBOE members. This same bill was filed in the Senate last week as S.B. 378. H.B. 220 and S.B. 378 have both been referred to committee, but hearings have yet to be scheduled.

H.B. 973 by Rep. Madden, R-Plano, would give the SBOE broad authority to change the state’s social studies curriculum by allowing the SBOE to decide whether or not textbooks “focus in an unreasonably negative manner on American values, culture, or history.” This bill has been referred to House Public Education Committee, but a hearing has yet to be scheduled.

H.B. 2576 by Rep. Grusendorf is the Texas Education Agency Sunset bill. This bill opens up a door to vouchers, virtual charter schools and lessening of school standards. The bill has been referred to committee, but a hearing has yet to be scheduled.
?79R903 BDH-D
By: Howard H.B. No. 220



relating to the State Board of Education review of public school
SECTION 1. Section 31.023, Education Code, is amended by
amending Subsection (b) and adding Subsection (c) to read as
(b) Each textbook on a conforming or nonconforming list
(1) be free from factual errors, including errors of
commission or omission related to viewpoint discrimination or
special interest advocacy on major issues, as determined by the
State Board of Education; and
(2) comply with textbook content guidelines adopted by
the board under Subsection (c).
(c) The State Board of Education shall by rule adopt
guidelines that define general textbook content standards under
this subchapter, including standards related to curriculum
requirements under Section 28.002. The board shall reject any
textbook that does not comply with the textbook content standards
adopted under this subsection.
SECTION 2. Section 31.023(b), Education Code, as amended by
this Act, applies only to textbooks adopted by the State Board of
Education on or after September 1, 2006.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2005.

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