Friday, July 27, 2007

Teachers' outcry puts Texas English, reading standards on hold

All so curious. Wonder why the rigor was taken out of the standards to begin with? More specificity would help here. -Angela .

Teachers' outcry puts Texas English, reading standards on hold
State delays approval as thousands of teachers say standards incomplete
10:19 AM CDT on Friday, July 20, 2007

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – English teachers from across the state gave an "incomplete" to new curriculum standards for English and reading classes in Texas schools Thursday, prompting the State Board of Education to delay approval of the proposal until November.

After hearing complaints from a coalition of 16 groups representing thousands of English and reading teachers, board members agreed to send the proposed standards – specifying the knowledge and skills students are supposed to learn in school – back to the drawing board.

Although Texas Education Agency officials initially said they wanted to submit final standards to the board at its next meeting in September, several board members balked at that idea, citing the criticism from so many teachers.

"We need more time on this project," said board member Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth. "To say we are going to [take action] on a document that has so many flaws in it right now is crazy.

"We should leave it to the people who know what they're talking about – the English, language arts and reading people – to come back to us after we give them a chance to study these proposals."

Board member Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, agreed that a delay was needed.

"Let's do it right," he said, suggesting that the board postpone action until its November meeting. Board members will hear further testimony on the standards at their next meeting in September.

Among several people who testified Thursday were members of a group of educators and experts who worked on the new curriculum standards for English, language arts and reading.

Most said more time was needed to work on the standards, which several described as incomplete.

Cindy Tyroff, secondary English supervisor for the Northside school district in San Antonio, said 16 organizations representing nearly 9,000 teachers and administrators were united in their assessment that the proposed English standards needed to cover more skills.

"Not all of us in the coalition agree on all the details of how to teach reading and writing, but we have come together around the importance of ensuring a rigorous curriculum for our students," she said.

"We ask that you allow ample time for quality work."

In rewriting the curriculum standards, the working group appointed by the state board was instructed to consolidate the skills students are expected to learn in English and reading – eliminating all redundancies in the old standards.

But Ms. Tyroff and others who testified said too many skills – or "student expectations" – had been eliminated, leaving teachers, particularly those new to the profession, without the guidelines they need to educate their students.

Carol Revelle, a parent from Carrollton, told the board she was disappointed with the reduction in critical skills and the "ambiguous" expectations laid out in the proposed standards for middle schools. Her daughter is a seventh-grader at Blalack Middle School.

"We are selling our students short unless we add the rigor back into these expectations," she said. "Our students can do so much more than this."

When the English and reading curriculum standards are set, board members will turn their attention to the standards for science classes next year.

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