Sunday, April 30, 2023

It's About Power, Not People - The Critical Race Theory Debate with Senator Shevrin D. "Shev" Jones

Great discussion between Ed Trust's Ameshia Cross and Sen. Shevrin D. "Shev" Jones, Florida District 34. This show reminds me of how Texas and Florida need to get together and talk.  Our battles are so similar. 

I agree with Sen. Jones that we totally need a political movement predicated on a "true village" so that our communities can have political efficacy, including how to build coalitions, how to work with political officials, the nonprofit sector, and so on.

 Senator Jones suggests that philanthropic organizations can support civic engagement that are teaching Black History—and for us here in Texas, Mexican American Studies, Asian American and Native American Studies—so that we can start to see changes. 

The pendulum always does swing the other way, for sure. It was encouraging to listen to this. This show reminds me of how Texas and Florida need to get together and talk!

-Angela Valenzuela

Resources and Information on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Legislative Battle for this week of May 1, 2023 in Austin, TX


The session is moving quickly and folks need to weigh in on the current attack on Diversity in Texas. Educate yourselves on what's at stake and please consider signing the following 3 petitions: 

1) Stop Elimination of Tenure, 
2) Defend Tenure, DEI, and Academic Freedom
 3) Protesting the Anti-Diversity Assault Bills from Black Brown Dialogues on Policy.

I delivered a talk that you can listen to below on the current battle over Diversity, Equity and Inclusion [DEI] two Saturdays ago in El Paso at the LULAC District IV meeting.

My purpose was to share what DEI is—since probably most people haven't heard of it until recently—and what these anti-diversity bills mean for Texas higher education (see What is DEI?)

Compliments of American Association of University Professors (AAUP) member and Texas AAUP Conference Vice President Dr. Brian Evans, here is a quick analysis of SB 16, 17, and 18 and their implications for Texas higher education. Also take a look at the related House Appropriations Rider 186. It already passed out of the House Higher Education Committee. Our only option is that it gets pulled down in the conference committee that consists of house and senate members that convene to iron out differences on the bill.

Other actions (from Dr. Evans):

Actions to Take if You Can Be in Austin
  • Testify at House Higher Education Committee hearings on Mondays at 10am starting May 1.  Having 200 people to testify would be a commanding way to show opposition!  Testimonies are limited to 3 minutes.  Here’s a guide for testifying This is our biggest need.
  • Visit Legislative Offices at the Capitol.  Among our four cooperating statewide advocacy organizations, we can arrange for someone to be at the State Capitol to guide you.
In-Person and Virtual Rally on Wednesday, May 3.  Please RSVP for Freedom to Learn Texas Day of Action.  You can either join in person at the State Capitol to rally at 2pm and then visit Legislative Offices, or participate remotely by calling Legislative Offices using pages 1-2 of the Freedom to Learn Texas Day of Action.
Actions People Can Take Wherever They Are

The video presentation is viewable below. Thanks to Ignacita Valdez-Ramirez and Oscar Ramirez for the invitation for me to deliver this address.

And congrats to Ignacita for getting voted in as this year's LULAC District IV Director in El Paso. Much deserved!

-Angela Valenzuela

*Correction and clarification. In my talk, I said that only 2 percent of doctorates go to Hispanics. I meant to say this in reference to minoritized Hispanic women instead of to both Hispanic women and men. 

Here are the figures. My estimate parses out Hispanic women and men that fall into the category of minoritized, historically under-represented Hispanics accessed from this October 18, 2022 piece by Audrey Williams June that cites the NCES survey of earned doctoral degrees titled, America’s Ph.D. Production Experienced Its Steepest Drop on RecordTaken together, the actual percent for both U.S.-born Latinas and Latinos is around 5 percent. For ease, here is the table below to which the Williams June piece links. 

Whether 2 or 5 percent, our representation as Latinas and Latinos in the number of earned doctorates annually is egregiously low.

Friday, April 28, 2023

"Scholarship and Civil Rights: Claiming a Progressive Voice in Texas Politics and Policy Making," by Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.

I had forgotten about this piece published back in 2011 in the Journal of Curriculum & Pedagogy. By the way it reads, I almost could have published it yesterday. Thanks to LULAC for this organization's support over the years. We NEED our civil rights organizations still today.

Our work and the struggle continues. 

Thanks to Dr. Eliza Epstein for sending it my way.

-Angela Valenzuela

Scholarship and Civil Rights: Claiming a Progressive Voice in Texas Politics and Policy Making Angela Valenzuela 

ANGELA VALENZUELA University of Texas at Austin 

What is to be done to counter the current conservative political climate and how do we claim a progressive curriculum and pedagogy in our practices? I write from my perspective as a researcher, scholar, and legislative and community activist. Perhaps more through artistry and experience rather than through science or technical know-how, I further combine these roles in my current position as Education Commit-tee Chair of the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization ( 

Writing strictly as a scholar, it is tempting to answer this question with an analysis of larger political currents, not the least of which en-tails a serious consideration of minority and majority relations in our state and nation and their significant implications for curriculum, pedagogy, and policy development in these areas. I deploy these concepts of minority and majority not in a numerical sense but rather in the sociological sense of unequal power relations between Anglos and communities of color as reflected in uneven political representation—and thusly, civic participation—at all levels of government and decision-making. This imbalance institutionalizes a tragic divide between actors at the state level where conservative standardization policies originate and the communities and children who are targets or objects of such policies. 

As a researcher, I could similarly address the injurious divide between academic researchers and policymakers. To my university’s credit, this concern is echoed in a series of recent introspective and self-critical essays regarding the positive, bridge-building role that a “citizen-scholar” can play in response to pressing policy issues (Cherwitz, 2005). 

Stated simply, it matters enormously that university researchers are overwhelmingly ensconced in an ivory tower existence where their accountability is mainly to their profession along an open time frame in which to generate policy relevant results, if at all. In contrast, policy makers are accountable to their constituents and they operate within determinate time frames in which to develop solutions to pressing problems. As a consequence there exists a tragic gap between the academy and policymaking that is nonetheless being filled by mercenary, agendic researchers who work for a massive array of well-funded conservative think tanks that in the area of education seek to discredit and then privatize public schools under the guise of expanding choice to taxpayers (Valenzuela, 2004a; Shaker & Heilman, 2002). 

In an absence of both visionary leadership and effective grassroots mobilization, it will be difficult to leverage a significant challenge to this conservative turn in educational politics engendered by the in-creasing influence of both the religious and business right (Valenzuela, 2004a). However, since effective policy development demands a decades-long, committed, political response that civil rights organizations typically embody, I impart my work with Texas LULAC as a model for social action. This activity addresses these two fissures, namely, that between the state and a poor and minority polity whose children are increasingly concentrated in the public school system, as well as that between the academy and policymakers. 

As Education Committee Chair of Texas LULAC, I have had the pleasure of organizing several legislative events that have brought university researchers together with legislative staff, teacher associations, and civil rights organizations to discuss issues related to high-stakes testing and student retention. Through our research, presentations, and publications (Valenzuela, 2002, 2004b), we have made the case that when the test is the sole or primary arbiter in decisions with such long-lasting consequences for children, they have a right to be assessed in a complete and fair manner. This has translated into a legislative remedy that calls for the use of as many criteria as may reasonably indicate children’s cognitive abilities and potential whenever making high-stakes decisions like graduation/non-graduation or promotion/retention in grades 3, 5 and 8 (the state’s new retention policy went into effect in 2003). 

Although for the past two legislative sessions our proposed legislation has been quite specific, it addresses the linchpin of the accountability system—student testing. It should be noted that despite support for the legislation in the Texas House of Representatives, we have encountered political roadblocks with the current and previous chairs of the House Committee on Public Education. As scholars, we nevertheless remain resolute that children are entitled to fairness and validity in assessment. Indeed, this position flows directly from our review of the evidence, including that provided by the state itself. 

As observers of the inner-workings of the accountability system, we further contend that the testing system is performing two incompatible functions in one (McNeil and Valenzuela, 2001). That is, it doubles as both an “assessment” (testing) and “monitoring” system. Particularly in poor and minority schools that are subject to the “gaze” of central office, numbers-based accountability manages the behavior of the adults in the system by pressuring them to perform. The rhetoric gives the impression that all children are finally being taught; however, the reality is that this edict often translates into dumbed-down routinized pedagogy with disastrous implications for student learning and growth. This conflation of functions logically corrupts the assessment since official test results do not control the extent of coaching, cheating, or the marginalizing of those youth who become liabilities under the cur-rent design. By utilizing a more robust evaluation process, our pro-posed multiple criteria legislation addresses this built-in problem of test validity while promising fairness in testing children when so much is at stake to them personally.

Politically, LULAC has been engaged in a protracted effort to educate its base about the harmful effects of high-stakes testing. Our success is evident in the fact that assessment is at the top of our 2005 legislative agenda. Just as importantly, LULAC also spearheads a multi-ethnic, statewide coalition of university faculty, graduate students, and grassroots advocates for fairness and validity in assessment ( Accordingly, we prepare for and plan press conferences, lobby days, television and radio spots, opinion-editorial pieces, and public forums at the grassroots level. 

To conclude, there is much that we as citizen-scholars can do to address the deep and deleterious divides that impact both public life and the development of policy. However formidable the opposition may be, I consider it an extraordinary privilege to both chronicle and par-take in the moment. Indeed, the very act of standing up to injustice is to savor the seeds of triumph. 


Cherwitz, R. (January/February 2005). Citizen-scholars. The Alcalde, 50–60. 

McNeil, L. & Valenzuela, A. (2001). The harmful impact of the TAAS system of testing in Texas: Beneath the accountability rhetoric. In M. Kornhaber & G. Orfield (Eds.), Raising standards or raising barriers? Inequality and high stakes testing in public education (pp. 127–150). New York: Century Foundation. 

Shaker, P. & Heilman, E. E. (2002, January). Advocacy versus authority: Silencing the education professoriate. Policy Perspectives, 3 (1), 1–6. 

Valenzuela, A. (2004a). Accountability and the privatization agenda. In A. Valenzuela (Ed.), Leaving children behind: Why ‘Texas-style’ accountability fails Latino youth. New York: State University of New York Press. 

Valenzuela, A. (2004b). The accountability debate in Texas: Continuing the conversation. In A. Valenzuela (Ed.), Leaving children behind: Why ‘Texas-style’ accountability fails Latino youth. New York: State University of New York Press. 

Valenzuela, A. (2002). High-stakes testing and U.S.-Mexican youth in Texas: The case for multiple compensatory criteria in assessment. Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, 14, 97–116. 

Angela Valenzuela is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the Education Committee Chair of the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

UT grad schools among best in nation, U.S. News says. Here's how Texas programs ranked, by Megan Menchaca

Thanks to the Austin American-Statesman's Megan Menchaca for her excellent coverage of higher education policy this session.

The subtext here is our university's national rankings and our reputational status are jeopardized by anti-Diversity policy by the Texas State Legislature as per this analysis of SB 16, 17, and 18 and Rider 186

Almost every major grant that anyone applies for these days—whether it's NSF, Department of Education, Department of Energy, National Institute of Health, etc.—requires a diversity impact statement of some kind such that these monies literally become unavailable if when applying, one can't advance to the next page in the application because Texas legislators decided that they no longer support Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policy.

Bringing DEI down, as these bills threaten to do, will deprive us of not only of much-needed research, but actual revenue to the literal tune of billions of dollars throughout the state of Texas that help us to run our universities. Ultimately, these bills will also result in a loss in accreditation status.

Consider also the legislature's deafening silent on any funding compensation for this projected significant loss of revenue. Will they increase the cost of tuition to make up for this major loss? That's certainly where we're headed.

Even if SB 16, 17, and 18 fail to pass, we must worry about Rider 186 to the Texas higher education budget that already came out of the Texas House. Our only option is that it gets pulled down in conference committee between the Texas House and Senate.

Reach out to whoever represents you regarding this reckless direction in higher education policy—that will affect not solely UT, but all of Texas higher education.

-Angela Valenzuela

UT grad schools among best in nation, U.S. News says. Here's how Texas programs ranked.

Megan Menchaca
Austin American-Statesman | April 25, 2023

Several University of Texas graduate programs, including its engineering, computer science and public affairs curriculums, are among the best in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report's 2023 rankings.

U.S. News published its rankings list Tuesday, which evaluated business, education, engineering and certain other graduate programs at public and private universities in the U.S., though the publication did not update its previous rankings for graduate programs in other areas like pharmacy, social work and history.

The methodology for ranking each program varies, but the listing can consider graduates' employment, their earnings, research activity, faculty resources and a school’s reputation.

UT had 11 graduate programs and more than 10 specialties ranked in the latest list with several in the top 10 nationwide, including engineering and earth sciences both in seventh place, computer science in ninth and public affairs in 10th. According to a UT news release, the university ranked No. 7 among all universities nationwide with the most rankings in the top 10, with 37 schools, programs and specialties ranked.

UT "is the flagship university in the state and region, as well as one of the country’s preeminent institutions for graduate studies,” UT President Jay Hartzell said in the release. “Our commitment to bettering life for individuals and society is evident through our continued pursuit of excellence in graduate education.

"UT’s world-class faculty and our position within one of the world’s leading technology ecosystems in Austin help our graduate students find fulfilling career opportunities and go on to solve some of society’s most pressing challenges," Hartzell added.

More:Texas Senate OKs tenure ban at public universities starting in 2024. What's next?

This year, U.S. News lowered how much it considers a school's reputation in the rankings and emphasized the weight of student outcomes. It also published its first rankings of five new graduate programs in biostatistics; environmental health sciences; epidemiology; health policy and management; and social and behavioral sciences, according to a news release.

“Students face tough choices when it comes to the value of their graduate education – especially as many invest a lot of time and money in their schooling,” said LaMont Jones, senior editor of education at U.S. News. “This year, our rankings prioritize output measures of academic quality – allowing students to gauge how well an institution succeeds in its mission of preparing its graduates for professional life."

The list ranked programs at several other Texas universities, including six programs and six specialties at Texas State University. The San Marcos-based school received its highest marks for its criminology graduate program, which tied for 26th place in the rankings.

However, U.S. News didn’t release its final new ranking of the best medical schools and law schools because it said it was taking time to address an “unprecedented number of inquiries” about the rankings from schools. The publication plans to release those rankings at an undetermined date this year.

More:University of Texas to set aside $5.8 million for on-campus housing scholarships

The delay comes after several top law schools and medical schools, including Yale Law School and Harvard Medical School, announced they were boycotting the U.S. News rankings by not submitting any data, arguing that the rankings were unreliable, The New York Times reported. UT has not said whether it will boycott the rankings.

Last year, U.S. News ranked UT as the No. 23 university in the U.S. and No. 43 in the world in its global rankings, which focus on a school's research and reputation. In a separate ranking exclusively for U.S. schools, UT was listed as the No. 10 public university in the nation and No. 38 overall among the nation’s top universities. 

University of Texas programs among best 2023 graduate schools

  • Engineering: No. 7 (tie)
  • Earth Sciences: No. 7 (tie)
  • Computer Science: No. 9 (tie)
  • Public Affairs: No. 10 (tie)
  • Mathematics: No. 13
  • Physics: No. 13 (tie)
  • Education: No. 16
  • Chemistry: No. 16 (tie)
  • Business: No. 20 (tie)
  • Master’s in Nursing: No. 20 (tie)
  • Doctorate of Nursing Practice: No. 23 (tie)
  • Rehabilitation Counseling: No. 46 (tie)

"Freedom to Learn" Rally at the Texas State Capitol—Austin, Texas, Wed., May 3, 2023 at 2:00PM

This April, the Texas Senate passed three anti-higher ed bills (SB16-a ban on so-called "CRT" in higher ed, SB17-a ban on DEI programs in higher ed, and SB18-a bill that attempts to abolish tenure). These bills are now going to the Texas House.

Texas faculty, working as private citizens, have organized a Freedom to Learn Texas Day of Action on May 3rd--both in Austin and from wherever people are--to stand up for the freedom to learn.
The Day of Action has been organized by the Texas Faculty Coalition in partnership with the UT-Austin chapter of the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers and Black Brown Dialogues On Policy.
Click on the link below to learn how you can join these efforts:

And see you on May 3rd!

-Angela Valenzuela

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Op-Ed: Our schools, teachers deserve accountability reform by K. Moulton & A. Valenzuela

We desperately need educational accountability and assessment reform in Texas and here is how Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT) is leading this legislative session. Then scroll down below to read my co-authored op-ed with Kelli Moulton of RYHT. All of this falls on the heels of advocacy last week as follows (from RYHT's Friday, April 21 Weekly update):

On Thursday, the Texas House Committee on Public Education heard 

 (Bell, K.) and (Allison). Both bills improve the public school assessment and accountability system by limiting the effect of STAAR tests on school district and campus A-F ratings. The bills also add new non-STAAR indicators to the A-F rating calculations in order to paint a more holistic picture of school quality.

Today, Friday, April 21, HB 4402 was voted out favorably from the Texas House Commitee on Public Education. The bill now moves to the Calendars Committee, where members of that committee will schedule a date for the entire House of Representatives to vote on the bill. Here are some key provisions of each bill:

Committee Substitute HB 4402

HB 4402

HB 4514

    • Adds three new non-test indicators: Extra- and co-curricular success, parent and student satisfaction, and participation in middle school accelerated math
    • Prohibits STAAR scores from accounting for more than 80% of elementary and middle school accountability ratings
    • Formalizes through-year assessments starting in 2027-28 school year
    • ISDs may offer the STAAR tests in paper format to no more than 1% of their enrolled students
    • Creates grants for the development of local accountability systems
    • Creates an extra- and co-curricular allotment

Committee Substitute HB 4514: 

    • Removes the social studies STAAR test in grade eight
    • Adds new PK-8 indicators starting in the 2023-24 school year, including access to enrichment curriculum, participation in extra- and co-curricular activities, state-developed school and student safety surveys, teacher mentoring programs and professional development, chronic absenteeism rates, participation in full-day pre-K, completion of career and technical education courses, and completion of advanced courses
    • Removes the overall, aggregate A-F district and campus performance rating
    • Prohibits STAAR scores to account for more than 50% of any A-F rating

The research cited within on the public's attitudes toward schools, testing, and accountability is accessible on this February 4, 2022 blog post titled, "Connected Through Our Schools" [Report] on Strong Public Support for Public Education in Texas. Texans with children in schools strongly support public education, in general. Now let's move the needle further and be more holistic and complex in our assessments and understandings of student performance and school performance together with the ratings that attach to them.

Sí se puede! Yes we can!

-Angela Valenzuela

Opinion: Our schools, teachers deserve accountability reform

Kelli Moulton and Angela Valenzuela

April 23, 2023 | Op-Ed | Austin American Statesman

April marks the beginning of STAAR testing season for Texas public school students, and it’s also the start of the final two months of the Texas legislative session. 

We have an opportunity to reimagine a critically important system of public school accountability to ensure greater transparency, reduce the overreliance on one test to assess students, teachers and campuses, and provide a more holistic, meaningful assessment of school performance and student preparation for future success.

Last year we celebrated the gains Texas students demonstrated after two years of online or interrupted in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw students in grades 3-8 notch improved scores in reading and math, a credit to the grit and perseverance of students and their teachers. The progress of our students has impacted their campuses, with 33% of schools and 25% of school districts across the state improving their respective Texas Education Agency (TEA) ratings since the last time ratings were given in 2019.

While we should celebrate the academic gains made under challenging circumstances, we may want to question whether new TEA ratings tell parents everything they want and need to know about their child’s school. Under the current system, our elementary and middle school campuses receive their A-F rating from the TEA based entirely on the STAAR Test – one test, taken on one day. Texas’ accountability system neglects other important measures of how a campus contributes to a students’ academic growth, as well as any measure that would give insight into students’ mental health, campus culture or safety, family engagement, or teacher quality. 

A single test cannot measure what matters about our students’ academic success and campus effectiveness. We can and must do better.

Thankfully, state lawmakers have a chance to improve the system by hearing and passing several key bills, some which reflect an evidence-based and comprehensive effort to examine and recommend improvements to the state’s accountability system for public schools.

For more than 18 months, Measure What Matters connected with more than 15,600 parents, teachers, students, business leaders, policy experts and community leaders to learn what should be added to the equation for a more thorough, thoughtful and useful system of testing and accountability. 

Among the four key findings of this effort that are addressed in pending legislation: The state overemphasizes the STAAR tests in its current accountability system. High-stakes consequences of one test on one day place unnecessary, excessive pressure on students. By excluding highly valuable indicators of school quality and performance, parents receive an incomplete assessment of a school’s and student’s performance. A single, averaged letter grade of A-F oversimplifies the work of teachers, students and campus leaders. 

Yes, Texans believe in accountability. We can and should assess our public schools and students, but we can and must do better in doing so. More than 80% of respondents to Raise Your Hand Texas’ survey said they do not believe the STAAR test alone can effectively determine if their child’s school is good or not, and only 1% felt like the STAAR was a very accurate measure of school quality.

As lawmakers finish their work in Austin this spring, let’s encourage them to measure what matters and do right by public schools and their students.

Moulton serves as the Measure What Matters Council Chair, as well as executive superintendent at the Texas Association of School Administrators. Valenzuela is a professor at the University of Texas.

Friday, April 21, 2023

The Richard Ruiz Scholar in Residence Lecture Series. A Critical Analysis of Two Decades of Struggle Over the Politics of Curriculum [Video Presentation]


This event took place last Saturday, April 22, 2023.

Emilio Zamora and I are happy and very much honored to be this year's speakers for the Richard Ruiz Scholar in Residence program that includes a Lecture Series hosted by the University of Arizona. Our Zoom presentation is titled, "A Critical Analysis of Two Decades of Struggle Over the Politics of Curriculum [Video]."

Drawing, in part, from this timeline that I created, we are presenting on over two decades of work—that include Arizona. As you shall see, our Ethnic Studies advocacy, testimonials, writing, and knowledge production intersect with national and international events, social movements and policy agendas, including, if not leading up to, the reactionary politics of the 88th (2023) Texas Legislative Session, together with implications that we discuss.


-Angela Valenzuela