State Board Proves Unwavering Loyalty to Biased TEKS Standards Twice This Week

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David Shankbone
"We just flunked the AP U.S. History test! What, Moses wasn't a founding father?"
It's been a rough week for State Board of Education members, who have upheld their loyalty to TEKS social studies requirements despite bipartisan opposition (although for different reasons, of course).

On Tuesday, the board heard public commentary against proposed social studies textbooks. The publishers, required to conform outrageously biased state social studies standards in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum, produced products with historical and scientific inaccuracies that angered both left- and right-wing advocates.

See also: SMU Academics Speak Out Against Political and Religious Bias in Texas Social Studies Textbooks

Undaunted, on Wednesday, the board voted 12-3 to emphasize TEKS standards in AP U.S. History classes over College Board material. Almost no one was opposed to the idea of incorporating, or even emphasizing, state curriculum over a national test. But the problem, say insiders, is that the state social studies curriculum is just plain bad.


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The DeSoto School District Paddled Students 227 Times Last Year, but Won't Say How or Why

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Unknown
A similar scene takes place in the DeSoto High School principal's office.
The internet has gone wild over the past few days with news that Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is facing child abuse charges after disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch, and was separately accused of leaving a scar on another 4-year-old son's face. A native of Palestine, Texas, Peterson's charge has spurred an impassioned debate between corporal punishment advocates and fierce opponents. But in nearby DeSoto ISD, the practice is a long-standing tradition, and one that is shied away from public eyes.

See also: Star-Telegram's Mac Engel Says Adrian Peterson Just Got a Little Carried Away

Last school year, DeSoto ISD administered corporal punishment 227 times. DISD spokeswoman Beth Trimble points out that some of those kids were repeat offenders, so the actual number of children paddled is unclear. Nevertheless, the incident is indicative of a continuing trend across Texas public schools for corporal punishment. According to Dr. George Holden, a psychologist and family violence researcher at SMU, Texas leads the nation in cases of corporal punishment.

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Texas Judge Backs School District That Suspended Boy for Refusing Handshake

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Seth Anderson via Flickr
Buck up, P.M. Someday you may be on a mural.
A kid who was suspended 10 days from high school is super awesome, according to a federal lawsuit filed by his parents. "He is currently taking honors classes and a higher level math class than most of his peers," says a suit filed by his mother, Tiffany Macklin. The boy, identified in court documents only as P.M., was valedictorian of his eighth-grade class in the Petrolia Consolidated Independent School District, a rural district about 140 miles northwest of Dallas. The suspension, his parents warn, could be disastrous.

"P.M. will likely be labeled a 'troublemaker,'" the suit says. "P.M. is going into high school with new teachers that do not necessarily know he has never been in trouble before."

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Proposed Texas Social Studies Textbooks Get Climate Change Wrong Too

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Gavin Schaefer
Researchers say climate change has a valuable place in social studies classes. But that doesn't mean students should debate the cause or even existence of global warming.

As if Texas social studies textbooks haven't been getting enough flack for pointed political and religious biases, a report released Monday by the National Center for Science Education highlights inaccuracies about climate change in proposed state textbooks.

See also: SMU Academics Speak Out Against Political and Religious Bias in Texas Social Studies Textbooks

This fall marks the first time in 12 years that new social studies books are being adopted, and between a politically motivated review committee and publishers trying to balance Texas curriculum requirements with substantial material, the debate is heating up.

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Highland Park May Be Just a Little Jealous of DISD's Bilingual Students

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Michael Coghlan

Highland Park ISD plans to launch an elementary-level Spanish learning program next year. It's a project that most in the district are embracing -- after all, multilingualism is linked to dozens of developmental benefits. Bilingual individuals are often smarter, better listeners and in later life may see a delay in the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

"The research is out there for early language acquisition, usually the younger the better," says Eric Inboden, a Spanish teacher the district recently hired to organize the program. "It improves one's abilities cognitively, improves abilities in their own language, improves socialization and knowing different cultures, and builds a base knowledge that can be used in math, social studies, et cetera."

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SMU Academics Speak Out Against Political and Religious Bias in Texas Social Studies Textbooks

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BiblioArchives/LibraryArchives
You can flip all you want, kid, but you're not going to find much truth between those pages.

Social studies textbooks have been under increasing scrutiny this year, as the successor to the science textbook controversy last year. For the first time in 12 years, the State Board of Education will review social studies textbooks, this time under social studies standards put in place in 2010. This time, the critics come from conservative and liberal camps.

See also: The People Choosing Texas' Social Studies Texts Don't Know Enough about Social Studies

In 2011, the conservative think-tank Fordham Institute issued a report that looked at social studies curricula across the country. In Texas, the group found that "Texas combines a rigidly thematic and theory-based social studies structure with a politicized distortion of history... The leaders of the State Board of Education made no secret of their evangelical Christian-right agenda, promising to inculcate biblical principles, patriotic values and American exceptionalism."

But while state curriculum standards have already been denounced, the Texas Freedom Network released a report on Wednesday that focused on how classroom requirements have affected Texas social studies textbooks. The report analyzed government, U.S. and world history, and religion in world history and geography, pointing to several glaring biases.

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Lakewood Parents Nix School-Roof Cell Tower, But Their Cell Phones Are the Bigger Danger

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David Schott
Congrats to the concerned parents of Lakewood Elementary. Seriously. You guys piled into a public meeting and shot down a Dallas ISD proposal to stick a Verizon cell tower on the school's roof. That's how democracy's supposed to work. Good on DISD, too, which has the bureaucratic heft to plow through community opposition much like a big rig might plow through a squirrel and yet listened to the concerns of parents.

DISD spokesman Andre Riley confirmed it on Tuesday: The Lakewood Elementary cell tower (which, he took pains to point out, isn't a tower at all but an unobtrusive antenna that would have been attached to the smokestack and handsomely disguised by faux brick) is dead.

The two news stations that covered the parent outcry presented it in the standard concerned-citizens-vs.-government template: worried mom frets about her kids being dosed with radiation; district rep says there's little danger and that the money from the lease will help students; an uneasy stalemate is reached.

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TEA Says Mega-Dallas School District Idea Is a Recipe for Disaster

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Caitlin Regan
What we imagine to be a Friday night football game at a mega-district mega-high school.

In the 2013 legislative session, state Representative Roland Gutierrez from San Antonio amended an education bill to require the Texas Education Agency to find out whether bigger Texas school districts would be better.

In a word, no.

See also: State Rep. Jason Villalba Threatens to Split DISD if it Doesn't Move Faster on Reform

Here in Dallas, most agree that 161,000 students in Dallas ISD is big enough -- no need to stretch the district to cover the entire county. Nonetheless, the state gave the TEA just over $75,000 for a definitive study measuring the potential benefits and pitfalls of consolidating city districts to encompass entire counties. The TEA's report was released this week, detailing how the consolidation of districts would be an absolute shit show. As they more politely worded it, mega-districts would drastically increase costs to the state while student performance would plummet.

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Texas Relaxes STAAR Expectations Because Kids Can't Handle the Pressure

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Josh Davis
You go outside the bubble, you fail (metaphor for life?).

Three years ago, the state rolled out the shiny new STAAR exam, the Cadillac of state tests as far as the State Board of Education was concerned. It came after decades of testing overhauls and cumbersome acronyms, from TEAMS to TAAS to TAKS, all based on TEKS curriculum requirements. Fill in the bubbles fully and completely, without any stray marks. No. 2 pencil only.

Tired yet? Try being a third-grader.

According to the original timeline, the TEA and State Board of Education had determined that performance standards for the original STAAR exam would progressively get more stringent beginning in 2016. To the relief of every single teacher and administrator in Texas, the state has decided to delay boosting stricter performance standards until 2021.

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State Rep. Jason Villalba Threatens to Split DISD if it Doesn't Move Faster on Reform

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Department of Justice
City of Dallas poverty rate by neighborhood. Dallas ISD encompasses this entire area and a little beyond. How would district budgets look if DISD were divided by neighborhood?

Redrawing school district lines is a controversial issue that has been getting plenty of attention this year from Baton Rouge to Salt Lake City. Now state Representative Jason Villalba says he might propose splitting Dallas ISD into separate districts during the next legislative session if smaller reforms fail to pass.

Earlier this year, Villalba backed a home-rule charter initiative that would have allowed more local and less state-level control of DISD. Although a petition drive to place the charter idea on the ballot was successful, DISD is still drawing up something to put before voters, who probably won't get a look at it until the November 2016 elections.

Villalba is annoyed, and says that's too long to wait for reform. Instead, he's proposing to bring district issues to the state level in the next session of the Legislature. He will push for legislation to hasten home-rule commissions in the future, including tighter deadlines, halting trustee appointment of commissioners -- and, if necessary, partitioning DISD.

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