Our guest blogger is Theodora Chang, Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Taking its renegade reputation to a whole new level, the Texas legislature is expected to consider House Bill 2923, which would amend the state education code to explicitly prohibit the adoption of any curriculum standards that are shared by — well, anyone but Texas.
Introduced by State Rep. Dan Huberty, who campaigned on eliminating the state’s standardized tests altogether, the bill promotes extreme education isolationism:
“The State Board of Education…shall require each district to provide instruction in the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels. A district may not meet this requirement through the use of national curriculum standards…no school district or open enrollment charter school may be required to offer any aspect of a national curriculum…[and] may not adopt or develop a criterion-referenced assessment instrument based on national curriculum standards.”
It further defines “national curriculum standards,” as including “any curriculum standards endorsed, approved, sanctioned or promoted by the United States Department of Education, the National Governors Association, or the Council of Chief State School Officers.”
On one hand, the bill seems to reflect some cognitive dissonance on the part of state legislators. In spite of repeated references to the idea that “local control is the key to the success of schools and districts,” Texas lawmakers are now putting forth legislation that would strip away local control over teaching and learning.
On a deeper level, HB 2923 is a thinly veiled attempt to keep Texas far away from the Common Core State Standards, a state-driven initiative to set common academic expectations. State leaders, concerned about high dropout rates and global economic competitiveness, are collaboratively developing grade-level goals for student learning that states expect to adopt and implement by 2014. Texas has not joined the more than 40 states that have adopted the Common Core Standards.
Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, states are responsible for getting all students to the “proficient” level, but are also allowed to adopt their own definitions of “proficiency.” Texas exemplifies this disconnect — under the state’s definition of proficiency, 84 percent of Texas 4th graders were proficient in reading in 2009, but only 28 percent of those same 4th graders scored proficient in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Efforts like the Common Core State Standards Initiative may be challenging to implement, but they are important because they push educators to help their students become more college-and-career-ready. Instead of further closing itself off, Texas should look to provide the best possible education for its students by considering effective practices beyond its own backyard.