Texas education board getting mixed signals

Posted Monday, Jul. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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On Thursday, a key state senator asked the State Board of Education to take the Legislature’s newly approved education reforms and “bring that vision to life that we had.” On Friday, a key state representative told board members to leave that sort of thing to local school districts.

Don’t blame board members if they’re confused. Some didn’t like the House Bill 5 reforms to begin with.

“We’ve been handed this mess and we’ve been directed to work through it,” said board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont.

And board member Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, said the bill’s decrease in social studies requirements “does not reflect highly on the people who made that recommendation.”

At its meeting last week in Austin, the board discussed its role in implementing the changes called for in HB5, which was adopted during the legislative session that ended in May.

Besides decreasing the number of standardized tests, the bill backed away from the so-called “4x4” graduation plan in effect since 2007.

The 4x4 plan required students to earn four credits each in math, science, English language arts and social studies. The new plan reduces those requirements in math, science and social studies.

But every time the Legislature makes such fundamental changes in education laws, it’s up to the state board and the Texas Education Agency to iron out specifics, like exactly which courses will meet the new requirements.

That’s what Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, was getting at when she asked the board to “bring that vision to life.”

But for Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, it’s important to let local school districts “have it their way.”

Aycock’s advice seems like a prescription for mayhem. If a high school diploma is to mean anything in Texas, each of the more than 1,000 school districts must be held to the same standards.

The state board and the TEA must complete the work the Legislature has started.

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