Texas Standards Flap Holds Up Check to Center

By Robert C. Johnston — April 23, 1997 3 min read

Sidestepping protests from conservative religious groups, the Republican-led Texas school board passed a revised set of K-12 standards in vocational training, fine arts, and computer skills this month.

The 15-member panel now appears poised to adopt remaining portions of the standards, called Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS, which include math, social studies, and language arts, on schedule in July.

“We had bent over backwards to placate the concerns of others, but it was time to get the offense on the field,” said Jack Christie, the Republican board president. “We’re not allowing for any more delays.”

That may mean that the long-running debate over how to improve the Texas standards is finally winding down. Nevertheless, standards critics are predicting more rhetorical skirmishes.

“We plan to do everything we can to draw attention to the school-to-work agenda that we feel has driven TEKS till there’s a change,” said Stephanie Cecil, who was a member of two standards work groups and is the state’s education liaison to the conservative Eagle Forum.

Conservative critics also can point to at least one moral victory. Commissioner of Education Mike Moses announced recently that he had suspended the payment of $500,000 to a consulting group that critics say is a force in a liberal national education agenda.

Standards Debate

Nearly 400 teachers, school officials, parents, and others have worked for more than two years on what would be the largest revision of the Texas standards since they were adopted in 1983.

But debate surrounding that work has peaked in recent months.

Backed by state and national conservative groups, several state board members and other critics attacked the plan as part of a national agenda that would weaken academics in favor of job training. State officials insist that the new standards would beef up academics by requiring students to demonstrate what they learn.

At the middle of the storm are the National Center on Education and the Economy, a nonprofit group based in Washington that helped develop model K-12 standards through the New Standards project, and the center’s president, Marc S. Tucker.

Texas, as one of 14 partner states in the project, has paid the center $1.6 million in dues since 1992. In return, Texas shared the center’s research and used its consultants in revising its standards.

Mr. Tucker has been singled out by critics for his connections to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who earned $102,000 in 1991 as a consultant for the center, which was then based in Rochester, N.Y. That payment was the subject of an investigation by the New York state attorney general’s office. (“Inquiry Focuses on Fees Paid to Hillary Clinton,” Jan. 31, 1996.)

Last week, Mr. Tucker scoffed at charges linking the federal Goals 2000 and school-to-work programs and his center to a master education plan akin to Mrs. Clinton’s failed national health-care plan.

“Instead of engaging in a debate, they indulge in a smear campaign,” he said of the opponents of the standards plan.

Check in the Mail?

But the uproar had an impact.

Mr. Moses has suspended the state’s $500,000 in dues to the NCEE for 1996-97 membership in the New Standards project. The state partnerships end this summer. A spokesman for Mr. Moses said he suspended the first payment last fall, but he did not make the news public until February.

“We stopped it because there were questions about whether it was unduly impacting the curriculum-rewrite process,” Mr. Moses said through a spokeswoman last week. “We are still considering whether to pay the bill.”

Debbie Graves Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for Mr. Moses, added that there were concerns that outside consultants were having too much impact on the project.

Mr. Tucker said that other states have suspended payments in the past in response to political pressure. He added: “I have no reason to believe that we won’t see [the Texas payment].”

Even with its fractious tone, the back-and-forth of recent months has improved the Texas standards in some ways, some officials said.

“It helped us to focus more, and clarify our language,” said Anne Smisko, the Texas Education Agency’s associate commissioner for curriculum, assessment, and technology.

For example, the first 2,000-page draft was whittled down to nearly half that size, she said. And thanks to heightened media coverage and an extension of review periods, the number of written public responses to the first draft grew from 12,100 in February 1996 to 16,976 on the second draft last July.

Ms. Cecil said that, for example, had it not been for parents’ protests, the standards would not call for kindergarten students to be able to identify every letter in the alphabet.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Interactive Learning Best Practices: Creative Ways Interactive Displays Engage Students
Students and teachers alike struggle in our newly hybrid world where learning takes place partly on-site and partly online. Focus, engagement, and motivation have become big concerns in this transition. In this webinar, we will
Content provided by Samsung
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Educator-Driven EdTech Design: Help Shape the Future of Classroom Technology
Join us for a collaborative workshop where you will get a live demo of GoGuardian Teacher, including seamless new integrations with Google Classroom, and participate in an interactive design exercise building a feature based on
Content provided by GoGuardian
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Standards How to Assess English-Learners' Needs From a Distance? Here's Some Help
With schools unable to conduct in-person evaluations, schools must find new ways to determine if students need English-language-learner support services.
2 min read
Standards Fact Check: Trump Administration Didn't 'Get Rid' of Common Core
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos implied at the Conservative Political Action Conference that President Donald Trump has fulfilled a pledge to "get rid of" the Common Core State Standards. That's not true.
2 min read
Standards People Keep on Saying They're Killing the Common Core. How Dead Is It?
Florida's governor declares a standards overhaul would "remove all vestiges" of the common core. But it remains unclear how much is really changing under the Florida Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking.
4 min read
Standards Mismatch Seen Between New Science Tests and State Requirements
Teachers in some states worry students may face questions on topics they haven't studied on new science tests rolling out across the country.
6 min read