Getting higher ed into the special session

Forgotten in the battle over abortion, funding for some higher ed projects still hasn’t gotten on the agenda for the current special session (“Texas House, Senate pressing governor to put college funding on special session agenda“).

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Why teacher salaries should not be based on test scores

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I can’t think of a better way to explain why most teachers don’t want their raises based on student test scores.

Leaving Teaching History to Historians

Jerimi Suri recently defended  the teaching of History at UT and A&M (“Defending Democracy by Teaching History | RealClearPolitics“). Some think tanks consider the inclusion of readings on race, gender, class, etc to be some kind of bias in higher education.

There are several problems with taking these issues out of history. First, you can’t talk about American history or American politics without talking about freedom and equality. Those issues define the nation and our changing definition of those terms is at the heart of our nation’s history. Second, we talk disproportionately about slavery, gender inequality, and those kinds of issues because those kinds of conflicts make good stories and teach us a great deal. It’s similar to the reason why we spend a lot of time talking about wars. The clash or perspectives and the tests of wills brings many things into focus. Finally, we know that we have to deal with our failings as well as our triumphs. For a variety of reasons, these tragedies do not get much coverage in K-12 and it’s time to play a little catch-up when we get to college. I think everyone understands this at some fundamental level but that doesn’t make the process pleasant.

Hearing different perspectives is part of an education. I could barely stand the Marxist I had for microeconomics at UT. However, I spend a lot of time fussing about what he said and trying to figure out all the ways he was wrong. In the end, I learned much more from him than from the economics professor I had the semester before. Sometimes, listening to someone you agree with is the worst thing you can do.

Ultimately, we can not have the political powers in the state bullying educators to whitewash history. That’s too much like the old Soviet Union or the Communist Chinese and their “re-education” camps.

Not every college professor is unbiased. Every politician is. And, it’s not like those politicians don’t have a platform to make their views clear if they disagree with what others say. I think the nation is safe even if the government isn’t writing our history curriculum for our universities.

Cheating in El Paso

This El Paso Times article (“4 former EPISD principals say they faced reprisals for not cheating“) bring together a lot of the details of the problems in El Paso’s schools.

There seems to be strong evidence that the school system was cheating the accountability system and that the Texas Education Agency and Department of Education didn’t really care to know much about the problem. The indictments against relying on these high-stakes standardized tests keep piling up and I don’t think I’ll ever understand why so many of our political leaders are so desperate to believe in a system that is clearly failing.

**Update**

Another story (“Scam forced principal from Bowie: 5th administrator describes his EPISD tenure“) about the cheat. I don’t see how there can be any doubt about the problem at this point.

Design Flaw in Texas Tests

The Texas Tribune is reporting (“Design Flaw Suspected In Texas Standardized Tests“) that there are serious methodological issues in the test the state has been using.

ThoseWhoCanTeach-Those Who Cannot Pass Laws About Teaching

This means that the standardized test are a bad idea and improperly implemented. Parents and students already understand how flimsy the facade of these tests are. What would it take for our state and federal government to finally abandon high stakes testing? We could end up paying $468 million over five years for the tests alone. That only begins to estimate the amount of time and money wasted.

Given the problems with the test it’s hard to say much about how much the state’s students have learned. However, standardized testing made it absolutely clear that our political leaders refuse to learn.

 

Standing firm for smoke and mirrors

Several groups have stepped up to say that they will insist that school funding be tied to “accountability standards” (“Business Leaders Draw a Line on Education Funding“).

This seems like a way to conceal cutting education. By insisting on adherence to foolish policies these special interest groups are playing a variation of the “poison pill” strategy. A poison pill is a strategy used by companies to discourage hostile takeovers by building in something that makes the company less attractive to the potential buyer. So, these special interest groups will only support fully funding the system if local school districts accept testing that most consider counter productive.

Why do these political interests cling to the idea of high stakes testing? One reason is that people will believe anything that supports them paying less for education. Another side of this is basic power politics. These wealthy groups want to feel that they are in control and the locally elected school boards have defied them. Either way, it’s a game that no one will win.

Higher ed politics in Texas

The Bryan College Station Eagle has a story (“Coalition still monitoring higher ed developments in wake of controversy“) on the gradual demise of some of the “reforms” to higher education in Texas.