Education Board Vote Targets Common Core Concerns

Hank Warner teaches a pre-advanced placement algebra course for ninth-graders at Bowie High School in Austin.
Hank Warner teaches a pre-advanced placement algebra course for ninth-graders at Bowie High School in Austin.

Addressing concerns that Common Core teaching standards were leaking into Texas' classrooms, the State Board of Education voted Wednesday in support of amending its rules to clarify that teachers are required to teach to the state curriculum — even when teaching an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate course. 

The vote comes after lawmakers, educators and members of the public raised objections in July that the new AP U.S. history curriculum that the College Board is introducing this year is influenced by the federal government’s Common Core — an initiative aimed to create uniform academic standards nationwide. 

Three of the board’s 15 members — Democrats Ruben Cortez, Martha Dominguez and Mavis Knight — voted against the amendment, which the board will vote on again Friday and once more in November to officially institute the amendment.

"This new framework and exam that is coming in is not what it was before,” Alice Linahan, a Tea Party leader with children in Texas public schools, told the board at the meeting. “You can’t align [AP testing] with the Texas TEKS. It requires that the teacher use these progressive teaching strategies.”

College Board senior education manager Debbie Pennington told the board that teachers are encouraged and taught to implement their state’s standards while teaching AP courses. The College Board has denied that its curriculum includes any Common Core materials. 

 

The Common Core standards only exist for math and language arts courses, a point raised by board member Marisa Perez, D-San Antonio, at Wednesday’s meeting. Perez said teachers in Texas are already teaching to the state's curriculum standards, regardless if they are teaching an AP class. She also spoke out favorably of the AP U.S history class.

“We need to teach history as it happened and not change it,” Perez said. We need to ensure that students are getting a full picture of what U.S. history is, and not a prettied-up picture."

But board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, argued that the clarification is necessary. 

“In the letters I’m getting from educators, quite frankly, is ‘I’m not sure what to do,’” Mercer said.

Earlier Wednesday morning, staff from the Permanent School Fund, an investment that helps funds Texas' public schools, recommended that the State Board of Education adopt a percentage distribution of the fund somewhere between 3.25 and 3.5 percent for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The State Board of Education distributes interest from the Permanent School Fund’s more than $28 billion balance to the state's school districts.

Patricia Hardy, R-Fort Worth, said she supported a 3.5 percentage distribution of the fund, citing an increase of textbook costs as a reason to go with the higher number in the range. 

“I think we need to consider what is happening with the school districts, what has been stated here by the PSF staff and go with the 3.5 percent distribution,” Hardy said.

David Bradley, R-Beaumont, cautioned the rest of the board about the 3.5 percent distribution.

“Three and a half percent is not an outrageous rate, but don’t do it just because you’re feeling generous or charitable,” Bradley said. “Don’t spend today’s dollars and take it away from a future generation."

Bradley was the only member to vote against the 3.5 percentage distribution. The board is set to vote on the rate again on Friday and then a final time in November. 

The board also unanimously approved two motions to add classical languages to the state's curriculum and heard a proposal for a three-year graduation program out of Dallas ISD.

 

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