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Brian Thevenot

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Former State Board of Education members Don McLeroy and Cynthia Dunbar at a meeting in March 2010.
 Justin Dehn

TribBlog: Praying for Church and State [Updated]

In a morning prayer to open the State Board of Education meeting, social conservative member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, mixed worship with a constitutional argument against the separation of church and state — previewing the politically charged debate to come later today, as conservatives tackle their last big agenda item before approving the state social studies standards.

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An observer holds a protest sign during testimony at the State Board of Education (SBOE) textbook hearings on Wednesday, May 19, 2010.
 Bob Daemmrich

Hussein in the Membrane

A member of the State Board of Education's internationally notorious conservative wing trotted out Barack Obama's middle name late in a marathon meeting Thursday, a fitting end to a debate over social studies curriculum standards that was marked by irritable outbursts and inane dialogue. Members fought over slavery, Jefferson Davis, Joseph McCarthy — even over when they could finally adjourn.

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 Marjorie Cotera

Separation Anxiety

At a public hearing today, the State Board of Education's social conservative bloc is expected to launch attacks on the church-state “wall” as part of hundreds of changes to the social studies curriculum standards, which could provide the outline for tests and textbooks years into the future. The board expects to take a final vote on the entire curriculum on Friday.

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 Wikimedia

TribBlog: History Paige

Former U.S. Secretary of Education and Houston Superintendent Rod Paige this morning asked the State Board of Education to delay adopting its standards, saying they had “swung too far” to the ideological right and diminished the importance of civil rights and slavery. Asked if the board should delay a final vote expected Friday, he said, "Absolutely."

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Cynthia Dunbar and Don McLeroy
 Jacqueline Mermea

Lame Ducks Unlimited

Four members of the State Board of Education who are exiting their seats in January are preparing to cast decisive votes this week on controversial curriculum revisions that will alter social studies textbooks for 4.7 million public school children in Texas. But, just maybe, not so fast: Two Republicans who'll likely win election to the SBOE this fall, and a Democrat who is vying for another soon-to-be-vacated seat, said in interviews that they'd support reopening the standards process if consensus emerged on the newly constituted board.

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Don McLeroy, a member of the Texas State Board of Education, at the Texas Tribune offices in October.
 Elise Hu

TribBlog: The Church Board of Education

When they meet in Austin next week, social conservatives on the State Board of Education — some now lame ducks — may be going even further with amendments challenging the separation of church and state, entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, landmark desegregation cases and the work of muckraking journalists such as Susan B. Anthony and W.E.B. Du Bois. Another amendment amplifies a long-running effort to resuscitate the reputation of communist-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

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 Graphic by Jacob Villanueva

Smaller is Better

In a new statewide ranking of public schools that we published yesterday, the Dallas Independent School District boasts seven of the top 25 high schools but also 18 in the bottom quartile. Not surprisingly, the best ones have a small student population, while the worst ones are megacampuses — an example of a larger trend in school rankings data.

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 Jacob Villanueva

Grade Stagflation

Hundreds of school districts can continue giving failing students inflated grades, after a Travis County Civil Court judge declined to rule in a lawsuit challenging the state’s interpretation of a new law mandating “honest grades.”

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Data App: 5,800+ Schools Ranked

We've built a searchable database of public school rankings based on data collected by the Houston-based nonprofit Children At Risk. In contrast to the Texas Education Agency's "ratings," which rely almost entirely on the percentage of students passing the TAKS test, the rankings blend 12 different measures for elementary schools, 10 for middle schools and 14 for high schools — including TAKS results, ACT and SAT scores, AP exams, attendance rates, graduation rates and the percentage of economically disadvantaged students on every campus. How does your school stack up?

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 Graphic by Jacob Villanueva

"The School-to-Prison Pipeline"

A new report by Texas Appleseed spotlights two troubling trends: the high number and proportion of discretionary expulsions by school districts, often for low-level "persistent misbehavior," and the disproportionate severity of discipline meted out to African-Americans.

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Rick Perry, Bill White
 Caleb Bryant Miller, Callie Richmond

TribBlog: Drop-Out Throw-Down!

Bill White and Rick Perry fought over the hotly contested high school drop-out rate on Tuesday. Is it 30 percent (White)? 10 percent (Perry)? Or, more likely, somewhere in between?

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 Graphic by Jacob Villanueva

The Textbook Myth

Despite all the handwringing about Texas' influence on the textbook market nationally, it's just not so, publishing insiders say. The state's clout has been on the wane and will diminish more as technological advances and political shifts transform the industry.

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Gail Lowe
 Caleb Bryant Miller

TribBlog: SBOE vs. the Media

The State Board of Education accuses unnamed "media" of "erroneously" reporting its removal of Thomas Jefferson from state world history standards. Trouble is, the board statement is guilty of the same alleged lack of context, and it follows a pattern.

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