Following is correspondence between one of many Texas parents to the Texas State Board of Education and the response that she received from the Texas Education Agency. For anyone that has been through this, you will quickly recognize the merry go round. The Districts, in most cases that we have witnessed, always find their way to lay the blame at the State level. The State in turn says we have no power, those issues lie within your District.
This exchange is an excellent example of why you should put your correspondence in writing to all entities in this process. Now this parent can take the correspondence back to the District and use it as a means to hold the District accountable for working with her.
~~ mykidzliberty ~~
Parent Letter To Texas State Board of Education, January 30, 2016
(SBOE response provided following the letter)
Sent: Saturday, January 30, 2016 7:33 PM To: SBOESUPPORT <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Parent report, concerns, questions
To those who hold the key to success of Texas’ youth,
I am a mother of 9 and 12 year olds who have attended Katy ISD for their entire academic years thus far. I (My sons) have experienced the effects of curriculum changes over the past few years. I do appreciate your time invested as I not only attempt to describe the experience, but also form the basis of current concerns and questions left unanswered from the _____ Elementary (Katy ISD) campus level.
I’d like to paint a picture, from a parent’s perspective, the breakdown—so to speak—of parent/teacher communication since the implementation of TEKS and shared methods of study over the course of the past 7, now going into 8 years at _____ Elementary, Katy ISD. When my oldest son, now in junior high, attended____ for his first 3-4 years (he repeated Kindergarten), he was taught using the ‘old school methods’ (following Type 1) prior to the full implementation of TEKS–which we all know parallel Common Core so closely that is it difficult for parents to delineate the two. There used to be home study materials, traditional flash cards, phonics… I don’t have to go into more detail as I know you know what was, and what now is.
With the changing of curriculum, came methods of teaching that of which many parents are unfamiliar, complicated by the exclusion of parental involvement. Parents are no longer able to easily assist their children with homework or home study. No longer are there study materials, textbooks, workbooks, etcetera, that can be also used for home review/study. As a parent, the current guidelines for learning are very blurred and convoluted. There are no direct pathways for parents to assist a child at home. What used to be simple concepts (teaching from bottom-top) that build upon each other now involve critical thinking skills (and teaching from top-bottom) that more align with the formal operations stage of Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. Most elementary students are within the concrete operations of cognitive development, according to Piaget’s theory. Critical thinking, on average, according to Piaget, begins around age 12. Here lies my great concern, and disagreement, with the current standards of learning.
Understandably, I recognize that there are state standards to be met and there appears to be such a plethora of resources used in the classroom—none of which are a sole focus for study. I cannot easily see how the current TEKS curriculum at _____ Elementary uses Type 1 teaching (as Texas law recommends) where one concept builds on another. As a parent, I am not able to sift through the lists of resources I’ve been provided and assignments that are being sent home and easily see this. Homework, especially math, appears to be Type 2 teaching, not TEKS with Type 1 teaching methods . Parents have been separated from the classroom more than ever leaving the door wide open for questions and concerns. My concerns are reasonable but are still unanswered.
Does the state of Texas provide teachers precise direction towards or provide them exact materials and resources to be used in the classroom in order to fulfill the mandated TEKS standards of learning?
I have cross referenced materials in reading and math at _____ Elementary to Common Core materials. Is this not against the recommendations of TEKS?
Is the “Flip” method of teaching condoned, emphasized, and enforced as part of TEKS?
Please take the time to review and assess the two videos below.
I am most respectfully asking the SBOE to provide the differences between the above videos.
I am indeed a bit confused and prefer someone of high expertise, as SBOE members, to definitely define the differences using references as applicable.
My older son now attends _____ Junior High, Katy ISD, and uses a McGraw Hill TEKS math textbook. My junior high student is allowed to bring it home daily. I was shocked but pleased as I have never seen a textbook in the 7 years my children has been at ___ Elementary. In junior high, my older son’s teacher uses the algorithm method in an advanced/GT class. What my 4th grade son is learning is not at all preparing him for junior high since the algorithm is not emphasized at all at ____ Elementary. At ___ Junior High, for each semester, a syllabus for each class is provided listing every single assignment, review, quiz, and test. Reminders for studying specific material, completing assignments, etcetera, are sent from all teachers to students (and parents) via email and/or text messages. This is a night-day difference to what is provided to students and parents at ___ Elementary.
____ Elementary is not utilizing CANVAS, emails, newsletters, or any other manner of communication to inform parents of the specific information presented on the Smart Boards, or important instructions for projects, assignments for home review. In fact, upon the ‘ramping up to order’ for the complete implementation of TEKS 3 years ago, I was told at a campus parent meeting by the ____ Elementary staff that “parental involvement will be minimized to reduce homework” and “everything children need to know will be taught in the classroom.” From my personal experience, from that day to current day, all effective and beneficial communication between school staff and parent is shut completely shut off.
Finally, I remain perplexed at the amount of “graded classroom assignments” that replace quizzes at ____ Elementary. It seems this type of labeling (of what essentially is a quiz) provides reason not to provide advanced home study or parental notification of such graded assignments. In essence, each and every graded classroom assignment given, is an unannounced pop quiz. I am not against pop quizzes. However, this is excessive for elementary students in comparison to junior high. My 4th grader utilizes a homework section in his planner. I do not recall seeing anything like, “review XYZ for science assignment tomorrow”, reminders to study for a “Grammar quiz tomorrow”, etc. (I compare what he writes against what other students in his class writes to make sure he doesn’t miss information as many are our neighbors.) I am wondering why these reminders aren’t being provided at ____ Elementary. It is a standard at _____ Junior High.
I have attempted patiently for 3 years to receive thorough answers to my concerns via meetings, phone calls, and emails. I feel unheard and ignored because the answers are not within or with held at the campus or district level. I would be not only greatly disappointed but also further highly concerned if the answers cannot be provided from the State level. I respectfully trust that I will receive a response.
Thank you all kindly. I appreciate your time and your investment in the education of Texas’ youth.
Response from TEA:
From: “Bilderback, Jo Ann” <JoAnn.Bilderback@tea.texas.gov> Cc: Curriculum <Curriculum@tea.texas.gov>; “Marion, Chelaine” <Chelaine.Marion@tea.texas.gov> Sent: Monday, March 14, 2016 9:40 AM Subject: RE: Parent report, concerns, questions
Thank you for sending us your questions and concerns. I apologize for the delay in a response. Your email was forwarded through various channels, and I have recently been asked to respond.
Several of the questions that you raised in your email pertain to instructional methods and materials. The local district determines the instructional methods and materials used in the classroom. Each district has the freedom to choose instructional methods that best meet the needs of their students. The Texas Education Code specifies that, in adopting the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the State Board of Education “may not adopt rules that designate the methodology used by a teacher” (TEC §28.002(i)). The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has provided resources to assist teachers and parents with the math standards; however, as stated in the previous citation from the TEC, neither the State Board of Education nor the TEA provide directions or materials that are required to be used in classroom instruction. The resources provided by the agency are optional. You can view these resources from our mathematics webpage here.
In your email, you had several specific questions, which I have answered below.
- State law (TEC §28.002(b-3) per House Bill 462) requires that districts not use the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to comply with the TEKS requirements. The Attorney General issued a ruling on CCSS in Texas classrooms, which you can read here. You may notice from the document that, while schools are not allowed to adopt the standards or use them to meet the requirement to provide instruction in the TEKS, it does not prevent the district from using instructional materials that are correlated to the TEKS and also to the CCSS. Many instructional materials are correlated to both; the important requirement in Texas is that they cover all the TEKS. The local district determines which instructional materials including tests and quizzes are used in the classrooms.
- The “flip” method is not addressed in the TEKS as it is an instructional method. The use of this method is a local district decision.
- You provided links to two different videos that demonstrate how to solve division problems using partial quotients. This particular strategy is not mentioned in the TEKS.
In your email, you gave several examples of how the structure and communication at the elementary school are very different from that of the middle school. This is an area that falls under the authority of the local school district. You may wish to address your concerns with the campus. If you have done so and do not feel that your concerns have been addressed, you may wish to follow your local district grievance policy. I hope that the information provided is helpful.
Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.
Jo Ann Bilderback, Math/Science Curriculum Manager
Texas Education Agency