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Common Core Shield Law Riddled with Holes

Common Core Shield Law Riddled with Holes

Texas bans Common Core was the headline read around the nation on June 10, 2013 when Governor Rick Perry signed HB 462, the legislation that was supposed to impede the use of the federally led education mandate, the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) in Texas public schools. HB 462 was cause for celebration – a slap in the face to the Common Core.  Texas took a stand. Or did it? 

The three page bill only addressed the federal mandate through general verbiage like “common core state standards” to mean the national curriculum standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative under section 28.002 of the Texas Education Code.  It is silent on the Career and College Readiness Standards (CCRS) of the Common Core.  There is no mention of any penalties for non-compliance written into the legislation.

On November 7, 2013, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the administrative agent that oversees the state’s primary and secondary public education issued a press release identifying HB 462’s key prohibitions regarding adopting the national curriculum standards.  According to the text, HB 462 was an act “relating to state control of teacher appraisal criteria, curriculum standards and assessment instruments.”  It was to limit the use of the Common Core State Standards in Texas public education.  The State Board of Education (SBOE) would be prohibited from adopting Common Core State Standards. School districts could not use the Common Core State Standards to meet the requirements.  Instead, instruction would be rooted in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).  HB 462 also prohibited a school district or open enrollment charter school from being required to offer the Common Core, and it prohibited the TEA from adopting or developing assessments based on the Common Core State Standards.

There is also a loophole. Section 39.023 of the bill exempted high school college readiness end-of-course (EOC) exams for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB).  That means students are not prohibited from taking the same college prep courses and assessments that are aligned or in the alignment process to the Common Core standards.  This includes tests like the ACT, PSAT, SAT, and any other national norm-referenced exam. However, to perform well on a national test, wouldn’t there be content overlap?  Wouldn’t a student have to learn some or more of the same content as his or her nation-wide peers? If so, how does this protect Texas students from the Common Core? 

Interestingly, on June 14, 2013, four days after HB 462 was signed into law, another piece of legislation was signed into law by the Governor —  House Bill 5 (HB 5), the new College and Career Readiness Standards.   Unlike HB 462, HB 5 is clear about non-compliance. In line three of the bill, it describes the act “relating to public school accountability, including as assessment, and curriculum requirements; providing a criminal penalty.” 

It’s a crime if a school or district does not adhere to the new Texas College and Career Readiness Standards. Yet, nowhere in 100-plus pages of HB 5 does it ever identify what is that “criminal penalty.”  For further clarification, Breitbart News asked that Commissioner of Education Michael Williams verified this is accurate. He said, “There was a lack of sufficient designation of what this penalty is. This matter needs to be further taken up with the legislature.”

Breitbart News reported on the new Texas College and Career Readiness Standards and the questionable dots that overlap and may well connect it to the federal mandate through end-of-course and exit assessments, national standardized testing and Pearson – the leading textbook provider of the Common Core State Standards.  As it relates to HB 462, there is another curious dot in HB5 legislation, Section 3, subchapter c, chapter 7, Sec. 7.064  of the Education Code.  It reads:

Sec. 7.064.  CAREER AND TECHNOLOGY CONSORTIUM.  (a) The commissioner shall investigate available options for the state to join a consortium of states for the purpose of developing sequences of academically rigorous career and technology courses in career areas that are high-demand, high-wage career areas in this state.

(b)  The curricula for the courses must include the appropriate essential knowledge and skills adopted under Subchapter A, Chapter 28.

(c)  If the commissioner determines that joining a consortium of states for this purpose would be beneficial for the educational and career success of students in the state, the commissioner may join the consortium on behalf of the state.

This means that the Commissioner of Education, who is an appointed position in Texas, can investigate, seek out and even bring Texas into a consortium of states if he deems the consortium creates academically rigorous career and technology courses in high-demand field. This, in theory, was what HB 462 is supposed to prevent. 

Again, Breitbart News asked Commissioner Williams what states or consortia would he look to partner with that aren’t already members of the Fed Led Ed family? He said, “There are any number of associations that the (TEA) agency participates in that, although they may be Common Core members, Texas is not and does not have any interest in joining the Common Core.”  He named Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Council of Chief States School Officers (CCSSO), of such associations. Among SREB’s funders are Common Core partners Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Pearson Foundation, U.S. Department of Education and the CCSSO.

Perhaps these associations explain why Common Core worksheets and textbook covers are increasingly appearing in Texas classrooms despite what HB 462 appears to legislate.  Williams insisted that the Texas textbooks are aligned to the state standards, the TEKS.  He pointed out, “Typically textbook companies are trying to sell to the largest market so they also align to the Common Core.  Some of the standards are similar to the TEKS but that doesn’t mean Texas is part of Common Core.”  

Williams insisted that Texas public education will continue to teach the TEKS and not move to join the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Bottom line:  HB 462 may have no teeth because it has no penalties.  HB 5 may have no bite because its penalties are undefined.  It remains to be seen if HB 462 and HB 5 will tell a very different story than no Common Core in Texas.

Common Core blankets 45 states and the District of Columbia.  HB 462 was authored entirely on the Joe Straus-led House. The bill authors are listed as representatives Huberty (R-Kingwood), Creighton (R-Conroe), Harless (R-Spring), Pitts (R-Waxahachie), White (R-Woodville) and Frank (R-Austin).  HB 462 was sponsored on the Senate side by Patrick (R-Houston) and Campbell (R-San Antonio).

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