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Op-Ed: A Confused Higher Education Official in Texas

Op-Ed: A Confused Higher Education Official in Texas

Raymund Paredes, Commissioner of Higher Education at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) threw down the gauntlet in a May 30, 2014 San Antonio Express News opinion piece “Common Core Controversy in Texas Distracting, Unneccessary” in which he declared Common Core was defeated in Texas, disappointing commentary from an academic who so vehemently stood up against lowering Texas public education standards over a year ago.

Oddly, Paredes opened the article in praise of the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO) as “reputable organizations.” These are the  two non-profits that hold the copyright to the Common Core State Standards.

Then, he wrote,” These organizations determined — correctly — that notions of academic rigor and what high school graduates should know varied wildly from state to state. Their response was to create the Common Core standards that outline what students should know grade to grade and what sorts of academic skills, such as writing and communicating clearly, students should possess when they graduate high school.”

Even stranger, Paredes defended the very College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) legislation, House Bill 5, that he fought against in 2013.

The Texas native, who spent the bulk of his career basking in the Southern California sunshine as a longtime UCLA professor and campus Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Diversity, used a lot of highly charged words and dismissive language to isolate critics who are against Fed Led Ed in Texas public schools.

He wrote, “From the time that the Common Core standards were rolled out, many Texans have opposed them as a usurpation of the venerable state tradition of local control, while others have detected a more sinister motive in their deployment: a thinly disguised attempt by the federal government to seize control of the nation’s schools.”

That’s an interesting declaration at a time when Breitbart Texas has reported extensively on Common Core teacher professional development conferences and workshops popping up in a state already sensitive to such controversial curriculum programs such as CSCOPE, which was rebranded as TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) Resource System. It never went away.

Nonetheless, the commissioner continued to marginalize Texas opposition to Common Core by exalting House Bill 462, (HB 462), the Common Core shield law passed during the 83rd legislative session, into cure-all status.  Interesting observation.  Breitbart Texas reported on how the well-intentioned legislation was riddled with a significant hole — no recriminatory action or penalties for non-compliance. HB 462 banned Common Core in name only.

Paredes then went onto call Texas Common Core critics “shrill, divisive and most importantly, distracting,” wrapping up his broad brush stroked argument by writing: “The irony of the continuing state controversy over Common Core is that is unnecessary; we are fighting a battle that, for all intents and purposes, is essentially won.”

Tell that to the families whose children continue to bring home Common Core materials and are using Common Core social media in the classroom. Even Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Michael Williams told Breitbart Texas that textbook companies sell to the largest market.  That is not Texas, anymore.

Despite what has been happening, Paredes said otherwise. Fed Led Ed in Texas is dead and “the controversy over the Common Core diverts attention and energy from the larger task of implementing HB 5 and other critical educational reforms.”

Now that’s a provocative statement because Paredes railed heavily against the passage of HB 5 and its revamped College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS). Yet, in the op/ed, Paredes presented HB5 as superior to the Common Core.

Breitbart Texas examined this legislation and the controversial way the CCRS changed Texas high school graduation requirements. Unfortunately, it brought them into closer alignment with the federal mandate.

Last year, Paredes was inclined to agree.  He shared his concerns about inferior K-12 “rigor” HB5 offered in the Dallas Morning News interview “Why Texas Legislators are about to Make a Big Mistake,” in which he said, “The proposed foundation program in both House and Senate bills is less rigorous than the current Recommended High School Program. Consequently, we expect a decline in college readiness.”

He also warned in that article that the passage of HB 5 would mean Texas would have “fewer students college-ready … And there will be a decline in the percentage of low income students and students of color who are college-ready and likely to attend college. We will be less competitive economically with other states and globally, particularly in high-tech and STEM areas.”

That’s a very different take on education than his present position where the only negative light shone on HB 5 was when Paredes called it a “complex piece of legislation” that required “massive reorientation of the state’s educational resources.”  

Paredes never mentioned an equally important piece of federal legislation in his argument — the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver which Breitbart Texas examined  and found that it tightened its grip on Texas public education. It may also be one reason why ditching Common Core results in a rebrand in states like Indiana, a state that also took Race to the Top dollars. Ultimately, they are in a Fed Led Ed legislative stranglehold.

That NCLB waiver on top of HB5 has meant more federal accountability, reporting and teacher alignment . However, Paredes instead cited House Bill 1, which he stated “required 60 percent of faculty developing CCRS to come from college and university ranks and 40 percent from high schools.

He was, however, critical of Common Core Standards in stating that they were developed “largely like K-12 specialists with subsequent participation by higher education faculty ‘to help review and shape’ the standards;” but the end goal is no different in Texas — all roads lead to the STEM go-to-college frenzy.

Ironically, Huffington Post praised Texas in an Education Trust blog post by president Katy Haycock for its pre-HB 5 superior standards, in 2013. The article noted that Texas K-12 education took tougher course loads that prepared them better for college because “the largest predictor of success in college isn’t test scores or high school grades, it is the quality and intensity of a student’s high school curriculum.”  

The article also pointed out the value of knowledge base in non-STEM fields “where our kids need a strong foundation: More than 70 percent of human resources professionals report that entry-level high school graduates are deficient in basic writing skills. Even more complain of their inability to write clear memos, letters, and reports,” something Haycock praised a pre-HB 5 Texas for doing. 

Paredes’ distinguished 40-plus year career has included his role as UCLA English professor with a Chicano (Mexican American Studies) Literature specialty and the university’s faculty diversity vice chancellor, Paredes was campus vice president for programs at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), where he was responsible for scholarship and outreach programs. He also served as the special assistant to the president of the UCLA system, working on outreach efforts intended to improve access to higher education for students from educationally disadvantaged communities from 1998-2000.

According to his THECB biography, Paredes is credited as a past trustee of the College Board, the governing body over the college entrance exam, the SAT.  Today, its appointed president David Coleman is currently aligning to the Common Core as Breitbart News reported. Additionally, Coleman is credited as the architect of the Common Core standards.

From 2001-03, Paredes was Director of Creativity and Culture at the Rockefeller Foundation, Today, the foundation is a proponent of Common Core, through a variety of programs including the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and Core to College

Paredes is also a past board trustee of the Texas Cultural Trust. Governor Rick Perry appointed him to THECB and the Education Commission of the States, serving on their Advisory Committee for Developmental Studies.  Paredes is President of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Nationwide Hispanic Advisory Council, a member of the NAEP High School Achievement Commission, and was named one of Hispanic Business Magazine’s 100 Most influential Hispanics in 2007.  He has also served his country in the military and is a Vietnam vet.

With such an accomplished background,  the commissioner could have delivered a more insightful perspective than saying, “Texans should worry less about fending off the evils of Common Core and give more attention to implementing fully our own rigorous college and career readiness standards.”

Supporting education legislation that he previously opposed without further explanation of why the change of heart to instead attack Common Core critics takes a reader down a misleading path. That’s far more of a noticeable letdown than misspelling “unnecessary” in the article’s headline.

Coincidentally, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board  also happens to be the very same P-16 institution that’s tracked students between the years 1996-2001 for up to over 11 years past grade 8 to determine high school and college grad rates. Breitbart Texas reported on this.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutofTheBoxMom.

 

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