DALLAS, Texas — “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is the quintessential question every parent, grandparent, and teacher has ever asked to their youngsters on the very first day of school. It is also a question that college students and an awful lot of adults have asked themselves. Now, with House Bill 5 (HB 5) College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) rolling out in Texas high schools, that will be the number one question to ask the class of 2018.
HB 5 was passed during the 83rd legislative session in 2013. It altered the public education high school graduation requirements and was instituted with good intentions to better prepare students for a post-secondary world. Although, it has come at a time when push towards eventual workforce readiness could not be more intense from the folks at Fed Led Ed.
2014-2015 school year incoming high school freshman are the class of 2018 and they will be the first Texans to graduate under all these new requirements that are supposed to propel them into four-year universities, community colleges and technical schools or just transition them more successfully into the job market now known as the workforce.
Districts all over the state have put up videos, graphics and multi-media tool boxes and kits presented to parents to better understand the “graduation plans.” Whatever it takes to explain what HB 5 is, they are doing now and that’s not easy because it has got a lot of euphemistic descriptors — foundations, endorsements, distinguished levels of achievement, certifications, and dual credits, among them.
A foundation is the baseline coursework required to graduate. Education plans build on five areas of concentration, which are called endorsements. Think college major with general education requirements and coursework concentration in one of the following — STEM, Business and Industry, Public Services, Arts & Humanities, and the vaguely titled Multidisciplinary, which actually requires a minimum number of 26 graduation credits, upped from the baseline of 22.
The way all this works is that high school freshman select their endorsement with their parents and school counselors before the start of the school year and then confirm the chosen pathway in writing. However, it is not carved in stone and students can change the “majors” so to speak at any time.
Breitbart Texas spoke to Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R- Killeen), chairman of the House Public Education Committee who headed up the HB 5 authorship team. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), the conservative nominee for Texas Lt. Governor; and it was cosponsored by Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Bryan).
Aycock spoke candidly about HB 5 and even addressed some of the concerns over it.
For high schoolers considering college, Aycock explained HB 5 does not lock them into a major like in college but allows them to try their interests on for size. “They can change it. Most 9th and 10th graders will take similar classes but it’s in11th and 12th grade that this will make a lot of difference,” he said.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram did report that “there is some room for students to change their minds about their endorsement, but too much switching around could result in a student falling short of required credits.”
They still need to make sure they are meeting graduation requirements.
“Flexibility,” according to Aycock was a key provision in HB 5. He told Breitbart Texas that the flexibility was for “the kids who go onto college and the large number who are not college bound.”
Aycock stressed,”Not everyone goes to college,” adding that Texas education used to be better at incorporating technical and other kinds of learning” for all kinds of non-collegiate post-high school goals.
The Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) is one of the few public school related career and technical education alternatives that still exists in select New York state public school districts but, for the most part, this kind of program is long gone in American public education, even in Texas.
Home economics and shop classes, once a staple, disappeared along the way too. Aycock said that HB5 was a way of rounding out education and bringing some of this back. Of course, it resurrects old favorites with 21st Century versions like Culinary Arts and Automotive Technology, two of the electives under the Business and Industry field of study.
Likewise, there are plenty of heady HB 5 elective sequences like debate that extends up to the University Interscholastic League (UIL) level and journalism courses that lead to independent study, both garnering ELA upper division-like high school credits that are under the same Business and Industry endorsement.
Aycock told Breitbart Texas that one of the hopes for HB 5 is that it will narrow the achievement gap and provide a “measure of employability so you can get a job and make a living.” He admitted that it won’t eliminate all the gaps.
Testing was another driver in the creation of HB 5. Breitbart Texas reported on the dubious role that the mom-group TAMSA played in lobbying against Texas standardized testing; although Aycock claimed that the intention to reduce the yearly exams was only to lessen the dependence on testing and up the time dedicated to teaching and learning.
That’s admirable yet it remains to be seen if test prep companies flood high school auditoriums on day one with pricy sign-up sheets for pre-AP, AP, pre-SAT (PSAT), SAT and ACT test prep, perpetuating teaching to the test in a nation where the First Lady declared to Texas high school seniors that it was not acceptable to skip college.
Furthermore, these college readiness exams are affiliated with the College Board and its president David Coleman has already or is in the process of aligning them to the Common Core State Standards.
Besides the questionable ties to Common Core through the standardized testing, the troubled AP US History, compromised by the same educratic reformers who authored the Common Core, is a key part of HB 5 as are all pre-AP and AP courses. Breitbart Texas reported that in Texas AP falls under the jurisdiction of the College Board.
Then, there’s that perpetual shove towards T-STEM, the Texas version of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math that’s not to be confused with the Common Core’s version of STEM.
Another factor to consider is how college and career readiness is driven by accountability measures dictated by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver that includes revamped teacher and principal evaluations. Everything has its good and bad points, though. Aycock noted, “Even NCLB. One of the good points was that “the testing was left in the state’s hands.”
That said, Texas College and Career Readiness Standards are not the Common Core and its College and Career Ready standards.
Aycock did not shy away from this issue of the College Board tests and their Common Core ties. “It’s an interesting conundrum, ” he stated.
“In its original concept, its purist form, the Common Core was only about reading, writing and mathematics and not science or social issues,” he commented.
Aycock also pointed out that even now, technically, the Common Core only covers standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. That is true, despite all the climate change “next generation” science, or the history and social studies frameworks buried in the ELA.
However, Aycock insisted that under HB 5, more kids will succeed and graduate. He also believed there was too much over-reliance on standardized tests and many in the Texas version of the opt-out of the high-stakes testing movement agree with him.
“Too many kids not were not completing end-of-course (EOC) exams. They’d have one or more areas they struggled with and not graduate. Under the present strategy, (they’d) pass all their classes but not graduate because they didn’t pass EOC exams so we reduced them from 15 to 5.”
He paused and noted, “Some say that’s not enough others, too much.”
Aycock acknowledged that he is not an educator nor an education expert but he doesn’t believe that education can be standardized successfully nationwide. He suspects, though, “there will always been a trend towards a national norm because of the big test companies.”
“I wish that the federal government stayed out of education,” he added, noting that there are basic identifiable standards, a “minimum bar” that everyone could agree to and then each state would define what works for them. “If you say this is the absolute bar, then it is problematic,” Aycock added.
That absolute bar, though, is the Common Core.
That, of course, brought the conversation back to the very national standardization of education that sparked a firestorm.
“We’re fixing to see the crumbling apart of Common Core in its national form,” Aycock suggested as more states pull out of the federal mandate. He added, “What I’m hoping for is that at some point, most states will agree that high standards will come from individual states.”
Yet of greatest concern to Aycock was where all this Fed Led Ed and standardized testing was leading. “As a conservative, I’m concerned about the liberal slope,” he said.
It is already a very slippery one. Buckle up.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.