Plan Unfolding in Texas
AUSTIN, TX - The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has proposed that the State Board of Education (SBOE) eliminate local honors programs in the advanced high school diploma, and give the highest state honors to students who earn a vo-tech license or do research or complete a project.
The proposal stipulates that the earning of vo-tech licenses and the use of research or completing projects under a mentor system would become two of six possible criteria to replace honors programs, and qualify students for the state's top recognized high school achievement. This action would effectively remove honors programs from local control and shift emphasis away from academic achievement to career preparation.
The TEA's proposal represents a continuation of the state's School-to-Work (STW) program, which was written and implemented with the help of Marc Tucker, and supported by Texas Governor George W. Bush. "The proposal phases in major components of the Marc Tucker/National Center on Education and the Economy's (NCEE) School-to-Work agenda," said Stephanie Cecil, education liaison for Texas Eagle Forum. "The proposal implements an independent research project, which is called a capstone project by Tucker, and a professional license or certificate, called a Certificate of Advanced Mastery by Tucker."
Reportedly, confusion reigned at the January SBOE meeting over the wording for licensure and who would issue the licenses. "After proposing that the board adopt this rule," says Mrs. Cecil, "the TEA was unable to answer any questions about the research and mentor projects, or the licenses."
SBOE had previously expressed concern about local control over honors programs because of the inconsistency of the programs. Some board members were concerned that licensure is not an appropriate option for graduation requirements because the licenses would be developed by outside agencies.
Mrs. Cecil points out that, while the research and mentor projects qualify for the state's "distinguished achievement" honor, there are virtually no criteria or guidelines for evaluation. For example, a student could study cosmetology, and work under a mentor during school hours cutting hair and doing nails, then by virtue of mastering these technical skills, qualify for the state's highest level of achievement at graduation despite a lack of academics.
The legal question that arises is wheth-er or not the SBOE has the authority to mandate licenses and research/projects.
As a result of the board's concerns, the vote on the proposal was delayed until spring, at which time the SBOE's decision will become law.
The TEA has made no effort to seek a public mandate, other than to post a general information notice on its web site (www.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/schedule/9801/index.html#instruct), despite the proposal's sweeping implications. Mrs. Cecil notes, "The implementation of the Tucker agenda is not public knowledge, and the SBOE has never discussed it in a positive light. The public and the SBOE should be given a picture of the whole puzzle, not just a piece-by-piece picture."
If the proposal becomes law, licenses would be necessary for positions including wastewater treatment workers, pesticide applicators, jailers, systems developers, radiology technicians, and practical nurses.
"If the schools are failing to teach up to 30% of our students how to read, and 53% of college freshmen must be remediated, why divert critical financial resources to career preparation?" asks Mrs. Cecil. "If the schools cannot teach students to read, write, and do basic math, how can we expect them to train students for careers?"