Tag Archives: Texas Education

Today in Texas History

From the Annals of Higher Learning –  In 1876, Gov. Richard Coke  dedicated the  Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas now known as Texas A&M University.  It was the state’s first public college.   TAMU’s origins trace back to the Morrill Act of 1862.  This act provided for donation of public land to the states for the purpose of funding higher education whose “leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and mechanic arts.”  In November 1866, Texas agreed to create a college under the terms of the Morrill Act.  Actual formation did not occur until the establishment of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas by the Texas state legislature on April 17, 1871. A commission created to locate the institution accepted the offer of 2,416 acres of land from the citizens of Brazos County in 1871. Admission was limited to white males who, as required by the Morrill Act, were required to participate in military training.

HISD Plays Chicken with Texas Legislature

The Texas Tribune details the Hobson’s Choice facing voters residing within the Houston Independent School.  Under the “Robin Hood” plan HISD is due to send $165 million to poorer school districts subject to voter approval.  The voters can turn down the plan, but then the district faces the prospect of having some of its most expensive real estate figuratively moved to another close-by poorer district.  That is, if the voters say ‘no’ to the incredibly poorly worded proposition on the November ballot, then the state can take some expensive real property off of the HISD rolls and instead assign it to another district to boost its property tax base.  Locals bigwigs are lining up behind the “no” vote in the hopes that the Legislature will blink when faced with the proposition of telling the largest school district in the state that it is stripping away some $18 billion of its tax base.  And the kicker is, the obligation to pay the $165 million is still there – only to be paid by the smaller number of taxpayers.   Red envisions James Dean speeding towards the cliff and this time his sleeve gets caught in the door handle.

Today in Texas History – June 13

From the Annals of Higher Education –  In 1920, Sul Ross State Normal College began operations. The school which is located in Alpine is now known as Sul Ross State University.  The school is named for Lawrence Sullivan Ross a Texas Governor and Confederate General.  SRSU became the cultural and educational center for remote Big Bend region of Texas.  A major draw is the Museum of the Big Bend which serves as a depository for materials which depict the multicultural society and history of the Big Bend region.  The Archives of the Big Bend in the Bryan Wildenthal Memorial Library collects documents reflecting the history and culture of the region.  SRSU offer 41 undergraduate and 27 graduate degree programs and has an enrollment of around 2000 students.

Clickbait of the Day – Houston Chronicle Ranks Texas Universities from Most to Least Conservative

Red doesn’t truck much with clickbait, but recognizes that his readers just might.  The Houston Chronicle has ranked Texas Universities from the most to least conservative.  Dallas Baptist University bests some heavy competition to rank number 1 as the most conservative college in Texas.  Not surprisingly, Texas A&M comes in at number 2 and is considered to be the largest conservative school in the U.S. – mostly by virtue of it being one of the largest colleges around.   Red doesn’t have the patience to make it through the entire list, but is guessing that the least conservative school will be either Trinity in San Antonio or Austin College in Sherman.

Was UH Chancellor Khator Turned Down by Indiana?

Unconfirmed reports from inside University of Houston are that UH Chancellor Renu Khator was turned down last year by the University of Indiana.  Khator holds a Ph.D from Purdue University – so a desire to move back to Indiana seems plausible at least.  The apparent reason Khator was rejected is that UH’s student retention rate is too low.  The retention rate measures the percentage of students who enroll and stay in school.  Statistics for UH show fairly pathetic retention and graduation rates.  For the 2010 entering class (the last class for which 4 years of statistics have been published by UH) the average annual retention rate is 35.5% and the graduation rate within 4 years is 22.7%.  To be fair, most UH students are not graduating within 4 years.  However, looking at longer term graduation rates, shows that on average UH graduates about 50% of an entering class with 6 to 7 years.   So at least one-half of the students who enroll at UH fail to get a degree from that school.  You can see the full statistics here.

Retention rates are impacted by failure rates.  Students who fail classes are obviously more likely to be discouraged and drop out or move to another school.  So reports are that Khator has implemented a new policy.  No more than 35% of students in any particular class (e.g. Freshman English) can receive an F, D or drop the class.  This will probably help bump up retention rates as well as boost Khator’s chances of landing a top job at a more prestigious institution.  It’s all about the students after all.

We Don’t Need No Smart Peoples Telling Us What to be Learnin’ our Childrens

In the face of numerous absurd statements in a recently published history book, the State Board of Education – which authorized the ridiculed textbook – has rejected a proposal to have people who might actually know something about history review textbooks for accuracy.  The 8-7 vote against the proposal at least indicates that not every member of the Board is a Tea Party hack.  But it is clear, that the Board functions as a wing of the Tea Party and is attempting to indoctrinate Texas students with conservative ideology at the expense of actual facts.  The Trailblazer Blog of the Dallas Morning News has more.

State Board of Education members on Wednesday narrowly rejected a plan to create a group of state university professors to scour Texas schoolchildren’s textbooks for factual errors.

The vote against was 8-7, with all the board’s Republicans except two opposing the measure.

The push for more experts to be involved came after more than a year of controversy over board-sanctioned books’ coverage of global warming, descriptions of Islamic history and terrorism and handling of the Civil War and the importance of Moses and the Ten Commandments to the founding fathers.

A tipping point to add more fact checking may have come last month. A suburban Houston mom’s alert that a newly approved geography text described African slaves forcibly brought to North America as “workers” set off a national furor.

At issue is whether the board should continue to rely on publishers and the public to flag errors. Currently, citizen panels nominated by the board have a narrower mission – to determine whether a book fits into Texas’ curriculum standards. Mostly, current and retired teachers sit on the panels.

Board vice chairman Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, offered the backstop panel of university professors as an amendment to a proposed overhaul of textbook approval procedures. Under his proposal, the board could set up a new panel drawn “solely from Texas institutions of higher education” to check the books for errors.

“I know that people are concerned about pointy headed liberals in the ivory tower making our process … worse,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we reach out to them and say let’s make sure these books are as factually accurate as possible?”

Why indeed?

 

Forget About Syrian Refugees, We Must Protect Ourselves from the Insidious Dangers of the “Stealth Dorm”

While Gov. Greg Abbott (TP- Texas) frets over Syrian refugees and boldly states that Texas will accept none (Red wonders exactly how that is going to work), our Poor Idiot Governor is ignoring the real crisis facing our state – the specter of the Stealth Dorm (ominous music plays).

It’s a good thing the Austin and Fort Worth City Councils are on the job, because they have recently passed anti-Stealth Dorm ordinances to deal with problems allegedly created by TCU and UT students cohabitating in willy-nilly fashion. The FW ordinance prohibits more than five unrelated people from occupying a single-family home, no matter how large it is, while the Austin ordinance puts the limit at four for new construction. The ordinances are allegedly justified as an attempt to preserve single family neighborhoods and avoid an end-around of municipal zoning laws.  The allegedly awful consequence of allowing people to decide where and how to live include increased traffic, parking problems, noise and “overflowing sewers.”  Red can see possible problems with the first three, but fails to see how 5 college students tax the sewer lines any more than a houseful of teenagers who are all related in some form or fashion.  The hubbub has caught the attention of the Business Insider which you can peruse if you want to know more.

UT Plans Move into Houston – UH Supporters Whine

The Texas Tribune reports that the University of Texas system is purchasing a 300 acre site in southwest Houston and has plans to possibly construct a UT-Houston campus.  UH supporters where immediately aroused by any encroachment on their perceived turf by the tremendous academic juggernaut that is the UT System.   The exact site can be seen here.

Chancellor Bill McRaven, who announced the plans at a Board of Regents meeting Thursday, said “all options are on the table” and that he hopes to convene a task force next year to come up with ideas for the Houston land.

“It is the fourth-largest city in the nation; it has an international footprint,” McRaven said. “Why wouldn’t we want to have a footprint in Houston? Don’t you think Houston is large enough for another academic institution?”

The board has authorized McRaven to finalize the purchase of the property, regents said Thursday. A final price hasn’t been determined. 

The property, which is mostly vacant, is in an area called Buffalo Point about 3.5 miles south of the Texas Medical Center. A rendering displayed during the board meeting showed the potential for as many as a dozen buildings on the site, as well as sports fields and green space. 

Houston is already home to one tier one private university, Rice University, and a growing research school, the University of Houston, along with many other smaller universities and community colleges. 

The announcement was a surprise to some in the area, particularly supporters of the University of Houston. 

State. Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, whose district includes the university, said he didn’t learn about the UT System’s plans until an e-mail was sent out right before the speech. He said his first reaction was that this could be a “hostile move,” with the UT System homing in on potential tuition revenue that might otherwise go to the University of Houston or other local schools. 

All too typical of UH, which is clinging to its turf as a second-rate academic institution run by an incompetent administration that fears real competition.  Think about it, what other city the size of Houston has only 2 major universities and so few other options.  Here we have Rice and Houston followed by the minor players Texas Southern, Houston Baptist, UH-Downtown and St. Thomas.  Not that students cannot get a good education at these other institutions, but it seems remarkable that there are so few choices in Houston.   It is past time for the UT System to make its presence known in the state’s largest city.  If UH can’t compete on its own turf, then too bad.

Does Texas childrin have to lurn much in there home skoolin?

The Texas Supreme Court will tackle home schooling in Texas this week in a case pitting home schooling advocates against the El Paso Independent School District.  The case involves Michael and Laura McIntyre from El Paso who have been home schooling their 9 children since at least 2004.  Allegations were that the children were mostly singing and playing instruments and that little or no actual education was occurring because the children were going to be raptured at the second coming.  The problems were somewhat confirmed when one of the McIntyre children ran away from home in an attempt to actually get an education.  The school district was unable to confirm what level of education the girl had received and she was place in a school almost 2 years below her age level.  That prompted El Paso educators to make some attempt to determine what was going on at the McIntyre’s “home school.”  They were rebuffed at every turn with the McIntyres being assisted by the various home schooling associations, and truancy charges followed.  The McIntyres sued, predictably claiming that their religious freedom had been interfered with by the state attempting to make sure their children were getting some basic education.  The El Paso Court of Appeals found that no parents have an absolute constitutional right to home school their children completely free of any state supervision, regulation or requirements.  The McIntyres appealed to the Texas Supreme Court which will hear arguments this week.  The Washington Post has the full story.

The Slaves Were Just Workers Without Choice of Employer, Salary or Freedom

Think Progress reports on the utter stupidity that has come from Texas’ control on textbook content.  Textbook publishers must kowtow to the ultra-right Texas Board of Education in crafting textbooks because Texas is a huge market.

A Texas mother spoke out against part of McGraw-Hill’s textbook, “World Geography,” when she noticed that the language erased slavery by calling slaves “workers” and including them in the section “Patterns of Immigration.” One example of the text:

The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.

Roni Dean-Burren, who taught English for more than a decade and is now a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston, pointed out that the language of “worker” suggests compensation and “immigration” suggests that people weren’t kidnapped and brought to North America against their will. She first learned about the textbook section when her son sent her a photo of the text.

The real political correctness is now coming from the right-wing.  We can’t really mention the inconvenient fact that much of the early U.S. economy was built on slave labor.