By Dr. Randy Brinson
Chairman, AL CCA
Almost 20 years ago, during Governor Fob James Administration, a group named A+, was actively lobbying the legislature to enact Outcomes Based Education. Under this model, children would be educated to perform certain tasks, rather than master specific subject matter such as mathematics, history, English and the sciences. To combat their efforts, Education Policy Advisor, Dick Brewbaker, formed Score 100, to emphasize the need to have students proficient in a broad area of subject matters in order to be given a high school diploma. In addition, parental objections arose over other positions promoted by A+, namely national English and history standards that sought to rewrite known facts regarding the triumph of Western Civilization as well as important aspects of factual events of importance such as the Revolutionary War and the American Civil War, and the diminution of American Exceptionalism.
Today, we are faced with the same challenge, but from an unlikely alliance. In the past, Republican legislators have rejected the overtures of the educational elite to rewrite our education curriculum or the standards that were developed over the years by our State School Board. Now, A+ and their allies, Student First, are helping craft legislation for school board flexibility that is being fast tracked through the legislature, with little or no input from those most important to its implementation, teachers, students and their families.
On the surface, the legislation should have broad support of conservatives. It touts giving flexibility to local school boards to better allocate shrinking state education funds to meet the unique needs of their school districts. It would allow for local boards to submit requests to the State School Superintendent to waive the requirements for use of equipment, buses, and reassign teachers based on pupil populations within their schools. No reasonable person would object to this. But, it would also allow for significant changes to curriculum, length of school instruction, and those teaching those courses. Therein lies the potential problem.
During testimony at the Senate Education Committee hearing, Jefferson County School Superintendent Stephen Nowlin, testified that his district needed flexibility to remove Algebra 2 as a requirement for graduation. He challenged the committee if they ever used Algebra 2. I personally was astounded that an educator would even consider removing Algebra 2 from the curriculum for high school graduation. Career oriented students still need Algebra 2 to understand basic mathematics and college bound students need not only Algebra 2, but Trigonometry and preferably Calculus. When American education is losing the battle for proficiency in math and science, the last thing we need to do is dumb down high school graduation requirements.
The other superintendents gave other examples of expanding the number of online courses and technology that can be used if flexibility was in place. Again, from a parental perspective, what kind of material would these educators like to add to the curriculum? A similar controversy is occurring in Texas, where online curriculum was being used, that parents had no access to. CSCOPE lesson plans were being developed for teachers and teachers would be exposed to potential criminal fines for sharing these lesson plans that were being offered through the Texas Education Center Curriculum Collaborative. Some of the course offerings that were uncovered by Texas State Senator Dan Patrick, R-Houston, were that Christians were cannibals and that the Boston Tea Party was an act of terrorism.
Other curriculum teachings of interest were their treatment of Islam. Some excerpts include that non-Muslims in conqueror territory are allowed religious freedom, which is not true and in fact, Christians are tortured and that Allah is the Almighty God.
Despite this, prior to these revelations, 80 percent of Texas classrooms use the CSCOPE curriculum, which could also be allowed in Alabama classrooms under the guise of flexibility. Many conservatives in Texas see this end run around the State School Board as a way to insert the Common Core into the Texas legislative process, since Texas, like Alabama, has resisted implementation of the Common Core into the curriculum.
If the legislature is really interested in improving education, they need to focus on the real areas that will improve student scores. These include more rigorous classroom instruction, elimination of block schedules, character education, increasing discipline, and addressing teen pregnancy and single family homes, that is prevented children from excelling.
We can make Alabama a model for educational excellence. We have a number of excellent public, private and parochial schools throughout our state. Let’s duplicate what makes them excellent and reject the attempts by the liberal elite to use our classrooms for social engineering.