WHAT THE LAW SAYS ABOUT CURRICULUM ISSUES William Allan Kritsonis, PhD THE REQUIRED CURRICULUM Since the early 1980s, a host of measures have been put in place to strengthen the curriculum, measure student achievement, and hold school districts and schools accountable. Texas passed legislation in 1981 requiring a balance between foundation curriculum (core subjects) and enrichment curriculum (TEC §§28.001-.002) based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The state board can specify the content of the required curriculum, but it cannot designate either the methodology or the amount of time to be used in teaching it. THE REQUIRED CURRICULUM (cont.) The State Board of Education (SBOE) must (TEC §§28.002, §§28.025(b), §§28.053): adopt curriculum requirements for minimum, recommended, and advanced high school programs, ensure that students enroll in recommended or advanced with some exceptions require school districts to develop advanced placement tests give a one-time $3000 grant to schools offering AP courses award incentive grants to teachers subsidize test fees for needy students THE REQUIRED CURRICULUM (cont.) Legislation enacted in 2003 permitted TEA (TEC §§32.151, 29.909) to establish a three year technology immersion pilot, to allow districts to participate in electronic courses and virtual learning TEC §28.004 requires districts to establish a local health education advisory council to assist in ensuring that local community values and health concerns are reflected in the district’s human sexuality course. TEC §29.085 authorizes public school districts to offer an integrated program of educational and support services for students who are pregnant or who are parents. STUDENT ASSESSMENT TEC §28.022 provides that districts must establish a policy that provides for parent- teacher conferences and requires notice to parents of their student’s performance in each class or subject at least once every twelve weeks. The legislature has directed the State Board to establish a statewide student knowledge- and skills-based assessment program, currently the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) (TEC §39.022). Children with disabilities or with limited English proficiency may be permitted to take an alternate assessment and maybe promoted based passing the alternate assessment instrument (TEC §28.0211(b)). STUDENT ASSESSMENT (cont.) In 1997, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s former exit test, TAAS, arguing that it was discriminatory against Hispanics and Blacks who failed at higher rate. In 2000, the U. S. District Court rejected the lawsuit by noting that the test provided more positive than negative outcomes (GI Forum Image de Tejas v. Texas Education Agency). The 1999 legislative session produced TEC §28.021 which stipulated that students may be promoted only on the basis of academic achievement. In addition, TEC §28.0211 specified the circumstances under which a student can be retained for failure to pass state assessment tests. STUDENT ASSESSMENT (cont.) According to TEC §§28.0211(c), 28.0213, and 29.081, after a student fails the TAAS for a second time, a grade placement committee will be established to determine what instruction the district should provide the student before administering the test a third time Students not likely to be promoted to the next grade are required to attend an extended-year program, an accelerated reading program, an accelerated instructional program, or a basic skills program (TEC §25.085). Further, a district must develop a personal graduation plan for each middle school or high school student who does not perform well on the state assessment or is not likely to graduate on time (TEC §28.0212). STUDENT ASSESSMENT (cont.) A student may receive a diploma when the student completes the required curriculum and the exit-level assessment. If a student fails the state assessment requirement, they may be awarded a certificate of coursework completion (C). According to TEC §31.104, a district may not withhold a diploma or deny a student the opportunity of graduating or participating in graduation exercised for failure to return books or pay the price of the book. STUDENT ASSESSMENT (cont.) One of the appraisal criteria of teachers and school principals must encompass the performance of the students (TEC §21.351, 21.354(e)). In McLean v. Quanah I.S.D. the commissioner of education observed that significant lack of student progress can be a reason for nonrenewal, however the district did not have sufficient evidence of teacher incompetence to support the nonrenewal, and the commissioner reversed the district’s nonrenewal decision. A teacher cannot be required to change a student’s grade on a course or exam, unless the board of trustees determines the grade is arbitrary, erroneous, or not consistent with the school district’s grading policy (TEC §28.0212). SCHOOL DISTRICT ACCOUNTABILITY TEC §39.051 directs the SBOE to establish a set of academic excellence indicators for school campuses. TEC §11.253(c), requires that school principals must consult annually with their site-based planning and decision-making committee in reviewing and revising the campus improvement plan relative to performance of the campus on the academic excellence indicators. Each year, TEA prepares a “campus report card” that compares the performance of the campus to other campuses around the state. School boards are required to publish an annual report describing the educational performance of the district and each of its campuses on student achievement and other measures (TEC §§39.052, 39.053). SCHOOL DISTRICT ACCOUNTABILITY (cont.) School districts and individual schools are held accountable to the TEA through the accreditation process with classifications of exemplary, recognized, academically acceptable, and academically unacceptable (TEC §§39.131(a)). Sanctions for low-performing campuses can include appointment of a campus intervention team to render assistance, selection of a board of managers, and reconstitution or closure of the campus if the school has been deficient for two or more years (TEC §§39.132). NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 rocked the education world when it was signed into law by President George W. Bush to raise student achievement by holding states and school districts to high standards with strict accountability requirements (20 U.S.C. §6301 et seq.). It amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and its accountability system seems to be modeled after the Texas system. Congress tied adequate yearly progress (AYP) to all public schools, but only the ones that receive Title I funds are subject to the low-performance sanctions outlined below. NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (cont.) Each state’s definition of AYP must apply “the same high standards of academic achievement to all public elementary and secondary school students in the State”. This means that all subgroups must meet standard and states must disaggregate the data to show AYP of each subgroup (20 U.S.C. §6311(b)(2)(C)(1)(5) et seq.). If a school fails to make AYP for two consecutive years, then a school enters “school improvement” and all students have “public school choice” (34 C.F.R. §200.32). Schools enter “supplemental educational services” in the third year, “corrective action” for the fourth year, “restructuring” for the fifth year (34 C.F.R. §§200.42, 200.43, 200.45). REMOVAL OF OBJECTIONABLE LIBRARY AND STUDY MATERIALS The removal of objectionable material was addressed in a murky 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court when it affirmed a lower court decision ordering a trial to determine why a school board removed controversial books from the libraries (Board of Education of Island Trees v. Pico). Since the majority of the court was not consistent in its reasoning, no definite set of guidelines can be derived from the decision. REMOVAL OF OBJECTIONABLE LIBRARY AND STUDY MATERIALS (cont.) The U.S. Court of appeals for the Fifth Circuit had an opportunity in 1995 to apply the Pico ruling to a Louisiana school district’s removal of a controversial book Voodoo Hoodoo (Campbell v. St. Tammany Parish School Board). The board voted to remove the book from all school libraries, but a lawsuit was filed by other parents who objected to the removal. The Fifth Circuit sent the case back to the lower courts for a determination of what motivated the school board’s action, expecially considering that many of the members either had not read the book or had read less than its entirety. COMPUTERS AND THE INTERNET The federal Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) required both libraries and schools using federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act funds for Internet use to have filtering devices in place by July, 2002. The American Library Association filed a lawsuit against CIPA, charging that it unconstitutionally censors academic material. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the statute as constitutional (American Library Association v. U.S., 2003) since the governmental interest in protecting children from harmful materials was great, and the burden on adult library uses having their use filtered was minimal. COMPUTERS AND THE INTERNET (cont.) Schools need to be careful when posting personally identifiable information about students that would violate the terms of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. School districts use “acceptable use policies” to place restrictions on the use of its own technology and to impose sanctions on those who violate the conditions of the (Electronics Communications Act (18 U.S.C. §§2510-2520)). EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES AND THE UIL TEC §33.081 leaves to the SBOE the establishment of rules limiting participation in extracurricular activities during the school day and school week. TEC §33.081(g) provides that the decision of the Texas Commissioner of Education in a dispute over student eligibility for extracurricular activities may not be appealed in state court except on the grounds of being arbitrary or capricious. The “no pass-no play” provision specifies that a student who does not maintain a grade of 70 or higher in all courses must be suspended from extracurricular activities sponsored by the district or UIL for at least three school weeks or until the grade is raised to 70 or higher (TEC §33.081(g)). EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES AND THE UIL (cont.) A flurry of litigation greeted the implementation of the original “no pass-no play” rule in 1984. The Texas Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that the law does not deprive students of any recognized right to participate in extracurricular activities and is not discriminatory (Spring Branch I.S.D. v. Stamos), and was rejected again by the state appeals court in 1991 (Texas Education Agency. v. Stamos). AT-RISK CHILDREN To reduce the dropout rate, the commissioner of education is required to develop a process for auditing school dropout records electronically and administer a “middle college” education pilot program for students who are at risk of dropping out (TEC §§39.055, 29.908). Education Code §§33.151-.158 outlines the “Communities in Schools” program, a youth dropout prevention program, and how those receiving funds under TEC §33.156 must participate in the program. AT-RISK CHILDREN (cont.) TEC §29.081 requires each district to develop appropriate compensatory or accelerated programs for students who are not performing well. Districts may operate an extended-year program for students in kindergarten through grade eight who are identified as unlikely to be promoted to the next grade (TEC §29.082) or an optional flexible year program (TEC §29.0821). BILINGUAL CHILDREN In 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Lau v. Nichols that federal guidelines enforcing Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act did require school districts to eliminate language deficiencies where school board policies discriminate against minorities. The case involved Chinese students who were not receiving any instruction in learning English, yet were enrolled in all-English classes. The Court decided that the district was required to take affirmative steps to rectify the language deficiencies. BILINGUAL CHILDREN (cont.) The problem is that the Court did not specify exactly what form bilingual programs are to have in order to comply with the 1964 act. As a result of United States v. Texas [Bilingual], Subchapter B of Chapter 29 of the Texas Education Code set forth the law with respect to bilingual education. These provisions were originally adopted in 1973, and revised substantially in 1981. TEC §29.051 asserts that English is the primary language of Texas, but did require school districts with twenty or more students of limited English proficiency (LEP) in the same grade to offer bilingual education throughout middle school, and English as a second language (ESL) in high school. GIFTED CHILDREN A gifted and talented student is defined as one “who performs at or shows the potential for performing at a remarkably high level of accomplishment when compared to others of the same age, experience, or environment and “who exhibits high performance capability in an intellectual, creative, or artistic field; possesses an unusual capacity for leadership, or excels in a specific academic field” (TEC §29.121). Using the criteria developed by the SBOE, each district is required to adopt a process for identifying gifted and talented students and to establish a program for those students in each grade level. ABUSED AND NEGLECTED CHILDREN Provisions of the Family Code require that anyone having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect shall immediately make a report to any local or state law enforcement agency or any other appropriate agency (Family Code §§261.101, 261.103). Section 261.109 of the Family Code makes failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect a Class B misdemeanor. An appeals court in Morris v. State, 1992, and the commissioner in Texas Education Agency v. Morris, 1994, felt that since the teacher did not report the abuse by the two aides, she should be convicted and have her teaching certificate revoked. HOMESCHOOLING One thing the chapter did not discuss was homeschooling. Whether or not homeschooling was considered a viable option was settle in 1994 when the Texas Supreme Court ruled in Leeper v. Arlington that home schools are private schools. Private schools are not regulated by the state of Texas at this time and so parents did not have to present their curriculum to the school district and/or register with school officials. HOMESCHOOLING The court in that case ruled that school districts are still required to enforce the compulsory attendance laws and that parents who are teaching their children at home must cooperate with the school district in such inquires. In 1995, the Texas Education Agency clarified cooperation as the following: “If the school district contacts a family who maintains that they are teaching their children at home, and the family provides a written letter of assurance that they have a curriculum that covers the basic areas of reading, spelling, grammar, math and a course in good citizenship and they are pursuing it in a bona fide manner (not a sham), this constitutes cooperation with the school” SUMMARY Although efforts have been made to give more autonomy to local districts, federal and state authority still maintains a great amount of control concerning requirements for the state-mandated curriculum, sex education, student testing, and controls on extracurricular participation. However, these same federal and state laws have strengthened school district, campus, and administrator accountability measures and it is the hope of everyone involved that these legislative efforts will reduce the dropout rate and improve student achievement.