One step closer to nixing Algebra II

Fresh off the press from the Tribune. The Senate Education Committee has voted 7-2 (Y: Dan Patrick (R-Houston), Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood); N: Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and Royce West (D-Dallas)) to advance the Curriculum reforming bill. Now, the bill just needs to pass the whole Senate before it is sent to Perry’s desk (the Tribune article insinuated this is an identical bill to the House; If it is not, there will be a conference committee requirement).

The bill, which recently passed the house, essentially does two things. First, it lowers the number of standardized tests from 15 to 5 (Biology, U.S. History, Algebra I and a pair of English exams) that are required in order to graduate. That is probably a good thing, as those pesky little tests got a little overwhelming, when you are literally sacrificing valuable teaching time to prepare kids for the dreaded TAKS test. However, second, the bill lowers the standards needed in order to earn a diploma. Instead of four years of most core concepts, the requirements are lowered to three, and certain benchmark classes, most notably Algebra II, are nixed from the requirements. The new diploma would be from a much more remedial track, whereas the old track (the college preparatory one) would be considered “honors.”

In order to qualify for the coveted top 10% program at UT or A&M, one would need the honors diploma. I would imagine it would be a biggie for most colleges’ admissions, too. I have two big problems with this legislation: the whole idea of a remedial diploma plan in general, as well as, more specifically, the idea of nixing Algebra II.

First, I fear that, especially since this remedial track seems like it would be the default, many poorer students will be tricked into completing this track in order to more easily graduate from high school. Little will they probably know, however, that the “fast track” diploma is not the ticket to college the regular, vanilla diploma of the past was. Second, I actually do think that Algebra II is a valuable skill that our future workforce should be equipped with.

For the record, I loathed math class while I was in High School, and I sure as heck am not using any complex math currently in my life (it never really goes beyond calculating gratuity when going dutch), but I can see that Algebra II was a good investment of my time. Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry was probably lost on me, but Algebra II was good. And besides, it isn’t like it is that advanced of a subject for High School. Most public school students take it their Junior, and not their Senior, years. I went to a Private School, so I took it in the 10th grade (my brother went to St. John’s, so he took it int he 9th grade), as does anyone in the AP/IB programs in HISD.

Watering down our school’s graduation requirements has never been a good idea. I was happy to see from legitimate Democratic opposition to this measure in the upper chamber.

Big Government, Texas style

The GOP prides itself on two points. First, it is the party of less government, and, second, it is the part of local control. There are myriad exceptions to these points, however, specifically in examples where another platform of the party is threatened by either less government or local control. These usually have to do with social issues.

For example, Mitt Romney and John McCain frequently stated that they wanted “government out of your life,” but what they really meant is that they wanted it out of your checkbook. The GOP, especially in Texas, has no problem with entangling itself between a woman and her doctor, or between two consenting adults in a bedroom. Further, even though the GOP seems to love the mantra of “leave it to the states,” they have no issue with mandating federal regulations/amendments that would prohibit things like gay marriage or the legalization of cannabis, over the objections of states.

We see another good example of this from the Chron about a recent Senate bill. Senator Hegar introduced a bill, SB 987, which would prohibit cities and counties from regulating gun shows. Specifically, the legislation was raised over the idea that Austin and/or Travis County would ban gun shows from public buildings. In a classic example of the State Legislature bullying the Capital city, the Senate voted overwhelmingly (24-6) to prevent Austin, or any other municipality, from issuing meaningful gun reform measures.

What disturbs me the most about this vote (you know, besides my state’s unhealthy little juvenile obsession with instruments of death), is how many Democrats voted for the measure. 5 out of 11 Democrats voted FOR the bill, mainly the Rio Grande Valley ones (Whitmire, Ellis and Garcia voted NO). Interestingly, Wendy Davis voted for the bill. I like Davis, so I am going to excuse this stupid position as bandwagoning to join an otherwise inevitable vote, in light of her difficult re-election bid next year. Good to know, nevertheless, that the Houstonians are from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Also, and I include it down here because I don’t have enough to say for a regular post, but WFAA (DFW’s ABC) is reporting that yesterday the Texas Senate voted unanimously to stop ticketing juveniles for classroom disruptions, instead focusing on counseling. It was proposed by Royce West (D-Dallas), and had bipartisan support because of the money it was projected to save.