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I remember around the time I started to learn to read in write in school my parents told my siblings and I how lucky we were because they decided to teach us English as our first language instead of Spanish. My father would talk about how hard it was for him as a child to try and understand his school and homework because it was taught and written all in English. My mother had a lot of trouble with grammar and spelling, she said she did want she could to get by in school. It eventually got somewhat easier for both my parents in school because they eventually learned English. Now that I work in a school and I am weeks away from graduating with a degree in Education I realize that both my parents were English Second Language or limited-English-proficient students. They both did qualify and would have benefited from a bilingual education program that was not offered when they were in school. After talking to my parents (who are now in their mid fifties) about the bilingual education system both agreed that they could have benefited from this program.
What is Bilingual education? Why did it take so long to be recognized as a problem? According to the Texas Education Agency Bilingual education involves teaching students academic content in their native language and secondary language. There are many different models of teaching Bilingual education; it may vary depending on demographics and the needs of the students. Texas was one of the early pioneers in providing academic education to children using their native language while concurrently working on the development of proficiency in English. Texas is one of fourteen states that currently has a bilingual education program in there public school system.
Texas has always been heavily population with non English speaking citizens due to our history. Students that were not English proficient still attended school but weren't allowed to speak their native tongue. During the late 60's San Antonio native and state representative Joe Bernal decided something needed to change in the education system regarding non English speaking students. Bernal became one of the first advocates, pushing the state government into creating bilingual education in the state. His plan was to have Texas implement bilingual education in schools for non English speakers. He was successful and because of him the state created bilingual education programs on a voluntary basis.
The language hurdle had become a problem in schools across the country for some time, it did go unnoticed. The US Congress saw the need there was a need for bilingual curriculum in the education system. After much deliberating In 1974 the US Supreme Court ruled that even though schools were provided the same English curriculum to all students, including students that are Limited or Non-English Proficient speaking students breached federal laws. The only English base curriculum violated the LEP or non-LEP student's chance for an equal educational opportunity. The subject of Bilingual education came into the spotlight and brought the much needed techniques and curriculum that the US states required.
In 1981 MALDEF won one of the biggest successful law suits in education, the plaintiffs in the case challenged and beat Texas' efforts to smooth over the effects of discrimination in the past towards Mexican Americans by making programs only voluntary. The state had to amend and revise the schools mandated system. The state passed a law enforcing that the board of education needed to offer a bilingual curriculum in public schools.
Senator Truan of Corpus Christi along with Representative Matt Garcia of San Antonio co wrote the state law known as SB 477. The state government approved and placed a set of standards each students needed to meet for placing, classifying, those who needed the services, and exiting the programs. In addition to the new law funds were being provided to school based on the need and students served. Years passed by before the federal district courts ordered the state to improve its monitoring of the programs serving students. Through much research the state realized that in programs in the states middle school and high school needed improvement.
The number of students identified as LEP has increased progressively over the years since the program was implemented and mandated in Texas in the mid seventies. In 1975 when the program was first introduced the state reported a total number of bilingual students enrolled were roughly about 25,000 students, the numbers have grown over thirty one time the size and is estimated to be about 775,000 in the 2007-2008 school year.
Texas is one of the few states that has the need for schools to implement bilingual educational services for its non English language students. There are two main reasons for the success in the elementary bilingual programs. The first area is it helps students learn adequate English to make the transition to the all-English courses. The second reason is that students who are serviced in the program for the most part achieve adequate scores on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, which is the states academic assessment test. Unfortunately test scores have shown that on the high school level students did not have scores as well as elementary aged students that are in the programs.
While we see that bilingual education has grown and continues to grow at a fast rate there are still many factors in the program that need to be address. One of the longest ongoing problems involves lack of certified bilingual teachers. In a 2007 report The Texas State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) reported that in 2006 867 bilingual teachers lacked the proper credentials and did not have the required certification to teach in a bilingual setting. According to the SBEC as many as17,300 LEP student were serviced by teachers who did not meet the certification requirements. Along with math and science teachers bilingual educators are in dire need for competent to teach in these much needed positions. What is the state doing to solve this crisis? Future educators are required to take the state certification test in there respected grade level or subject area, but now they are also required to take a certification test certifying them to teach or deal with English Second Language students. In theory it sounds like an excellent idea because the teacher is holding a certificate stating they are able to teach LEP students, but in reality it does not necessarily mean the teacher is able too because they weren't trained too or it wasn't there area of study. The second vital issue that is impacting the bilingual program is the state funding provided to schools. Even though the state is providing funds for schools servicing LEP student the funds have not been enough to support these programs. Because of the lack of funds many programs are being cut.
Texas has made big strides in comparisons of other states in its efforts to help those students that require bilingual education. As a state we have come from a school system that did now allow students to speak their native language and to one of largest bilingual programs in the US. But is it enough? When it comes it a child's education it is never enough because of the ever changing times, all we can do and ask is that we keep up with the current times and help our bilingual students become a successful English speaking student.
The Rise of Texas School Funding
As long as Texas has had an educational system there has always been some controversy in public school funding and laws that helped pave the way for school. How did it all get started? How were school funded in the pass? Or how are schools being currently funded? This article will give the brief history of school funding, important lawsuits, and the many different laws that have helped shape the current funding situation.
In 1949 Texas had its first school funding system that was put in place due to the 1949 - Gilmer-Aiken Act. This act laid the foundations for a school funding system in Texas; it guaranteed that 80 percent of school funding came from the state. Every student was guaranteed a minimum amount of funds for local enrichment. The act altered how school districts zoned at the time but did provide teachers' a base salary. The Gilmer-Aikin Act also determined that the state needed to restructure how it education administration was running at the time. This law seemed to work for the state for over 20 years.
That all changed in 1971, educators and families saw the need of special education during that time. 1971-1973 Rodriguez v. San Antonio I.S.D. was one of the big educational laws suit in Texas. The needs for special education programs were growing in the state and district were encouraged to start programs with the assistance of state funding. Unfortunately Texas was only matching the funds the school districts put into the program. School districts that had no money to start these much needed programs weren't able to get state funds, which was unfair. This went to the district courts that sided with the plaintiffs on the basis that it was a breach of equal protection. The ruling was reversed by the U.S. Courts based on the facts that Texas provided public schools with the mandated amount.
It wasn't until 1984 when Edgewood v. Kirby came into play and the "Robin Hood" was how schools were funded. During this time a handful of school districts stated that the use of property taxes to finance school was being misused and not being disbursed correctly and in 1989 the Supreme Court voted and proclaimed it as being unconstitutional. Lower income schools were being funded by higher income schools. This would not be the last time we hear about these two school districts. In 1989, Edgewood I.S.D. took Kirby too court once more. In this lawsuit lower income school districts challenged the 1975 Foundation School Program law stating that it created unfair inequity in school funding. The courts found that the system in place did breach the Texas Constitution. Unhappy with the ruling it was taken to The Court of Appeals and the decision was reversed. The Texas Supreme Court declared that it violated article VII, section 1 of the Texas Constitution. In 1991, Edgewood I.S.D. for the third and final time took Kirby to court. In 1990, the Texas Legislature was call together for a special session and tried to pass Senate Bill 1. This bill was to provide more money for equalization requiring biennial studies on district inequity and then followed by adjustments to address the gaps. Unfortunately it was essentially left the system intact. In 1992 the Legislature passed House Bill 351, this created 188 County Education Districts (CEDs). The CEDs were allowed to tariff state authorized property taxes and reallocate money to other member districts.
Edgewood I.S.D. seems to be the focal point of every major educational lawsuit in Texas. In 1992 Carrollton-Farmers Branch I.S.D. took Edgewood I.S.D to court. This was in response to the 1991 House Bill 351 that allowed 188 schools to levy state-mandated property taxes and reallocate funds to other member districts. Schools sued and won because the Texas Supreme court found that it was unconstitutional. Later on in 1995 in the case of Edgewood I.S.D. v. Meno, the Senate Bill 7 was passed in 1993 and it stated that that called for provision known as "recapture" that would redistributed people's property tax dollars to make school funding equal . School districts of all income levels filed laws suits claiming this was unfair, the suit was heard and in their favor.
The 2001 case of West Orange-Cove I.S.D. v. Alanis a group of small should districts banded together and filed a suit known as West Orange-Cove CISD v. Neeley. In 2004 when the case came to the court there was over 300 school districts were involved in the case. Schools that were lower income faced off with high income school districts. The Plaintiff school districts fought that the local property taxes were raised so high that they were equivalent to a state ad valorem tax, which in the Texas Constitution is prohibited. They also stated that the states finance system was very underfunded, which did not allow them to provided adequate funding for education services. The state Supreme Court found that the original ruling should have no been changed.
As of right now Texas' school funding is has the same issues lingering from the past. Many schools still feel that they are still not being giving an adequate amount of school funding while other schools are arguing that too much funds are being taking away. It will always be an ongoing dispute that hopefully in the best interest of the children and their education.
Standardize Testing In Texas: Past and Present
Standardize testing has always been one of the biggest problems in the state of Texas due to the fact that it determines school district funding and other programs. It most importantly affects student in many way such as preventing students from passing to the next grade and not graduating high school. These stressful state exams seem to be getting harder every year. From the TABS to the TAKS, this article will discuss the young history of standardize testing in Texas as well as the expectations of each test.
In 1979 Texas government passed a bill requiring basic skills competencies in the core subject areas of math, reading, and writing, targeting three specific grades 3, 5 and 9, this was the birth of the TABS test. This was the first time a state tested was introduced to Texas. A group of Texas Educators banded together to set learning goals for TABS During its infancy stage the TABS tests was for monitoring purpose only and student were not held accountable. Those 9th graders that did not pass were required to take the test ever year until they graduated. Even though the test was not holding the student's accountable the state still wanted records of score. This marked the start of state testing in Texas public school districts.
The Texas government was unhappy with the TABS test name; legislature reconvened in 1984 and revamped the test. They decided to change the name of the assessment program to read "minimum skills", feeling that "basic skills competencies", was a better fit. The new state mandated state exam or "TEAMS" test began testing in the 1985-1986 school year. The Texas board of Education added grades 1, 7, and 11th grade to amplify the complexity to the state exams. To make things harder they mandated that the 11th grade exam would be considered an "exit level". Meaning that if the student did not pass the 11th grade TEAMS test they would not be able to graduate. 1987 was the inaugural class that needed the state test to graduate.
State laws changed causing the board of education to once again revamp the standards of the states test. The outcome of this new restoration was the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test. The TAAS test changed the direction of the state exam by concentration on academic skills instead of minimum skills. The main goal of the test was to evaluate student's critical thinking and problem solving skills. Subjects included math, reading and writing for grades 3, 5, 7, 9, and keeping 11th grade as exit level exam. Five years later the state made changed on the test for the 92-93 school year. Reading and Math were added to the state test for 3rd and 8th grade. The writing portions were moved to the 4th and 8th grade and the exit level was moved to the 10th grade. Not only were schools feeling the pressure of the test, school districts were now being held responsible for performance scores. In 1995 two more subjects were added, science and social studies were now on the 8th grade test.
The birth of the TAKS took place in 99 when the state legislature decided to make the difficult test even harder. That year the board of education stated developing the new state test called Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. The new standards not required that 3rd graders need to pass the reading portion of the test in order to move on to the 4th grade. Pressure was also put on 5th and 8th graders because of low reading and math scores. This put the pressure on these young students to meet state expectations at an all new high. Another major impact was that exit level test was moved to the 11th grade once again, only giving the student a whole year to retake the test if they failed. Students are now required to pass five subject areas in order to receive a high school diploma unlike previous test that need three.
States standardize testing does benefit and impact a student's education in many ways, but the pressure is too much for some children to handle. Instead of focusing on all around education, schools are now focusing on preparing for the TAKS test all school year. Hopefully in the future the board of education will see the pressures the test has as well as its benefits and make the test simply for record purpose instead of such a high stakes exam.
Texas Public Education
Texas education has always been one of Texas' main focuses, it can be dated back early as 1838. The "Father of Education in Texas" President Mirabeau B. Lamar became the very first advocate of Texas education by setting aside public land aside for public schools during his term in office. During the early years of the Republic of Texas's, congress decided to set aside three areas of land per county for public schools. A couple of years later in 1840 The Republic provided more land to each county for more schools. Unfortunately during its short time as an independent country the Republic of Texas wasn't able to open up its educational system because of various financial reason, Lamar's dreams were unanswered, but it would not last for long. Slowly but surely Texas was able to set aside money to open up the public school system. This would happen when Gov. Elisha M. Pease signed a bill making it possible to have 2 million dollars out of the 10 million Texas received from the Compromise of 1850. Texas started growing at a rapid rate; things like the railroad and the census were able to provide funds to schools. The first school census showed that there were around 65,400 students and for those students the state gave sixty-two cents. In 1876 there was around 52 million acres that were Texas public school property or domain; in addition to that the Constitution provided various taxes to support schools. The Constitution also gave one-fourth of the states occupation taxes, one dollar from poll taxes, and made provisions for local taxes to fund schools. Soon after the state was grant counties more freedom setting up curriculum and administration in their school, this lead to school districts.
By 1900 there 526 different independent school districts in the state of Texas(1039 currently). A system of school accreditation was created in 1885 by the University of Texas and those schools that met their requirements allowed students to attend UT without entrance examinations. In 1911 big changes happen, a law was pass allowing rural high schools to create school boards and consolidate. One of the major issues Texas schools face is school textbooks, it was not until 1917 that the state mandated certain textbooks. As the state grew so did education for the smaller communities, rural school received more aid, educators received a minimum salary, and much more.
The biggest change came in 1949 when the Gilmer-Aikin Laws turned the states system upside down changing administration and school financing. The Texas Education Agency was created and the state's governor appointed Commissioner of Education. The Commissioner of Education along with 15 board members upholds the Texas education policies.
In the 80's house bill 72 provided much needed change in the public school systems. Teachers received pay raises, school funding was recalculated. Lower income schools received more money from the state which the state took from upper income school districts. This would cause major controversy. During the 80's we see that Texas implements high pressure standardize testing. The state testing has gone through many facelifts and name changes, with the stakes higher every year.
In 1995 Texas Senate Bill 1 dismembers the education code of a number of state-mandated rules and gave more power to local school districts. The State Board of formed the separate State Board for Educator Certification. Charter schools are opening up in record numbers, they are an alternative source of education with their own guidelines, codes, and state rules they follow. For a number of years there were many schools fighting for equal educational funds, leaving people upset.
2002 saw the No Child Left Behind act takes full effect holding every Texas school accountable for their schools progress. Now Texas students are being pushed to harder, testing, graduation requirements, and statewide standards. Texas has come a long way from being a dream in one man's eyes to one of the toughest state standards in the United States.
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