Friday, December 04, 2009

Hooray for Texas?

Currently I'm working on one of the final papers I have falling due with the end of the semester. The assignment has to do with designing an evaluation, and I've been planning to look at the impacts of some kind of state curriculum mandates. This has led me to look around for any states with interesting recent changes in their curriculum policy. Anyway, I stumbled upon Texas as having started some interesting new graduation requirements this year that I'll probably be looking at for my paper. That is all fine and dandy, but why do I express this ambivalent reserved hopeful excitement? It is because of one of the many other things that happens to be buried in this bill.

In a strange mood to fool around with graduation policies, the Lone Star State has decided to run an early-readiness graduation pilot program. Colleges and universities are being solicited to coordinate with school districts to invent an assessment system that can facilitate early high school graduation by giving students an opportunity to demonstrate that they are ready for college, ostensibly at any point during their high school careers. Why is this potentially a ridiculously awesome thing? Because at its base, compulsory secondary education is oppressive and this can create an opportunity for some willing and able people to escape it. This is also cool because it is the first time I've heard of a policy plan that sought to inquire about what people really need to learn from school that can in turn inform future policies about what the schools require. Granted, “need” here is defined as including achievement levels in core-curricula and readiness for continued education. However, as I've learned time and again since I began teaching, successive approximations of the goal are something to rejoice over. Now there are lots of other doubts that hedge up my joy. What sorts of attitudes and expectations are the universities going to bring to the table? If the findings are good are Texans really ready for a radical policy maneuver that would be implicated by this? How would the teachers' unions respond if this proliferates enough to threaten job security? Et cetera. But either way it's something to keep the ol' eye-ball on.