Richardson ISD adopted its version of the 2008 TASA vision in 2010. It is called RISD Vision 2020.

RISD hired a consultant to flesh out Vision 2020’s details. The consultant’s report was titled “The 10 Critical Qualities of Student Work”. One only needs to know a part of item 10 to understand the emphasis on so-called higher level critical thinking skills at the expense of core academics.

“Learning to read and write complete sentences, for example, is not the same as learning to write persuasively, and to read critically, thoughtfully, and well”.

In other words, grammar, spelling, and sentence structure were no longer important. We shall see that this RISD policy came back to bite the district in subsequent years.

The statewide attempt to de-emphasize core academics became more apparent in an early 2010 scandal a Richardson’s TEA Region 10. Teacher certification candidates were required to study the following material:

“Teachers must not define education as basic skills…..rather, as educators, we must help people become committed to social change”.

It is not difficult to determine the negative impact of de-emphasizing core academics in a school district.   The district’s all-out stampede to common core-related teaching strategies as subtly defined by the TASA vision has only exacerbated the decline of academic performance.

  • Here are just a few student academic performance statistics from the Richardson ISD:
  • STAAR test scores comparing 2014 to 2015:  Out of 22 tests – 1 is up, 16 are down, 5 no change.
  • The aforementioned relaxation of reading policy has come back to bite the district. STAAR reading tests were first incorporated in 2012. In 2012, all 6 grades tested (grades 3 thru 8) read above the Texas state average. Since, there has been a steady decline of reading test scores. By 2015, NONE of the 6 grades read above Texas state average. But the 2015-2016 RISD District Improvement Plan barely mentions this across the board reading deficiency. As a direct result of this astounding lack of assigning accountability, recently released 2016 STAAR reading scores for grades 5 and 8 reveal that these two RISD grades still do not read above the Texas state average. The obvious conclusion….In the district’s enthusiasm to implement TASA vision-based common core related teaching strategies, this Board is not concerned that our kids cannot read.
  • Per the Texas Education Agency, there are 5 failing schools in RISD, the highest in recent history. Based upon recent comments, more failing schools are on the horizon.
  • The NICHE survey of hundreds of parents and citizens ranks RISD #20 among DFW Metroplex public school districts. When I moved my family to the DFW area, Highland Park and Richardson were #1 and #2.
  • This performance can only be described as a significant collapse of what was once one of the DFW Metroplex’s most admired school districts.

There are solid vision-related reasons why RISD student academic performance is in decline.

There is an across-the-board sacrifice of academic rigor in favor of transformed, common core-related teaching strategies that promotes students teaching students, abstract concepts like 21st Century Learning and Project Based Learning, and implementing the common core “4 C’s”:  Collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking.

Knowledge of facts is downplayed, almost mocked. Describing 21st Century Learning, one speaker at a 2015 North Texas Superintendent’s Consortium said….. “Memorization is unimportant, since information is only one Google click away.”

But in his book, Cultural Literacy, E. D. Hirsch writes, “There is a network of information that all readers must possess.  It is background information, stored in their minds, that enables them to take up a newspaper and read with an adequate level of comprehension, getting the point, grasping the implications, relating to the unstated context which gives meaning to what they read.”

An example:  Consider the words, “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light”. The third grade state standards (TEKS) require learning about Francis Scott Key and his all-night vigil in Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812.  In promoting the new strategies, we often hear the common core-related criticism of current curriculum, “a mile wide and an inch deep”.  If the new strategies omit the “mile wide/inch deep” founding fathers and American exceptionalism histories, surely the story of Francis Scott Key will be also relegated to the dustbin of U.S. history The result?  Students who do not possess that network of information will be unable to comprehend, nor appreciate, the meaning of the words of our National Anthem.

Sacrificing academic knowledge is a damaging price for our students to pay, in return for the implementation of the unproven teaching strategies promoted by Texas’ education establishment..

Legislative actions:

  • Expand prohibition of common core state standards to include common core-related teaching strategies, such as project based learning, 21st Century Learning’s over emphasis on computer technology, college and career readiness, and de-emphasis of academic knowledge.
  • Return to traditional teaching, to allow students to achieve a level of academic knowledge necessary for them to function as informed citizens of the Texas  community.