Collaboration and Compromise Calm Chaos

By Diane M. Miller, Ph.D., TCTELA President

Texas, Our Texas! All hail the mighty State!
Texas, Our Texas! So wonderful so great!
Boldest and grandest, withstanding ev'ry test
O Empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest.
God bless you Texas! And keep you brave and strong,
That you may grow in power and worth, throughout the ages long.

When my mother was born, the third line of our state song was a little different than the lyrics she fondly taught me. Every time my sister and I sang “Texas, Our Texas” with patriotic gusto, Mama would remind us—with some measure of indignation—that largest had been replaced with boldest when Alaska was admitted into the United States in January 1959. Apparently, giving up such geographical superiority was difficult for my mother! However, the word boldest is just fine by me. Bold means “showing an ability to take risks” and “confident and courageous” and “having a strong or vivid appearance.” Those descriptions fit our great state more accurately, perhaps, than a word referring to real estate.

The advent of the Common Core State Standards required a bold response. Texas policymakers refused that one-size-fits-all mentality and ensured that Texans would continue to craft our own standards. Yes, it would have been far easier to just accept the national set of standards and forego a lengthy revisions process that has sometimes been messy and has always been demanding, but that is not the way bold Texans do things, especially when those bold Texans are passionate teachers!

Instead, our SBOE initiated their 22-step protocol for standards revisions that brought teacher workgroups, appointed experts, professional organizations, ELAR/SLAR teachers, and the general public to the table. In fact, this new protocol became the model for other subject areas that followed.  To all our TCTELA members who responded to our statewide survey, worked on a writing group, participated in the two iterations of the TCTELA TEKS Forum, or emailed TEA or your SBOE members, thank you! Unlike prior revision efforts that were characterized by frustration, the recent round of revisions was rich with teachers’ voices, and our work played a huge role in that.

In a state as gargantuan (albeit smaller than Alaska!) and diverse as Texas, compromise is necessary and often—even though it may seem like small defeats in the moment—helpful for crafting a more informed and inclusive solution in the end. In comparing the recently adopted TEKS to the current TEKS, I am encouraged by the result of our collaborative efforts. I do not see that we have sacrificed too, too much in the grand scheme of things, especially when compared to the current genre-constrained, Fig. 19-necessary TEKS. Of course, there are areas over which we may disagree, but letting go of some things helped us to maintain the bigger accomplishments such as inclusive strands that cohesively unite listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

The revised standards may not be perfect (what in this life ever is?), but I think that the ELAR/SLAR teachers of Texas are getting a document that will encourage growth in instruction and in learning. Now, it is up to all of us to interpret those standards through our research-based instructional lenses and to support each other in robust professional development. 

No state standards can ever be all things to all people, but the art of intelligent compromise and respectful collaboration is critical in a state as bold as ours.