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A Big 12 Conference??????


DrFolks-portrait-2013-5x7 Very seldom do I agree with Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas. But this time I do! I agree with his tweet which said, “The Big 12     owes a lot of people an apology. It punted on expansion and shanked its future. The University of Houston deserved better.” Many people were excited, thinking that finally the Big 12 Conference was going to expand from 10 teams to 12 teams making it truly the Big 12 Conference. OU President David Boren had led the charge and he is one that is usually very successful at getting what he wants. Yet he reversed his stance in mid-stream and left a lot of teams who thought they might be the one tabbed for entry into the Big 12 disappointed. Also left was a lot of disgruntled fans who continue to see a conference who was once a powerhouse become weaker and weaker.

What happened? Well some say the expansion idea dissipated when it became clear there was not a market for a conference network. Well, who cares, an expansion to twelve teams and a strengthening of the conference may have led to the establishment or contracting of a Big 12 Conference network. Or was it that OU lost quite handily to the University of Houston, who many considered a perfect match to join the Big 12. I have heard that several Big 12 coaches did not want the University of Houston because the Houston area is such a strong recruiting area for several Big 12 schools. Well, the University of Houston will continue to recruit well in the Houston area, as will the other Big 12 schools, but certainly the SEC can continue to be excited about the Houston recruiting area. With the University of Houston not in the Big 12, the SEC certainly takes advantage over other Big 12 schools.

Or is it that adding a BYU, Houston, or Cincinnati would make the conference too competitive for the ten teams now comprising the conference. No doubt the addition of any of the above teams would have made the conference stronger. And having 12 teams would have made a conference championship game stronger. Also, it wouldn’t be the Big 12 Conference with 10 teams.

Who knows why the decision was made to not expand, but the fans who buy tickets and support the Big 12 and its teams would certainly have liked to see it expanded. The excitement of expansion and actually having 12 teams in the conference would have been great. I have been an OU season ticket holder since the early seventies, and I love OU and the Big 12. Yet the conference remains the weakest of the Power 5 conferences. Maybe Texas A&M, Nebraska, Colorado, and Missouri made the right decision to leave the conference several years ago. It hurts to say that, but shouldn’t the leaders try to bring the conference back to the stature it once held in having 12 teams and really being considered a power conference. I think the President’s owe the fans a truthful explanation! Greg Abbott was right!

Cursive Writing

DrFolks-portrait-2013-5x7     Recently I read an article about the importance of continuing the teaching of cursive writing in the elementary grades. Several states have discussed and/or approved legislation to require the teaching of cursive writing. Why? Although I do not generally agree with state mandated curriculum, I do agree that the requirement of teaching cursive writing is very important. The Common Core standards are silent on this issue. I know digital communication is prevalent, but I still believe students, in order to be functioning adults in our society, must be able to communicate and utilize the handwritten word. In 2012 there was an education summit devoted to handwriting and those at the summit concluded that handwriting is critical.

For years as a superintendent of schools I became more and more concerned with the penmanship of our students, especially as it relates to cursive writing. Read more…

A Focus on Vocational Education

DrFolks-portrait-2013-5x7     A recent op-ed piece in the San Antonio Express-News addressed the need for vocational and technical education to be restored to its old prominence. I agree with the author of this article that vocational-technical education should become a more prominent part of our high school curriculum. I agree to a point with some of the reasons he gave for the de-emphasizing of vo-tech in earlier years such as elitist opposition, concerns about tracking students, and college preparedness.

However, the things that had the biggest impact on decreased enrollment in vo-tech (career-tech in Texas) classes was the increasing of graduation requirements by the state, the incessant focus on testing by the state, and the determination of accountability ratings based on test scores. Read more…

Funding Before Limits!

DrFolks-portrait-2013-5x7 The drumbeat never ceases! A coalition of groups in the state is calling for a limit to be  placed on the Legislature for spending increases. While all of us want the Legislature to be wise in its spending patterns, will we continue to cutback and starve state services on minimal or no increases? We need more funds spent on infrastructure, mental health services, roads and highways, and especially education. In 2011 $5.2 billion was cut from public education. School districts all over the state made reductions, laid off teachers, cut programs, and did not add personnel for a growth of students in the state. School boards, superintendents, principals, and teachers did a wonderful job of continuing to provide a quality education for the students, even though the state was certainly not putting education first. In the 2013 legislative session almost $3.2 billion was restored to public education funding, yet school districts are still operating at a deficit of state funding. Full restoration of the cuts has not occurred!

Also, the groups are calling for the state to do away with the business franchise tax, which was supposed to replace the revenue reduction to schools that occurred in dropping the property tax from $1.50 per $100 of property value to $1.00 per $100 of property value. Read more…

Was It a Good Legislative Session?

Dr. John M. Folks      Well, the Legislature has adjourned sine die! All in all I think it was a pretty good legislative session for public education. Considering the rhetoric at the beginning of the session regarding addressing only some restoration of funds cut in the 2011 session, vouchers and choice, and testing, I believe the public schools fared well.

I have previously written about some concerns with H. B. 5, but I do believe a reduction in the number of end-of-course tests was a step in the right direction. I do believe a reduction from fifteen to five, and only requiring proficiency at essentially the ninth grade level was too drastic, but it was a step toward greater sanity in the state testing program. Also, the changes in graduation requirements I believe are good changes, but again my concern is the selection of a graduation endorsement at the ninth grade level which will lead to more academic tracking of students. The question to be answered, and only time will tell, is whether our students will be prepared to be college ready and workforce ready when they graduate. Both the testing and graduation requirement changes in this bill have huge implications in the answering of this question. Read more…