This is the tenth post in our A Dozen Days, A Dozen Ways to Vote Your Profession series.
At issue: Texas has curriculum standards known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), which are adopted by the State Board of Education (SBOE). The TEKS determine what is taught and tested in Texas public schools, and they have an impact on the content that publishers include in textbooks used here and beyond our state. The TEKS adoption process has been controversial in the recent past and marked by ideological conflicts among the elected SBOE members. Often ignoring the recommendations of classroom teachers, the board in the past has appointed “expert” reviewers for proposed changes to the TEKS without setting legitimate qualifications for serving as an expert. The Legislature has also been a venue for heated debates about curriculum, usually involving the role of politics and religious views in curriculum standards and lesson plans.
It’s time for Texas to get serious about curriculum: All of these high-profile disputes over ideology have garnered negative media attention at the national level and left little time to address any structural problems with the TEKS, such as complexity and excessive length. (The more standards that are required to be taught in a course, the less time that can be devoted to any one of them. The more specific the standards are, the less flexibility there is for teachers to individualize lessons.) In fact, the overwhelming nature of the TEKS was the main impetus behind CSCOPE, a curriculum management system that was widely used by Texas school districts before political scrutiny led to its demise last year. The Legislature did try to address TEKS issues in 2013 when it passed House Bill (HB) 2836, calling for a comprehensive study on the number and scope of the curriculum standards and how they relate to state assessments. Despite a unanimous vote in the House and near unanimous vote in the Senate, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the bill. Find out how your state senator voted on HB 2836: look up his profile using our 2014 Races search tool, open the Voting Record section and review his action on “Senate Vote #7.”
Texas educators should be the ones to determine the appropriate content and methodology behind what is taught in our classrooms – not politicians or policymakers from outside our state: We must preserve Texas teachers’ authority to develop their own lesson plans and customize them to meet the unique needs of their students. It is critical that we elect SBOE members who will seek and respect educator input whenever the TEKS are revised. That’s why ATPE asks SBOE candidates tough questions about the TEKS adoption process and the role of educators in SBOE policy decisions. We must also elect legislators who will maintain Texas’ control of its curriculum standards and will not try to mandate a standardized national curriculum like the Common Core. Finally, we need our elected officials to be willing to address the overall structure of the TEKS, to ensure that the standards are useful and manageable for our teachers and conducive to student learning.
Curriculum-related decisions will be made by elected legislators and SBOE members, and this is your chance to steer them in the right direction by voting in this election: Early voting has ended and the March 4 primary is only days away. There’s a good chance you live in a district where some races will be decided by this primary – not in November’s general election. Look up your legislative and SBOE candidates on Teach the Vote to find out which ones will have your back when it’s time to make critical choices about the curriculum taught in our schools. The “Survey Response,” “Voting Record” and “Additional Information” sections of each profile contain valuable insights to help you identify pro-public education candidates. If educators don’t vote, they’ll be surrendering their voice in curriculum discussions. Please take time to vote your profession on Tuesday!