Category Archives: Curriculum

New School Year, New Laws: Curriculum and Instruction

When the 86th Texas Legislature convened for its 2019 regular session, members of the state Senate and House of Representatives focused much of their attention on school finance and school safety. Issues that once held center-stage in a legislative session, like accountability, vouchers, and payroll deduction took a backseat (or weren’t even in the car). However, there were several bills passed this year that will impact teachers’ bread and butter – teaching and learning. In this week’s “New School Year, New Laws” post, we will fill you in on legislative changes impacting curriculum and instruction.

House Bill (HB) 391 by Rep. César Blanco (D-El Paso): Printed instructional materials

By law, parents are entitled to request that their child be allowed to take home instructional materials. Districts and charter schools must honor this request. However, in some cases, those instructional materials are online and the parents do not have the appropriate technology at home to access them. In this event, HB 391 dictates that the district or charter school provide the materials in print, which could be printouts of the relevant electronic materials. This law became effective immediately upon its passage.

HB 2984 by Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio): Technology applications TEKS

Technology applications is part of the “enrichment curriculum” offered by school districts. HB 2984 directs the State Board of Education (SBOE) to revise the grades K-8 Texas essential knowledge and skills (TEKS) for technology applications, specifically by adding in curriculum standards for coding, computer programming, computational thinking, and cybersecurity. The SBOE must complete this task by Dec. 31, 2020, so be on the lookout for information from ATPE about opportunities to participate in the process and provide public comment.

HB 3012 by Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock): Providing instruction to students who are suspended

Most teachers have probably experienced what happens when a student is placed in either in-school or out-of-school suspension (ISS/OSS). The student often comes back to the classroom having missed days or weeks of instruction that can be hard to make up. HB 3012 requires districts to provide suspended students with an alternative means of accessing all “foundation curriculum” or core coursework (math, science, English language arts, and social studies). The district must also provide at least one option for receiving the coursework that doesn’t require access to the Internet. Whether or not this requirement for providing coursework will trickle down to the individual teacher level is still unclear. This bill became effective immediately.

HB 4310 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D- Houston): Time for scope and sequence

HB 4310 applies to the scope and sequence created by districts for foundation curricula. Under the new law, a district must ensure sufficient time for teachers to teach and students to learn the TEKS in a given scope and sequence. Additionally, a district cannot penalize a teacher who determines that their students need more or less time and thus doesn’t follow the scope and sequence. However, the law does say that a district can take action with respect to teachers who don’t follow the scope and sequence if there is documented evidence of a deficiency in their classroom instruction. This law became effective immediately.

HB 3 by Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Kingwood): G/T programming and funding

The gifted and talented (G/T) allotment was eliminated in this year’s big school finance bill, HB 3, but the requirement that school districts provide G/T programming did not go away. When HB 3 was heard by the House Public Education and Senate Education committees, many parents and students testified on the importance of keeping gifted and talented programming and urged lawmakers to maintain the allotment. In response, Chairman Huberty and other lawmakers explained that funding for G/T through the allotment has been capped at 5% of average daily attendance, even though a district may actually enroll more than 5% of its students in G/T programs. As a result, every district essentially received the maximum amount possible. HB 3 rolls this amount into the new basic allotment as the mechanism for funding G/T, rather than having a stand-alone allotment.

To quell fears that G/T programs might disappear along with the allotment, HB 3 states that districts must provide a G/T program consistent with the state plan for G/T and must annually certify to the commissioner of education their compliance with the law. If a district does not comply, the state will revoke its funding in an amount calculated using the same formula for the old G/T allotment. The bill also requires districts to comply with the use of G/T funds as outlined in State Board of Education (SBOE) rule.

These changes to how G/T programs are funded took effect immediately upon the passage of HB 3. Learn more about the new G/T requirements and funding expectations in this “HB 3 in 30” video provided by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

HB 4205 by Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland): Teacher effectiveness and value-added modeling in turnaround schools

HB 4205 was originally introduced as a bill to allow a campus in Midland ISD to be repurposed by a nonprofit entity while maintaining the same student population. As the bill made its way through the legislative process, it was expanded beyond Midland ISD and amended to include language from Senate Bill (SB) 1412 by Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) regarding accelerated campus excellence (ACE) plans. ACE is a campus turnaround option that prescribes personnel, compensation, and programming decisions meant to improve student performance. A last-stage amendment also added a requirement that personnel decisions under a school’s ACE turnaround plan must be made using a value-added model (VAM) for determining instructional effectiveness. After this change was made, which ATPE opposed, the House unfortunately voted to concur in the Senate amendments and the bill was signed by the Governor.

Under the final version of HB 4205 as passed, at least 60 percent of teachers assigned to the campus must have demonstrated instructional effectiveness during the previous school year. For teachers who taught in the same district in the prior year, this effectiveness standard is to be determined by classroom observation and assessing the teacher’s impact on student growth using VAM based on at least one student assessment instrument selected by the district. For teachers who did not teach in the district the previous year, instructional effectiveness will be determined by data and other evidence indicating that if the teacher had taught in the district, they would have been ranked among the top half of teachers there. Teacher pay under this type of plan must include a three-year commitment to provide “significant incentives” to compensate high-performing principals and teachers.

In the 2019-20 school year, the ACE provisions in HB 4205 will only apply to one district that received an unacceptable rating for 2017-18, as chosen by the commissioner of education. In 2020-21, the ACE option under HB 4205 will open up to all districts that have been required to complete a campus turnaround plan.

There are many aspects of this new law that ATPE opposes, which we expressed to lawmakers through oral testimony and written input on SB 1412 and HB 4205 as they were moving through the legislative process earlier this year. Our opposition was based on the following formal positions that have been adopted by ATPE members:

  • ATPE opposes the use of student performance, including test scores, as the primary measure of a teacher’s effectiveness, as the determining factor for a teacher’s compensation, or as the primary rationale for an adverse employment action.
  • ATPE believes students’ state-level standardized test scores should not be a component of teacher evaluations until such time as they can be validated through a consensus of independent research and peer review for that purpose.
  • ATPE opposes the use of value-added modeling or measurement (VAM) at the individual teacher level for teacher evaluation purposes or decisions about continued employment of teachers. (Learn more about our VAM concerns here.)
  • ATPE supports incorporating measures of student growth at the campus level or higher into evaluations of educators as long as the measures are developed with educator input, piloted, and deemed statistically reliable.
  • ATPE opposes incentive or performance pay programs unless they are designed in an equitable and fair manner as determined by educators on a campus basis.

Your ATPE Governmental Relations team will be monitoring these pieces of legislation as they are implemented.


Next Monday, we will continue ATPE’s “New School Year, New Laws” series here on Teach the Vote with a post on assessment-related bills passed during the 2019 legislative session.

SBOE says goodbye to longtime members

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) wrapped up its November meeting saying goodbye to three members.

SBOE meeting November 16, 2018.

Members Erika Beltran (D-Fort Worth), David Bradley (R-Beaumont), and Tincy Miller (R-Dallas) all decided not to run for reelection, and Friday was their last meeting as members of the board. WIth 32 years on the board, Miller is one of the longest-serving members in its history.

The retiring members will be replaced by new members-elect Matt Robinson (R-Friendswood), Aicha Davis (D-DeSoto), and Pam Little (R-McKinney). The first meeting with new members will be January 30, 2019.

The board gave final approval to streamlined Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies. This has been a lengthy and at times somewhat controversial process due to the subject matter, but the board managed to navigate the process in a way that respected input from a wide range of stakeholders on various issues.

The board voted again on a number of items, including the Long-Range Plan for Public Education and members’ legislative priorities for 2019. Members also approved a plan to provide additional funding in the event that the School Land Board releases additional funds in response to the board’s request that it do so.

SBOE chides GLO in school funding dispute

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) spent most of its Wednesday meeting dealing with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies, including an Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies course. As part of the streamlining process for social studies TEKS, the board unanimously adopted verbiage to clarify a section relating to Alamo heroes that had recently become the focus of political and media attention.

SBOE meeting September 12, 2018.

The board approved a number of revisions offered by stakeholders to the TEKS for Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies on second reading and final adoption. The board also approved a number of streamlining revisions on first reading to the social studies TEKS.

In addition to reviewing curriculum, the board approved the permanent school fund (PSF) distribution for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 at a rate of 2.75 percent. Staff had recommended setting a rate of 2.38 percent to 2.75 percent, which is less than previously anticipated because of actions taken by the General Land Office (GLO).

According to staff, the GLO distributed $600 million for the next biennium directly to the available school fund (ASF) instead of to the PSF, which is unusual and limited the amount of funding the GLO could provide. Staff testified this impeded the board’s ability to provide additional school funds through its PSF oversight authority. At a distribution rate of 2.75 percent, staff said districts would receive roughly $225 million less per year than through the normal process.

Several board members, including Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio) and Georgina Perez (D-El Paso) raised serious concern over the GLO’s actions. Chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) led the board in submitting a letter to the GLO requesting the agency reconsider its actions. Member Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) invited Land Commissioner George P. Bush to personally deliver news of a reversal at the board’s November meeting. Member David Bradley (R-Beaumont) suggested asking the GLO to provide an additional $500 million in order to cover inflation and enrollment growth to safeguard intergenerational equity.

 

 

Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 22, 2018

Here’s your weekly wrap-up of education news from ATPE Governmental Relations:


A full meeting of the Texas Pension Review Board (PRB) was held on Monday, and the body voted to adopt voluntary guidelines designed to work as best practices for how retirement plans are funded. While the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) meets many of the PRB’s voluntary standards, it fails to meet standards in two critical areas that can be crippling to TRS members. Read more about the guidelines in this post by ATPE Lobbyist Monty Exter.

 


Earlier this month the State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt curriculum standards for  a high school elective course entitled “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies”. This comes after months of back and forth between members of the board and stakeholders over content and curriculum standards for the course as well as what it should be named. In this commentary, SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) reflects on how working together made this course a reality and how that gives her hope, both for the state of Texas and the nation.

 


School may be out, but the fight for Texas public schools is ongoing. ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins breaks down the ways you can engage with the legislature and advocate for your profession during the summer in this blog post.

SBOE hears public comments on ethnic studies course

The State Board of Education (SBOE) kicked off its week-long June meeting Tuesday taking public comment on several curriculum items.

The Texas SBOE kicks off its June, 2018, meeting with public testimony on social studies and economics TEKS.

The meeting began with a discussion on streamlining the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for social studies and economics. Members of the public raised concerns over the placement of the Holocaust in the TEKS, as well as concerns that the TEKS fail to properly credit slavery as the primary driver of secession leading up to the Civil War. Board Chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) explained that streamlining is defined by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as deleting, confining, clarifying and narrowing the scope of TEKS. The board also heard competing arguments over the historical influence of the Bible and Judeo-Christian values on the nation’s founding documents.

The majority of testimony revolved around a new ethnic studies course approved by the board earlier this year. After dispute over textbooks for an innovative course on Mexican-American studies stretched over the course of several meetings, the board acknowledged advocates’ interest in a standardized course and approved the creation of statewide TEKS in April. At the same meeting, Member David Bradley (R-Beaumont) led members in designating the new course “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.” This was viewed as a slight by advocates, who expressed their disapproval Tuesday and requested the board designate the class “Mexican-American Studies,” as they had originally requested.

More than 40 people signed up to testify. The board could hold another vote on the name Wednesday at the earliest, and members still have the option of changing the name at a later meeting regardless of what happens this week.

SBOE approves Mexican American studies course

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met Wednesday morning for a list of items, beginning with an update from Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath on a recent glitch with the STAAR test, statewide test scores and the special education corrective action plan.

Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) meeting April 11, 2018.

The board took testimony Wednesday morning from members of the public advocating for the addition of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for an elective course in Mexican American Studies. This has been an ongoing topic of conversation and debate at the board.

On a motion by Member Georgina Perez (D-El Paso), the board ordered the TEA to develop TEKS for a Mexican American Studies course based upon an innovative course created by Houston ISD. Agency staff suggested that without making modifications to the Houston ISD course, initial TEKS could be ready to be considered on first reading by June.

The board also approved a motion by outgoing Member David Bradley (R-Beaumont) to rename the course “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent,” arguing he is against “hyphenated Americans.” The amendment was forcefully opposed by Members Marisa Perez (D-Converse) and Ruben Cortez (D-San Antonio). Member Tom Maynard (R-Florence) noted that the board could amend the name again at a future date in the event constituents voice disapproval of the name change.

Finally, on another motion by Member Georgina Perez, the board voted to fast-track additional ethnic studies courses, including courses addressing Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islanders, African-Americans, and Native Americans.

The board also discussed the curriculum for instruction on Proper Interaction with Peace Officers, which was required by Senate Bill (SB) 30 passed by the 85th Texas Legislature in response to recent officer-involved shootings around the country. The agency has planned a pair of videos to supplement the instruction, and the board voted on first reading to add elements to the current proposal that would require completion of the instruction to be recorded in each student’s record.

Finally, TEA staff updated the board on the new TEKS review process currently underway for social studies. Teacher reviewers participate in a rolling working group format under the new process. Through this process, one of the working groups created a rubric assigning points to certain historical figures in order to determine who should be specifically included in the TEKS. Materials developed by the working groups can be viewed on the TEA website. Staff aims to present the new TEKS to the board for first reading in September and a final vote in November.

Board committees are scheduled to meet Thursday morning, and several board members are expected to participate in an update Thursday afternoon on the Long-Range Plan for Public Education. The full board formally returns Friday.

SBOE completes ELAR/SLAR TEKS review

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met Friday to conclude its June meeting. The 15-member body kicked off the day by approving a list of consent items approved earlier in the week, including sweeping changes to the TEKS review process and the appointment of three board members to the Long-Range Plan Steering Committee. Member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) successfully offered an amendment to ensure that at least one person nominated by each of the ten remaining SBOE members will be appointed to the committee.

State Board of Education meeting June 23, 2017.

State Board of Education meeting June 23, 2017.

The board then moved on to consider a handful of open-enrollment charter school applications awaiting final approval. The five schools were Bridgeway Preparatory Academy in Dallas, which plans to focus on students with special needs, Etoile Academy Charter School in Houston, Legacy School of Sport Sciences in the Woodlands, which plans to focus on non-athletic careers in sports, Valor Public Schools in Austin, and Yellowstone College Preparatory in Houston.

It’s important to note that the board has the statutory authority to veto charter applications if members have concerns, and it is the only point in the life cycle of a charter in which representatives elected by Texas citizens have a say in the process. This power preserves the democratic process and ensures taxpayers have at least a small say regarding taxpayer-supported charter schools.

Members asked pointed questions Friday to ascertain the goals and capabilities of each applicant, including ties by the founders of Valor Public Schools to Arizona-based charter school chain Great Hearts Academies. The SBOE vetoed an expansion of Great Hearts in 2014 over concerns that the chain catered to a less diverse, more affluent student population and failed to make proper notifications for its Texas project. Member Lawrence Allen (D-Houston) prodded Yellowstone, which plans to open in Houston’s Third Ward, to assure the board that the charter would primarily serve students who currently reside in the historically low-income community, as opposed to “importing” students from wealthier communities. The board approved all five charters on Friday’s agenda.

The board then approved on final adoption the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for high school English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR), Spanish Language Arts and Reading (SLAR) and English as a Second Language (ESL). The rules recommend an implementation date of the 2020-2021 school year. Members also approved two new innovative courses: Making Connections III, Making Connections IV.

The board will next meet September 12 through 15.

SBOE considers big changes to TEKS review

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met Wednesday to begin a work session on the schedule for review and revision of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the processes for review and streamlining of the TEKS, and the review and adoption cycle for instructional materials aligned to revised TEKS.

State Board of Education meeting June 21, 2017.

State Board of Education meeting June 21, 2017.

Staff began by outlining a new TEKS review process. The current process can be viewed on the TEA website. Instead of a separate streamlining process and revision process, the agency proposed combining both into a single process that allows board members the option to decide whether each set of TEKS requires a full revision, revision based on current standards or something else. This would allow the board to set a formal charge stating its intent regarding each TEKS under review.

TEKS Review and Revision Process

Staff provided a flow chart to illustrate the process, which would begin with TEA collecting information via survey from educators regarding student expectations. This is similar to how TEA began the most recent streamlining of science TEKS. The agency would conduct a briefing or set of briefings for interested stakeholders to allow for earlier feedback.

The board would identify content advisors with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, who have demonstrated expertise in the subject area in which he or she is being appointed, and has either taught or worked in such field. The board discussed appointing up to seven advisors, plus two advisors recommended by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), for a total of nine. Board members suggested the higher education advisors could be selected from a list of candidates provided by THECB. Content advisors would be involved in the process at many more points than in the current process.

The agency would post an open application for work group participants. Instead of a single work group from start to finish, the agency suggested appointing a series of smaller work groups, which would be assigned a certain task over a certain period of time. Work groups would include representation from all SBOE members, and would include educators, parents and business leaders. The work groups would be refreshed over time from a pool of applicants approved by the board, with participants rolled off to be replaced by new participants on a staggered schedule that would replace half the group at a time. Each participant would be able to participate in two face-to-face meetings.

Member Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) noted that roughly 500 educators applied to review the English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) TEKS, and many had to be turned down because of the limited number of work group positions. Board chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) said the new process would allow for many more participants over the life cycle of the TEKS review.

Work products would be updated to the TEA website after each work group cycle. Staff said this will result in more documents made available to the public, which will provide more opportunities to track the process and offer feedback. Staff suggested moving the public hearings to the discussion and first reading meetings, which would be earlier in the process, in the hopes of encouraging public feedback sooner and reducing the amount of amendments later in the process. Content advisors would review public comments during the 30-day public comment period and present recommendations to the board. The goal is to eliminate meetings that stretch late into the night, resulting in members feeling rushed to vote on language they may not have fully digested.

The board indicated that in the event a board member misses a deadline to approve or reject work group applicants from his or her district, the staff may draw upon applicants as though they’ve been approved. The board also indicated it is favorable to continuing to pay content advisors a $2,000 stipend and reimburse them for travel.

“This is a big deal. This is a big change,” Bahorich said, recognizing staff for their work in compiling framework for the new process. The board approved the changes at the end of Wednesday’s meeting.

The board also discussed the TEKS review schedule. Because of the large number of career and technical education (CTE) courses, staff recommended the board consider CTE on its own cycle, taking up one to three career clusters at a time. Since instructional materials for social studies are not currently in danger of aging out, staff recommended the board simply streamline the social studies TEKS beginning in the fall and postpone a full revision to 2023. This would enable the board to tackle a more pressing need to revise the science TEKS.

After breaking for lunch, the board reviewed development of TEKS for new high school courses. Development has been completed for courses on personal financial literacy, CTE personal financial literacy, computer programming languages, applied Algebra II, non-AP statistics, financial accounting, DC circuits and digital fundamentals.

The board recommended expediting the development of TEKS for courses on interaction with law enforcement and cybersecurity, which were mandated by legislation passed by the 85th Texas Legislature. Staff estimated both could be completed in 2018. The board approved a priority list of pending courses scheduled for development, including non-AP calculus and Mexican-American studies scheduled for 2019, and comparative literature and world geography/world history for 2020. The board had initially expressed uncertainty over whether to develop TEKS for a course on Mexican-American studies, which is one of several currently approved innovative courses. Innovative courses can be offered by districts without the need for new TEKS. There must be TEKS before textbooks are solicited through the proclamation process, since new textbooks are judged against the TEKS for each specific course.

Finally, the board elected members Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo), Tom Maynard (R-Florence), and Georgina Cecilia Perez (D-El Paso) to join member Cargill and chair Bahorich on the Long-Range Plan Steering Committee. The first meeting of the steering committee will be immediately prior to the board’s September meeting. Subsequent meetings will go into “deep dives” on education issues. The committee will draft priorities, then draft strategies for those priorities. The committee will then compile a full report which will be submitted to the board.

The 18-member committee will also include one appointee each from TEA, THECB, and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), and ten members of the public. Shortly after Friday’s SBOE meeting, TEA will post a Long-Range Plan Steering Committee application similar to those used for TEKS work groups, which will be active through July. Board members not on the committee will each nominate three people from the applicant pool to serve on the committee. Of those 30, the five SBOE members on the committee will choose the final ten nominees to join them on the committee, as well as alternates.

SBOE begins June meeting with A-F update

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met Tuesday for its June session, during which the 15 members will continue work on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) and Spanish Language Arts and Reading (SLAR) and English as a Second Language (ESL). The board is also scheduled to discuss changes to the TEKS review schedule and appoint members to a Long-Range Plan Steering Committee.

The State Board of Education hears from education commissioner Mike Morath at the board's June 2017 meeting.

The State Board of Education hears from education commissioner Mike Morath at the board’s June 2017 meeting.

Tuesday began with an update from Texas Education Agency (TEA) commissioner Mike Morath, who reported the spring testing cycle was completed with satisfactory results. After encountering issues with scoring and test delivery in 2016, Morath stated, “All the problems with last year were resolved.”

A result of testing this year and a one-year effort to redesign the Confidential Student Report (CSR) is the new STAAR report card. The new report card goes beyond numerical results to include more information, context and terms that are easier to understand. More information on the new STAAR report card can be found on the TEA website.

The commissioner also provided a brief summary of changes to the “A through F” accountability system passed during the regular session of the 85th Texas Legislature as part of House Bill (HB) 22. The legislature compressed the system to three domains: Student achievement, school progress and closing the gaps.

The student achievement domain will primarily rely on test data to calculate student performance. Under the school progress domain, the same test data will be used to determine how much students gain year over year and how schools compare to other schools with similar levels of poverty. The closing the gaps domain will focus on identifying whether certain student groups are struggling, relative to the campus. The student achievement and school progress domains will be combined for a single “best of” score, which will be weighted against the closing the gaps domain to calculate the overall or “summative” score.

The agency will focus on outreach to stakeholders through December, and the first district-level ratings under the new system will be issued in August 2018. At that time, campus-level ratings will still be either “met standard” or “improvement required.” All campuses are scheduled to receive a “what if” report using the A through F system on January 1, 2019. Official campus-level A through F ratings will be issued in August 2019, at which time a local accountability plan framework will also be rolled out.

Districts using a local accountability plan must continue to use the three state domains, but may add as many additional domains as they like and come up with an independent formula for calculating a summative score. Only schools that have not scored a “D” or an “F” will be able to participate, and local accountability plans will be vetted through a “peer-review” process.

Under HB 22, attendance rates have been removed from the accountability system, fixing problem identifying by many elementary and middle schools. A task force has been commissioned to look at incorporating extracurricular activities, which is expected to be a five-year process.

Member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) asked about the effects of Senate Bill (SB) 1784, which promotes the use of “open-source instructional materials.” These materials are currently licensed through the state procurement process, which already includes accessibility requirements. Morath said the agency plans to make the process more similar to the proclamation process used by the SBOE for textbook vendors.

The board received an update from TEA staff on other bills passed during the legislative session. The agency is currently tasked with implementing 145 pieces of legislation passed by lawmakers of the 85th Texas Legislature.

The board proposed eight legislative recommendations, of which five were successfully carried out. Lawmakers expanded SBOE authority over approving instructional materials to consider suitability for subject and grade level, with an additional requirement that it be reviewed by academic experts. Member David Bradley (R-Beaumont) noted that the legislature provided no guidance regarding the definition of “suitability” and “expert,” though staff pointed out that a definition of expert already exists in agency rule.

The legislature did not allocate any funds for the long-range plan, nor did it appropriate money to increase TEA staffing in the curriculum division, which oversees and supports TEKS review and implementation. The legislature did approve a $5 million rider for data privacy and other items, as well as a $25 million rider to allow districts to access federal matching funds for the E-Rate Infrastructure Program.

Lawmakers passed SB 160, which prohibits the agency from adopting or implementing a performance indicator in any agency monitoring system that solely measure the number or percentage of students who receive special education services. This legislation was passed as a result of an investigative series by the Houston Chronicle that uncovered a de facto cap on special education enrollment.

Finally, the board recommended lawmakers conserve public free schools and prohibit public dollars from going to private schools or parents/guardians. Despite attempts by the Texas Senate to pass a voucher bill, the Texas House stood strong and prevented the passage of any private school voucher legislation. However, Gov. Greg Abbott has announced he will include vouchers on the call for a July special session. Noting that voucher proponents had focused on special needs vouchers during the regular session, Member Marty Rowley (R-Amarillo) asked what a special needs voucher would look like. Staff indicated the governor specifically mentioned HB 1335 by state Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton).

The board spent the latter half of Tuesday resuming their work on ELAR/SLAR and ELL high school TEKS. On Wednesday, the board is scheduled to discuss the broader TEKS review schedule.

SBOE quietly approves science TEKS

State Board of Education meeting April 21, 2017.

State Board of Education meeting April 21, 2017.

The State Board of Education (SBOE) met this morning for a final vote on proposed changes to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for science. The biology portion in particular has been the focus of debate over the discussion of evolution. Board members began the week seeking compromise language that would satisfy scientists as well as those wishing to allow for some discussion of creationism.

The board voted down an amendment Friday by member Marisa Perez-Diaz (D-San Antonio) that would have instructed teachers to “compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, including scientific explanations for their complexity.” The board then adopted an amendment by member Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) instructing teachers “to compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, and compare and contrast scientific explanations for cellular complexity.” Member Barbara Cargill (R-The Woodlands) assured the board that the compromise language still encourages criticism of the theory of evolution.

The board also modified its decision from earlier this week regarding the implementation of the science TEKS, voting Friday to order implementation by the 2017-2018 school year, and delaying the effective date to August 27, 2018.

Next, the board passed on making changes to the math TEKS, and proceeded to discussion of English and Spanish Language Arts and Reading (ELAR/SLAR) and English as a Second Language (ESL) TEKS for elementary and middle school. The board decided to postpone consideration on second reading and final adoption to a special meeting to be called by the chair. Chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) explained staff ran short of time due to the simultaneous large-scale TEKS reviews underway, and suggested the minimum eight-member quorum could meet at 8:00 a.m. on May 10 to consider technical clean-ups. Members adopted the ELAR/SLAR and ESL TEKS for high school on first reading, then approved the Proclamation 2019 bid for instructional materials before adjourning. The delay will not affect the proclamation schedule.