AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Senate this week passed legislation that would provide standardized instructional materials from the Texas Education Agency to classroom teachers, citing lagging student proficiency and burnout among teachers.
“It’s a landmark bill. It will be a cornerstone of our education reforms for this session,” the bill’s author Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said. “We have many classrooms across Texas that are relying on outdated methods for, let’s say, teaching reading and literacy. We’re going to make sure that the state provides high-quality instruction materials for our teachers.”
SB 2565 directs the Texas Education Agency to provide “open educational resources” that the State Board of Education approved for kindergarten through eighth grade to all school districts. However, districts can choose whether they want to use them.
The bill also establishes a revised process to review the quality of the materials and opens a portal for parents to review them.
The TEA and SBOE will be “working together to make sure that these instructional materials follow the [Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills] and also have the rigor needed to make sure students can go on to the next grade,” Sen. Creighton said.
The senator also asserted the new resources would save teachers seven to nine hours a week, time they would otherwise spend planning lessons off-the-clock. He said that additional burden contributes to Texas’ teacher shortage.
Amber Shields was one of the first to pilot the “high-quality instructional materials” as a principal in Dallas ISD. She’s now advocating for those materials to be available statewide as as the Director of Early Matters Dallas at The Commit Partnership.
“In participating in this, I saw an immediate positive impact for not only our students, but for our teachers as well,” she said. “As the teachers began to dive into the curriculum, they honestly shared how they thought it made them better teachers, and they were better able to differentiate for their students that were sitting in their classroom because they were spending less time sourcing materials.”
Not all educators are on board, however. The Association of Professional Educators sees the state curriculum as “pre-packaged,” “off-the-shelf” lessons that do not cater to students’ individual needs.
“Educators want freedom to teach, not freedom from teaching,” senior lobbyist for ATPE Mark Wiggins said. “Teachers got into this to teach and they’ve been trained extensively to be able to develop lessons that will reach their unique set of students. And the feedback that we’ve gotten from our members has been don’t take that away.”
A similar bill by State Rep. Brad Buckley, a Killeen Republican and chair of the Public Education Committee, seeks to establish the same standards for state curriculum. HB 1605 is set for debate in front of the full House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 2.