Who Decides What Curriculum Gets Taught in Texas at the Local Level?
“Who Decides What Curriculum Gets Taught in Texas at the Local Level?”
By Donna Garner
“Under SB 6, who decides what curriculum gets taught at the local level in Texas?” Answer: At the local district level, it is NOT the Texas State Board of Education but is the locals themselves who decide. This means Texas parents are going to have to be vigilant to hold their local school authorities accountable.
Yesterday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued Opinion No. KP-0043 which basically covers SB 6, passed by the Texas Legislature in June 2011. SB 6 is the piece of legislation that among other things gives local school districts the ability to choose to purchase instructional materials (curriculum using taxpayers’ dollars) that may or may not have passed through the arduous public hearing process utilized by the Texas State Board of Education.
Here is the link to the TAG’s opinion issued on 12.4.15 — (RQ-0026-KP) — https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/opinions/opinions/51paxton/op/2015/kp0043.pdf
LOCAL DISTRICT’S RESPONSIBILITY
Basically the TAG’s opinion says that it is the local district’s responsibility to choose instructional materials that meet the requirements of SB 6 and that the SBOE has no oversight nor enforcement authority over those decisions.
The TAG’s opinion goes on to say, “Had the Legislature intended that school districts be required to provide documentation or evidence alongside the certification, it could have required them to do so.” This means that it is the Texas Legislature’s fault for not implementing enforcement mechanisms into SB 6. Who has the authority to make sure that the locals provide certifiable documentation?
To make this clear, SB 6 states that the local district (i.e., superintendents, curriculum directors, educators) is obligated to make sure that their students are prepared to do well on the STAAR-End-of-Course tests (i.e., assessment instruments) by having been taught sufficiently well all of the TEKS for each grade level/course level.
It is for this reason that the TEKS (curriculum standards for Texas adopted by the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education after public hearings and testimonies) are so very important; they form the foundation for the instructional materials that are chosen and paid for with our tax dollars.
After adopting the TEKS, then by law the elected members of the SBOE went through the adoption process for instructional materials to produce a final list of those IM’s that have met a large percentage of the TEKS requirements.
Before SB 6 was passed, local school districts had to choose IM’s from the SBOE-approved list. Once SB 6 was put into the law in 2011, local districts were allowed to purchase IM’s either on the SBOE list or not on the SBOE list.
TEKS ALSO FORM BASIS FOR STAAR/EOC’S
The TEKS also form the basis for what is on the STAAR/EOC tests. According to SB 6, the local district must certify that the instructional materials they choose are in close alignment with the STAAR/EOC’s.
Our current TEKS largely follow the Type #1 philosophy of education (traditional, fact-based, academic, explicit for each grade level/course, and measurable mostly through objective questions with right-or-wrong answers), and the STAAR/EOC’s built upon those Type #1 TEKS are also largely Type #1.
[Recently Randy Houchins and other parents have presented evidence that the Introduction sections in the Math TEKS do not follow the Type #1 philosophy of education and instead are Type #2 “process standards,” leading to those same Type #2 questions being placed on the STAAR/EOC tests. Because it is not lawful for the SBOE to prescribe methodology, then “process standards” should never have made their way into the Math TEKS. (The SBOE is given the authority under the TEC to prescribe WHAT content needs to be taught but not HOW to teach it.) The SBOE is investigating the “process standards” in the Math TEKS right now and is making this issue an agenda item in upcoming meetings.]
WHAT TEXAS LEGISLATURE NEEDS TO DO
The problem with SB 6 (and the one that needs to be addressed by the next Legislative Session) is that there is no oversight nor enforcement mechanism (and no consequences) that hold the local district accountable for certifying that the curriculum chosen (using our taxpayers’ dollars) aligns closely with the Type #1 TEKS so that students will be prepared for the Type #1 STAAR/EOC’s.
Case in point: the millions of dollars wasted by local districts that purchased Type #2 CSCOPE (a.k.a., Common Core in Texas) which led to widespread lack of academic success by students on the STAAR/EOC’s – So far as I know, no personnel at the Education Service Centers were ever penalized nor punished for developing CSCOPE and for selling it to the local districts, and no local districts nor local district personnel were ever penalized nor punished for their choice to purchase CSCOPE.
Another case in point: State Auditor John Keel issued an audit report on 6.10.14 that showed serious accounting discrepancies at the Education Service Centers that developed CSCOPE. They had received $73.9 Million in revenue from the sale of CSCOPE services to school districts, charter schools, private schools from Sept. 2005 through Aug. 2013 but could not account for large amounts of these taxpayers’ dollars. To my knowledge, no one at these ESC’s was ever held accountable, penalized, nor punished for these monetary discrepancies. The Texas Legislature owes it to us citizens to establish enforcement mechanisms into SB 6.
For more details, please read: “CSCOPE Audit Done…Grassroots Vindicated” – by Donna Garner – EdViews.org — http://www.educationviews.org/cscope-audit-done-grassroots-vindicated/
THE ALIGNMENT AND CERTIFICATION LANGUAGE IN SB 6
Here are just several places in SB 6 that stress the TEKS/STAAR/EOC alignment issue, but this requirement is mentioned in numerous places in SB 6:
Sec. 31.004. CERTIFICATION OF PROVISION OF [TEXTBOOKS, ELECTRONIC TEXTBOOKS, AND] INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS. (a) Each school district and open-enrollment charter school shall annually certify to the State Board of Education and the commissioner that, for each subject in the required curriculum under Section 28.002, other than physical education, and each grade level, the district provides each student with [textbooks, electronic textbooks, or] instructional materials that cover all elements of the essential knowledge and skills adopted by the State Board of Education for that subject and grade level.
(d-1) Notwithstanding Subsection (d), for the state fiscal biennium beginning September 1, 2011, a school district shall use an allotment received under this section to purchase instructional materials that will assist the district in satisfying performance standards under Section 39.0241, as added by Chapter 895 (H.B. 3), Acts of the 81st Legislature, Regular Session, 2009, on assessment instruments adopted under Sections 39.023(a) and (c).
WHAT ACTION TAKEN BY THE SBOE LED TO THE TAG’S 12.4.15 OPINION
The following Resolution passed by the SBOE on July 2015 was sent to the TAG for his opinion:
RESOLVED, That the State Board of Education does hereby encourage local school boards and administrators to adopt policies, procedures and practices which guarantee transparency and public access by:
- Providing public notice to parents of instructional materials under consideration certifying 100% TEKS coverage.
- Providing access to parents who wish to review materials prior to being chosen, and to the extent possible, doing so through an avenue which gives interested parties access (including online if available) during a comment period.
- Providing at least one public meeting that allows for public comment before materials used to certify 100% TEKS coverage are adopted by the board.
To: Donna Bahorich, Chair of the State Board of Education
Summary of TAG Opinion from Von Byer:
The AG opinion concluded that since all powers not expressly conferred by statute to the TEA or Board are reserved to districts and charters, the SBOE cannot exercise authority over the local textbook adoption process. To that end, the SBOE does NOT have the authority to require school districts and charters to: 1) adopt a public input and participation process; 2) adopt procedures ensuring prior local approval of changes in content made by publishers to instructional materials not purchased from the SBOE-approved list (though a district could adopt its own policy or contract term); 3) specify which TEKS are covered by locally adopted instructional materials and identify passages that cover the specific TEKS element; 4) develop conflicts of interest policies and require public schools and publishers to keep contact registers; or 5) only adopt instructional materials with end of section review exercises. The legislature has not delegated specific authority to the SBOE to ensure district compliance with subsection 28.002(h). The Attorney General did conclude that the SBOE has authority to impose an administrative penalty against a publisher based on a factual error identified by a school district, and that section 28.002(h) of the Education Code requires a school district to offer instruction in U.S. and Texas history and the free enterprise system and adopt instructional materials accordingly.