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Texas Education Agency releases first open education resource materials as part of HB 1605 implementation

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Date Posted: 6/04/2024 | Author: Tricia Cave

The Texas Education Agency released its first open education resource (OER) materials May 29 as part of an ongoing effort to implement legislative requirements from the 88th legislative session. Currently, only ELA K-5, mathematics K-12, and Spanish Language Arts and Reading K-5 are available to the public. The materials, which have been piloted in select districts throughout the state, are now available for public comment.  

KXAN News Austin interviewed TEA Commissioner Mike Morath on the OER materials release and also reached out to ATPE Governmental Relations Director Monty Exter and Lobbyist Tricia Cave for comment. You can watch that piece from the program “State of Texas” here;  scroll down to the headline “Texas releases new, state-owned textbooks aimed to improve student outcomes.” 

House Bill (HB) 1605 by Chairman Brad Buckley (R–Salado) has been advertised as addressing some of the issues brought to light by the Teacher Vacancy Task Force in 2023, namely that teachers were being given more tasks than they could possibly achieve in the available time, as well as Morath’s frequently cited, though likely inaccurate, statistic that only 17% of resources in Texas classrooms are on grade level. While freeing up more time for overburdened teachers and better aligning resources to grade level standards is an admirable goal, the devil, as is often the case, is in the details.  According to its backers, the premise of the bill was that by providing a preplanned, canned curriculum to educators, the state could do both. Many classroom educators seem less convinced that the bill truly address their primary concerns.  

ATPE expressed our members' concerns with HB 1605 in the House Public Education Committee last year. Specifically, our concerns centered on the idea that teachers’ ability to creatively address the needs of their individual students would be sacrificed in favor of standardization and to cut down on hours spent planning and preparing lessons. Although new teachers might welcome state-provided materials, particularly if they feel they are not being adequately mentored or working with an experienced team, seasoned teachers often have developed a bank of lessons that they have tested and found to work well with the students in their local communities. They also have developed the ability to think quickly on their feet and develop or adapt lessons tailored specifically to the interests and unique needs of students in their classroom. They have the ability to stop a lesson to answer questions or modify it to follow in the direction of student-led inquiry. This is something that typically cannot be done while strictly complying with a one-size-fits-all canned curriculum.  

Despite the input from ATPE and other educator groups, HB 1605 passed last spring, largely without any amendments that were responsive to our concerns. Since then, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has begun an Instructional Materials Review and Approval (IMRA) process in order to implement the bill. That process is still ongoing. Meanwhile, at the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC), pedagogy standards are currently under review, with TEA staff claiming that “lesson design” is no longer needed in the standards because of HB 1605 and recommending it be replaced with “lesson internalization.” You can read more about this debate in our recap of the last SBEC meeting here. This TEA assertion was met with resistance from SBEC, but it raises questions about the bill’s original intent and its interpretation by those in charge of its implementation.  

Moving forward, it is likely that districts, already cash strapped due to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) withholding any inflationary funding adjustments in his aggressive ongoing push for vouchers, will adopt the OER materials in order to receive the funding attached to doing so. Along with funding, the bill promises a reprieve for educators concerned about parent criticism of their lessons, stating that any educator who uses this material with fidelity cannot face disciplinary action for complaints related to teaching “widely debated” or “currently controversial” issues of public policy. Ironically, the same Legislature that created this provision in order to address the issue of parent/educator tension was responsible for creating much of that tension through statements and debates in the 87th and 88th legislative sessions about controversial content in the classroom and continuously stoking fears that teachers are attempting to “indoctrinate” students.  

If the State of Texas truly does want to address the issue of overly burdensome teacher workloads, there are many ways this can be done. Forcing a canned curriculum on teachers, even one that is meant to be “optional,” is not the solution. Less time spent on compliance reporting, extra pay for duties such as curriculum planning, and encouraging increased collaboration and mentorship between educators are a few ways this issue can be addressed. Most educators accept that lesson planning and curriculum development or adaption is a critical part of their jobs and embrace the ability to be fun and creative in designing engaging lessons for their students. Taking away the responsibility to prepare engaging lessons is not what teachers mean when they say they need more time. Trusting teachers to actually teach is critical if we intend to hold on to the experienced educators we have. By taking this freedom from them, this bill could potentially worsen the teacher shortage it purports to address. If we want to fix the teacher pipeline, help new teachers, and retain the experienced teachers we have, we must learn to listen to them and value their expertise.  


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