Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Texas Textbooks And Other Unsolved Mysteries

Image Credit: TeamCOCO

The single most important thing to remember when you see Texas making the late night monologue circuit for it's textbooks, is that each school district and open-enrollment charter school sets its own policy for selecting instructional materials for their students. Nobody forces them to choose the ones that TEA's Commissioner adopts through the State Board's adoption process. [Although, for courses in the required curriculum, it does make a big difference to school districts if a book is on the list.]

So why does Texas have the process? Partly, so the state can help the schools know how well some textbooks are aligned to the state's curriculum standards. Partly, so they can give "experts" the chance to review some textbooks for errors and then give the publishes a chance to correct them before students get them. And perhaps, as a state, we just love the negative publicity it seems to bring.

Most recently, you've probably heard about a book Mexican American Heritage.

While none of this takes away from the egregiousness that is this book, I offer this as is a little bit of additional background on this process as it applies to this particular book:

  • "The commissioner of education recommends that the instructional materials be placed on the adopted or rejected list, based on the percentage of TEKS covered. To be eligible for adoption, instructional materials must meet at least 50% of the TEKS and 100% of the ELPS in both the student version and teacher version of the instructional materials."A Brief Overview of the Adoption Process
    • This means that being on the commissioner's list of adopted books (which is based on the SBOE's process that the commissioner recommends) does not mean the book is "awesome" or "not at all racist" or even that it is "demonstrating basic standards of human decency" -  it simply means that the book addresses 50% of the state standards for the course it is written for and 100% of the English Language Proficiency Standards.
    • The course this book was written for is the one-half credit Special Topics in Social Studies course. Which doesn't actually have that many standards (compared to other foundation courses) to address. So the bar is pretty low.
  • Just because it is adopted, doesn't mean schools have to use it.
    • Schools can use whatever textbook or open-source materials (etc.) they want to use for this course (GOSH!) as long as the materials address the TEKS (the state standards).
    • [But maybe some schools blindly buy materials from the commissioner's list because they don't know what is going on? In which case, oh em gee, we have bigger problems here, guys]
  • For what it is worth, not many kids actually take this course.
    • This isn't a required course. It would be an academic elective. In Social Studies. So. There is that.
    • David Bradley R-Beaumont thinks a course about Mexican Americans is discriminatory. (!) He wants to know, where is the course for Irish and French Americans? Schools are actually welcome to teach such a course using the same special topics course. Students in such a course could "examine the role of diverse communities (such as French-Irish men!) in the context of the selected topic." 
    • If a school did offer Mr. Bradley's course, they would obviously not use Ms. Dunbar's "textbook." (see what I did there?) But my other point is, the standards (the TEKS) for this course are that broad.
I know that background information doesn't make this book less shocking. But if you divorce the somewhat-icky book from the bureaucratic process, it might, oh I don't know?, help make next week's State Board of Education Meeting and it's outcome easier to stomach? That said, have you guys seen some of the quotes in the book? God bless Texas, you guys. Because it sure seems Texas needs it.

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