May Texas School Districts Use Instructional Materials Aligned to the Common Core Standards?

tx_flag1600_01Today, the Texas Attorney General issued the much-anticipated opinion GA 1067, addressing “Use of the Common Core State Standards Initiative by Texas school districts to teach state standards.” We were among the sources asked whether the AG’s opinion prohibits Texas school districts from purchasing instructional materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Austin American-Statesman has a brief article about the AG’s decision here.

The Question: In December 2013, Senator Dan Patrick, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, asked the Attorney General whether school districts using the Common Core State Standards Initiative (“Common Core Standards”) in any way to teach state standards violate the law [Texas Education Code (TEC) §28.002 (b)(1) – (b)(4)]?” During the 2013 legislative session, Senator Patrick was the senate sponsor of HB 462 which enacted those provisions into law.  Though not asked explicitly, the import of Senator Patrick’s question was whether TEC 28.002 (b)(1)-(b)(4) prohibits Texas districts from using instructional materials that cover the Common Core  Standards.

Current Law:  To understand the meaning of  TEC 28.002(b)(1)-(4), it is important to understand how those provisions fit in with other laws governing the purchase and use of instructional materials by Texas school districts.

  • TEC §31.004 requires Texas school districts to annually certify to the commissioner of education and State Board of Education that they are providing each student with instructional materials that cover 100 percent of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for each grade and subject in the required curriculum (except Physical Education).
  • The TEKS are the curriculum standards adopted by the State Board of Education with the goal of preparing Texas students to be ready for college and/or a career when they graduate from high school.
  • State law further requires Texas districts to use their state instructional materials allotment first to purchase instructional materials that cover all of the TEKS (TEC §31.0211(d)). Thus, Texas school districts must use and purchase instructional materials aligned to the TEKS.

The AG’ Opinion: In the last paragraph of the opinion, the Attorney General states that Texas school districts may not use the Common Core Standards to fulfill their legal obligation to teach the TEKS:

The stated intent of the bill [HB 462] was to prohibit the ‘outright adoption of national common core standards’. Accordingly, school districts must not use the Common Core Standards to comply with the requirement to provide instruction in ‘the essential knowledge and skills at appropriate grade levels.’

As to whether Texas districts may use instructional materials that cover the Common Core Standards, the AG states, “The Legislature was aware of the frequent overlap between the TEKS and the Common Core Standards, as evidenced by the bill author’s explanation that it was not his intent ‘to prevent the use of materials where the two standards may overlap.’”

The Answer: Thus, Texas school districts must teach the TEKS and use instructional materials that cover the TEKS. But, according to GA-1067, Texas school districts are not prohibited from using instructional materials that, due to the inherent overlap between different sets of curriculum standards, also cover the Common Core State Standard.

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