The Debate Over Common Core in Texas

[Credit: Nicolas Henderson, flickr]
[Credit: Nicolas Henderson, flickr]
Although the state of Texas has chosen not to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as the state’s K-12 English language arts and math standards, Texas school boards are, nevertheless, facing an ongoing struggle over the CCSS.

In 2013, the Texas legislature passed a law, Texas Education Code §28.002(b) which prohibits:

(1)   The State Board of Education from adopting the CCSS as the “essential knowledge and skills” for the State of Texas;

(2)   School districts from teaching the CCSS as the essential knowledge and skills for any foundation or enrichment course; and

(3)   School districts/charter schools from being required to teach the CCSS (as, for example, a condition of accepting federal or grant funding).

“Common Core” resources are seeping into Texas classrooms, and some people allege that districts are breaking the law if their teachers use CCSS-aligned materials.  When asked whether it is illegal for Texas educators to use instructional materials aligned to the CCSS, the Texas Attorney General decided that as long as a resource aligns to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) it is permissible for Texas school districts to use it, even if the material also aligns to the CCSS. Therefore, a district is not necessarily breaking the law just because its teachers are using materials that claim to be aligned to the CCSS.

[Source: cc pixabay- geralt]
[Source: cc pixabay- geralt]
Why are Texas teachers using CCSS-aligned materials?  Publishers of K-12 instructional materials develop products to appeal to their largest potential market. In the past, California and Texas were the two largest potential markets for K-12 materials. However, the widespread adoption of the CCSS changed that calculation. Because more than 40 states have adopted the CCSS, the number of potential customers for CCSS-aligned materials far exceeds the number of districts that need TEKS-aligned materials. Therefore, many more publishers develop materials that address the CCSS than materials that address only the TEKS.

CCSS-aligned materials may, however, also be aligned to other states’ standards, including the TEKS. The materials may address each state’s standards to a different degree and in different locations within the product. Therefore, to ensure that they are not violating the law against teaching the CCSS, it is critical that Texas educators ensure that the materials they use are aligned to the TEKS.

How do districts accomplish this?

(1)   Purchase state-adopted materials. The state has a rigorous process for validating that materials submitted for state adoption are aligned to TEKS. However, for a variety of reasons, many publishers choose not to submit their materials for state adoption. Texas law allows districts to purchase non-state-adopted materials and many choose to do that because non-adopted materials may meet their students’ needs better or may be less expensive than state-adopted materials.

(2)   Districts can rely on the publisher’s alignment report to ensure that the products they use align to the TEKS. However, many educators evaluate alignment differently from publishers.

(3)   Districts can require their teachers to verify the alignment of the materials the district is using. It takes between 8 and 10 hours to verify the TEKS alignment for one product in one grade level; 104 to 130 hours to do the same for one product that spans grades K-12.

(4)   A low-cost, time-saving alternative is to subscribe to Learning List. Learning List features a detailed, independent TEKS alignment report for each state-adopted and non-adopted instructional material. Subscribing districts may access any completed alignment report and may request that Learning List develop a TEKS alignment report for the materials (in the four core subjects) that their district already uses. In this way, Learning List gives districts peace of mind that the materials their teachers are using are aligned to the TEKS and thus, that the district is in compliance with the law.

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