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New Pre-K-8 education instructional materials available for public review

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(The Center Square) – New Pre-K to 8th grade instructional materials are available for public review after a new law went into effect directing the Texas Education Agency to purchase and develop instructional materials to “bring students back to the basics of education.”

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday said the new materials will “provide the necessary fundamentals in math, reading, science, and other core subjects” and “allow our students to better understand the connection of history, art, community, literature, and religion on pivotal events like the signing of the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights Movement, and the American Revolution.”

Last year, the Texas Legislature passed HB 1605, filed by state Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, which requires the TEA to provide Open Education Resources (OER) textbooks for core subjects, including reading and math for Pre-K to 8th grade. It also directed the TEA to appoint an advisory board to ensure the materials are high quality and compliant with the law and other requirements, and align with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

The new Texas OER textbooks and instructional materials are available for free online.

They will go through the same review process at the Texas State Board of Education, the governor’s office explained. Once approved, beginning next year, school districts will receive additional state funding if they buy SBOE-approved materials. Once approved by SBOE, districts that use OER materials may receive additional funding to defray printing costs, the governor’s office said.

The OER textbooks are optional, TEA says, but “will help schools improve student learning, close achievement gaps and better support Texas teachers, both in mathematics and elementary literacy.”

The Texas OER textbooks are divided in two categories: K-5 Reading & Language Arts (RLA) and K-8 Algebra Mathematics.

The RLA materials cover the English Reading and Language Arts TEKS, which “weave together elements of the science of reading with a cross-curricular knowledge building approach consistent with a classical education model that is focused on the fundamentals,” TEA says. “OER RLA immerses students in classic literature along with reading lessons about art, history, culture, science, and technology,” featuring “strong representation from the diverse people, places and history of Texas.”

The Algebra Mathematics track includes a “comprehensive and clearly sequenced suite of materials that provide teachers with the knowledge and tools outlined in the Math TEKS” that are “built on basic scientific insights about how people learn math, grown out of cognitive and developmental sciences.”

TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said the new OER textbooks “represent a significant step forward in our state’s commitment to providing exceptional instructional materials for Texas students and teachers.” He also encouraged “additional feedback to make the materials even better this year” now that the public review process has begun.

Members of the public will also be able to review and offer comments through the SBOE’s review process as well.

The OER materials are “useful tools for teachers who are looking for on-grade-level, rigorous and relevant instructional materials where students see their experiences represented in the curriculum,” TEA says. The materials are flexible and adaptable, allowing teachers to customize instruction to apply to specific needs of students.

The materials also recognize “the vital role of parents in their child’s education,” TEA says. Each unit in OER textbooks includes a family letter that teachers can send to parents, which outlines what students are learning.

According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2022, 38% of Texas 4th grade students were at or above proficient in math and 30% at or above proficient in reading. In the same year, 8th graders were 24% at or above proficient in math and 23% at or above proficient in reading.

In comparison to other states, Texas ranked in the middle for average 8th grade math scores and 15th for average 4th grade math scores; also ranking in the bottom third for 4th and 8th grade average reading scores in 2022, according to the data.