Deep Dive Into Free TX-Developed Textbooks

Child walking with backpack
Child walking with backpack | Image by New Africa/Shutterstock

A closer look at Texas’ newly developed curriculum reveals a focus on evidence-based practices and strong foundations.

As reported by The Dallas Express, last week, the Texas Education Agency revealed two Open Education Resources (OER) textbooks, which were created and owned by the state. Covering K-5 reading and language arts and K-8 algebra, they will be reviewed by the State Board of Education and the public before being officially approved.

The textbooks will go through a new streamlined review process outlined by HB 1605, which Texas lawmakers enacted last year.

In an interview with The Texan, Education Commissioner Mike Morath said instructional materials for K-5 Spanish language and K-3 phonics will also be revealed and reviewed this year.

This is the first batch in a three-year rollout of quality instructional materials that will be available for free public use inside and outside the classroom.

“That’s why we have public education in the first place … to equip people for the American dream,” Morath said.

Education stakeholders, such as the nonprofit Texans for Excellence in Education (TEE), have applauded the initiative and its potential impact on the quality of teaching and the budgets of public school districts that adopt free instructional materials.

“At a time when every penny in our school budgets matters, the availability of a free option that was crafted under the watchful eye of experienced educators and parents is a welcome development,” said John Petree, TEE president, in a press release. “Trustees would be remiss not to consider this option and what they could do with the potential savings and additional funding it offers.”

“We are extremely hopeful that this new state-owned curriculum will transform education in our state,” he added.

The new OER materials are designed to improve student academic outcomes by focusing on the fundamentals. For instance, Morath stressed how literacy is acquired best through phonics, not whole-word learning.

“[P]honics has to happen,” he said. “That’s how kids become proficient readers. And so we want to make sure that Texas schools have access to rigorous phonics instruction in the earliest grades that is aligned with our state standards, which requires phonics.”

OER instructional materials will center on relevant, grade-level-appropriate subjects, ranging from the Aztecs to the Book of Genesis and the Civil Rights Movement to Juneteenth.

“Kids should be able to see themselves in heroes that they read about; they should be able to see themselves in literature, but there’s a variety of ways to do that, including being exposed to the classics,” Morath said, per The Texan.

By building solid foundations, learners can progress rapidly, while an embedded learning approach can help give them the tools needed to succeed at higher grade levels.

“If you read Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Morrison in high school, do you get the references? And you won’t get the references unless you have some background knowledge about the things that they studied. These are the sort of cultural traditions of America, of the Western canon,” Morath said.

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