SBOE Discusses Clarifying Regulations on School Materials

Colin Dempsey
Colin Dempsey, director of District Operations, Technology, and Sustainability Support for the Texas Education Agency, speaks to the Texas State Board of Education | Image by Texas State Board of Education

The Texas State Board of Education convened in Austin Tuesday to kick off the week’s meetings.

Colin Dempsey, director of District Operations, Technology, and Sustainability Support for the Texas Education Agency (TEA), spoke to the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) about the state review and approval of instructional materials in public school classrooms.

The SBOE is currently permitted to establish rules for the adoption, distribution, use, and disposal of instructional materials, per Texas Education Code (TEC) Chapter 31.

At the January-February SBOE meetings, the board expressed the desire to clarify further the rules related to the list of approved instructional materials.

Dempsey provided updates to the drafting of the rules, clarifying the conditions under which the SBOE could remove instructional materials from the list of approved and rejected materials. The new section would also outline the timeline for these decisions and their impact on the school district.

Board members responded to Dempsey’s presentation with strong remarks.

“There’s a group of parents, of citizens, that feel like they’re shouting at the sky because they see things and feel like they aren’t being listened to,” stated board member Tom Maynard (R-Florence), speaking on behalf of parents who feel as if they have no say in the instructional materials their children can encounter at school.

The newly proposed section would allow parents to request a review of instructional materials at their child’s school to see if they meet the requirements for district materials.

While an emphasis was placed on the review of materials, board members posed the question of consequences for school districts and publishers that violate TEA’s instructional material requirements.

“A lot of the problem with a lot of our laws is that there’s no consequence to them,” said board member Pam Little (R-Fairview).

“I want a system that works, and I want a fair system,” echoed board member Julie Pickren (R-Pearland). She said her frustrations are at an “all-time high” as schools in her district present instructional materials that go completely against what has been previously approved.

“When a superintendent recommends to their board instructional materials that are illegal, surely there is some consequence for that,” said Pickren.

Dempsey further explained the instructional materials review and approval process (IMRA), presenting an updated version of the process from SBOE meetings earlier this year.

Per the TEC, SBOE must identify the essential knowledge and skills of each subject in the required curriculum that students should be able to demonstrate, which will then be used in evaluating instructional materials.

Once the TEA receives that information, it will run those ideologies through the IMRA process and procedures, reviewing outputs in a quality rubric score that details if instructional materials will provide quality educational value in a classroom.

Board members called for even further clarity on regulations surrounding IMRA and the implementation of instructional materials in the classroom. Dempsey plans to return in front of the SBOE in June with a first reading of the updated statement.

The board also discussed English language proficiency standards, as workgroups have been rewriting them to be more streamlined across grades and subject matters. The document is also expected to be presented in June for a first reading.

The SBOE meetings are scheduled to continue through Friday. A live stream of the meetings can be watched here.

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