SBOE Postpones Discussion on Ethnic Course Again

Texas State Board of Education seal
Texas State Board of Education seal | Image by Emree Weaver/The Texas Tribune

The Texas State Board of Education has once again postponed voting on whether to approve a new Native American studies class.

The American Indian/Native Studies course is geared towards students in grades 10-12 and teaches the history and living cultures of indigenous Americans. The class material covers a multitude of Native Nations, many of which have their roots in present-day Texas.

The course was not on the State Board of Education’s (SBOE) agenda for next week’s meetings.

The next opportunity for the board to review the course will be in June, which does not allow the time needed for the material to be ready for statewide adoption by the 2024-2025 school year.

The course approval delay follows a January SBOE meeting where a vote on materials for the elective class was not included on the agenda.

Former SBOE chair Keven Ellis (R-Lufkin) planned to discuss the Native Studies course in the January meeting; however, current chair Aaron Kinsey (R-Midland) decided not to include it on the agenda.

“The first reading for the Native American Studies course was postponed to allow members more time to review its contents,” Kinsey said in a January statement, per The Dallas Morning News. The board “works to ensure that any adopted course is of high quality for Texas students. Additional time for review will enable the board to maintain this standard.”

The course was piloted at Grand Prairie ISD in 2021 and was designated by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as an “innovative course.” Such courses allow school districts to offer state-approved classes that are not otherwise included in the required curriculum.

According to TEA’s latest accountability report, only 44% of Grand Prairie ISD students scored at grade level on their STAAR exams, a slightly higher figure than the 41% of students who did the same at Dallas ISD.

Innovative course status must seek renewal after the 2024-2025 school year.

“The course is not on the agenda because, after working with TEA staff, I was able to confirm that Native American Studies is available as an innovative course for any Texas public school system to offer during the 2024-25 school year,” Kinsey said in a statement this week, per The Texas Tribune.

While the American Indian/Native Studies course is still under consideration, many ethnic studies classes have been added to Texas education in recent years.

The SBOE board approved a Mexican American studies class in 2018 and an African American studies class in 2020. Most recently, Round Rock ISD became the state’s first school to pilot an Asian American studies course, per the Texas Tribune.

Advocates for the course are calling for Kinsey to add it to the agenda for the upcoming board meetings from April 9-12, claiming that an official state approval makes it easier for students across Texas to access the lessons, per DMN.

Kinsey countered, saying that even without the vote, the class is still available for public schools as an innovative course.

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