However, the board won’t adopt the new social studies curriculum until November, the final stage of a long and thorough process. Additionally, the wording suggestion — which was proposed by a group of educators, not the Texas Education Agency — was unanimously rejected by the SBOE.
Here’s how the SBOE decides what students learn in Texas public schools.
The Curriculum Process
The SBOE nominates educators, parents, and businesspeople to serve on work groups to review the state curriculum, formally called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Ultimately, the board members make revisions and vote to approve the final curriculum, but the citizen work groups form the first part of the review process.
Proposed TEKS changes also have to undergo regional feedback from the 20 education service regions of Texas.
Major overhauls to TEKS take months and require formal votes of the full board.
The board provides direction to the work groups with a framework of general ideas about how the curriculum should be structured. The framework for the new K-8 social studies TEKS calls for emphasis on historical facts and coherent coverage of key figures and events. This general guidance will assume a more concrete and particular shape as the board completes the process between now and November.
Last year, the Texas legislature passed a bill meant to curb critical race theory “inculcation” in the classroom. Among other items, this new law asks the SBOE to revise the social studies TEKS by December 2022. The new TEKS are required to “develop each student’s civic knowledge,” including an understanding of the moral foundations of the American experiment, the founding documents of the United States, and the ability to “formulate and articulate reasoned positions.”
The SBOE Committee of the Full Board discussed the controversial proposed language shortly after 10 p.m. during its June 15 meeting. The term came from a document of suggestions drafted by a work group of eleven educators. Some members, such as Pat Hardy (R-District 11), complained that they had little time to review the draft before the meeting. The draft itself was sent from to the board members beforehand but is not available on the web page with the other social studies work group drafts.
The proposed language was not a full set of student expectations but an example of what the general TEKS framework would look like for K-8 social studies. As Chairman Keven Ellis (R-District 9) specified, the discussion the board held that night was not part of the formal process, but more of a “bonus meeting.”
The designation of slavery as “involuntary relocation” would have applied to social studies classes from kindergarten to the second grade.
Member Aicha Davis (D-13) drew attention to the language at the meeting.
“I want to look at grade 2. The phrase ‘involuntary relocation’ is used when we’re talking about the slave trade, and involuntary relocation — like, when my seat moves, I don’t volunteer for that,” Davis quipped. “So I don’t know if that’s a fair representation of what we should be saying about that journey.”
Ultimately, the board decided to send the draft back to the drawing board.
“For K-2, carefully examine the language used to describe events, specifically the term ‘involuntary relocation,’” the board directed the work group.
After rumors spread that the board was considering adoption of the term “involuntary relocation” in the official curriculum, Ellis put out a statement calling them “patently false.”
“While the proposed standards clearly described enslaved peoples in colonial times, the draft description ‘involuntary relocation’ for African peoples who were sold into slavery did not paint a clear or full picture. As a result, the SBOE voted unanimously to send the language back to be reworked,” Ellis said.
“This board is committed to the truth, which includes accurate descriptions of historical events.”
Discussion of the language revealed that some work group members strongly felt that slavery needed to be addressed in second grade social studies. “Involuntary relocation” was an attempt to describe the slave trade in a “way that would make sense” to young elementary school children.
The current social studies TEKS for second grade make no mention of slavery. Under the current curriculum, Texas students begin learning about slavery in the fifth grade. Specifically, the fifth grade social studies TEKS require students to understand the central role slavery played in the Civil War.
At the June 15 meeting, several members expressed a desire for grade-appropriate standards of knowledge, but no member called for slavery to be excluded from the TEKS.
The work group drafts will be more firmly solidified by August 1, when the SBOE will hold a meeting on TEKS review. The board plans to complete and finally adopt the new social studies TEKS in November.
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