Currently, fewer than 1 in 5 Texas elementary students have access to on-grade-level reading content in the classroom, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) (38:44). This comes at a time when just half of Texas third-graders meet grade-level expectations in reading and even fewer do in math. Texas students need our help to continue recovering from the impact of the pandemic and reach their academic potential – and making High-Quality Instructional Materials (HQIM) accessible across the state can help.
Regardless of their current academic performance, if students don't have regular access to rigorous, on grade-level content, how can we expect them to meet grade-level expectations? Right now, the state sets standards (the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or the “TEKS”) and tests to assess student progress toward meeting those standards, but curriculum and instructional materials are left up to individual schools – that may not have staff trained to develop or review curriculum.
In light of this, the Commit Partnership has been working with several local school systems in North Texas to perform curriculum audits for grade-level content and improve their access to HQIM. These audits have been eye-opening, revealing gaps in the reality of rigor observed compared to what should be expected in Texas classrooms. For example, the Language Arts lessons observed did not include students writing and speaking using evidence from complex tests or building knowledge about the world. Equipped with these results, many of our partner school systems are now moving to higher-quality curricula. With state developed and owned HQIM, we can close this gap in our system and provide free, easily accessible on-grade-level materials to any school district in the state that wants it.
Access to HQIM also eases the burden on teachers who are already stretched thin, as recommended by the Texas Teacher Vacancy Task Force. On average, teachers spend 7-12 hours a week searching for and creating instructional materials. This largely happens in the evenings or on weekends, as most teachers have little to no time during the day for lesson planning, never mind preparing for lesson delivery. When the state takes on more of the burden of curriculum development and sourcing, teachers can focus on what they do best – teaching students. Additionally, this gives teachers more space and time to differentiate and tailor lessons for their individual students, which is critical to catch students up.
Temple ISD is one of more than 100 school systems in the state working to implement HQIM in its classrooms this school year – and it’s leading to positive outcomes for its students. As Superintendent Dr. Bobby Ott testified to the House Public Education Committee (1:04:15), “[High-Quality Instructional Materials] accelerated the classroom learnings and reduced the amount of prep on teachers because now they can focus on the how instead of the what. And teachers across the state right now are spending a lot of time on the what.”
Temple ISD actually began with a small pilot of HQIM across just a few campuses, but teachers saw the positive impact it was having and asked to expand it district-wide – it’s leading to transformative results for their students. According to Dr. Ott, “An average of 72% of our elementary students are predicted to pass the STAAR exam [this year],” an astonishing 37 percentage point increase over 2022 scores.
This legislative session, House Public Education Committee Chairman Brad Buckley and Senate Education Committee Chairman Brandon Creighton have both introduced bills (House Bill 1605 / Senate Bill 2565) to really cement this shift to focusing on “the how” by investing in HQIM. This legislation will support our Texas students by:
- Ensuring that all Texas school systems can opt into accessing free, quality, grade-level materials
- Funding essential resources and aligned training for teachers to both support their success and encourage them to stay in the classroom
- Giving parents tools to take an active role in their student's learning and reinforce key concepts at home
During the recent House Public Education hearing, Amber Shields, Director of Early Matters Dallas at the Commit Partnership, testified in support of HB 1605 based on her experience as the principal of N.W. Harllee Early Childhood Center in Dallas ISD. As she said, “Ultimately, this strong support of my teachers fostered a culture of high expectations met with high support, inspiring consistency and confidence – and our students saw the benefit.” In her school, the adoption of HQIM and the support it offered her teachers, novice and veteran alike, led to higher than normal growth in student outcomes and the ability to both read more complex texts earlier in the year and manipulate numbers and engage in math in new ways.
As Shields made clear, “HQIM is not a silver bullet for the gaps we are facing in our education system, but it can be truly transformative.” With the provisions included in HB 1605 and SB 2565, any district in the state that wants it can experience what she describes as “the magic of HQIM.”
Learn more about High-Quality Instructional Materials by watching Shields’ full Texas House Public Education Committee here.