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A Statewide Collaboration

This is a guest blog written by Valerie Taylor, NCTE’s P12 Policy Analyst for Texas. 

Valerie TaylorIn the spring of 2015, the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) directed the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to begin the revision of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for English Language Arts and Reading, Spanish Language Arts and Reading, and English as a Second Language.

As the process began, each member of the SBOE selected teachers and administrators from across the state to serve on Grade Band Writing Teams (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, English I–IV). At the same time, literacy organizations from across Texas and two other state educator organizations joined together to consider what recommendations they might make to the SBOE about what might be the best way to approach this revision. With the approval of the SBOE, the organizations (the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts, the Texas Association of Literacy Educators, the Coalition of Reading and English Supervisors of Texas, Texas Association of Reading Improvement, Texas Association of Bilingual Educators, National Writing Projects of Texas, the Texas Association of School Administrators, and the Texas Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development) worked many hours to design a new framework that would help to streamline the TEKS and would help teachers and students be able to make connections among various literacies. The goal of the groups is to help provide students and teachers in Texas with a set of high priority standards.

After the initial proposal of this new framework, members of several of these eight organizations testified in front of the SBOE on why this framework could help the writing teams as they began their work. When the teams began their work in the fall of 2015, the TEA provided this framework along with recommendations about possible changes to the current TEKS that had been received from expert reviewers selected by SBOE members.

In December 2015, the TEA released the first drafts of the TEKS revisions, and the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts (TCTELA) set up an online forum where teachers, administrators, parents, and community members could respond to the drafts. TCTELA then compiled the results of this forum and presented them to the SBOE during the public testimony of the January session. Representatives of the eight professional organizations also testified (testimony that the organizations coordinated prior to the meeting) and presented a set of recommendations the SBOE and writing teams might consider as the teams began their work on the second drafts. These recommendations came from several hours of work reviewing the drafts and working together to agree on what revisions might improve the drafts.

When the TEA releases the second drafts, the professional organizations will meet once again to complete a thorough review and prepare testimony for the April SBOE meeting.

Valerie Taylor currently serves as a P–12 Policy Analyst for NCTE. She also works as an Instructional Partner at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, and as a co-director of the Central Texas Writing Project at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.