TX State Board of Education Turns Its Back on Mexican American Studies:

11/10/2017 11:56 am ET
Photo Credit: Chuy Benitez
Photo Credit: Chuy Benitez

To: The TX SBOE Board

From: Tony Diaz

Date: Friday, November 10, 2017

Re: The Texas State Board of Education’s Failure to Endorse Mexican American Studies in any Way Shape or Form This Session Makes The Upcoming Social Studies Streamlining Suspect

1. Regarding the TX SBOE vote on “The Mexican American Studies Toolkit”. Having undergone the process, I recommend the TX SBOE provide more time for the process. Also, the TX SBOE must provide more clarity.

a. “The MAS Toolkit” met and exceeded all the requirements and standards. Additional time would have provided opportunity to report that in a manner conducive to individual board members.

b. Each member focused on their own criteria, which is not emphasized in the rules for submission. If they were, a publisher could focus on those 15 areas. Also, some members are not fully aware all the aspects of the call. Thus, vagaries are addressed and ruled on without setting precedents. For example, some members were debating such as things as grammatical issues that were already resolved in the final version of the manuscript.

c. The members accused “The Mexican American Studies Toolkit” of being a supplemental book, yet the board then went on to say that it was okay to vote for supplemental works. This does not seem fair. At the very least the TX SBOE should have decided those definitions ahead of the process, the TX SBOE should have articulated those definitions and worked them into the rules for the adoption process, and members should not debate the terms during the actual vote. Moreover, the board members should note define the terms “textbook” and “instructional material” one way and then vote on those terms for one book and then change those definitions and vote differently for another book.

d. The TX SBOE should have held a final vote regarding The Mexican American Studies Toolkit. If it was avoided to save time, no time was saved as discussion on the matter continued.

Here are suggestions for 4 specific deliverables that in the case of this call would have addressed members’ concerns and demonstrated that the book met the call:

a. Require and provide time for an updated PDF to address grammatical errors.

b. Provide a form or a means to explain and convey the nature of edits to address large over all concerns. The Excel form for corrections is too limited for in-depth answers.

c. Add a final review by the TEA appointed panelists. It makes sense to work with the TEA appointed review panel to edit the textbook, as we did. However, the board was not accustomed to this. I recommend formally adding this as an option and defining protocol for this. And of course, allowing more time.

d. Define the terms for the process and apply them consistently and fairly.

2. The Texas State Board of Education should have formally acted to adopt MAS before this session ended, especially since this phase of the dialogue began in 2014. This could have taken the form one of the following:

a. Create a third call for Ethnic Studies textbooks.

b. Mandate the TEKS for the MAS Special Topics Course from HISD.

c. Create a specific initiative that will lead to specific deliverables regarding MAS.

The Texas State Board of Education did nothing for Mexican American Studies.

3. Will Social Studies Streamlining Only Make Things Worse?

After at least 3 years of dialogue, this TX SBOE session ends without advancing at all regarding Mexican American Studies, I fear things will only get worse. It appears that the Texas State Board of Education is not interested in adopting MAS to create the academic success it has been proven to engender.

The reason our community is so impassioned about MAS is because it’s a proven fact that culturally relevant courses improve student achievement. You need only review the research provided during the Arizona Supreme Court case to overturn the ban of Ethnic Studies in that state. Research from the Cabrera Report from the University of Arizona proves that TUSD students enrolled in Mexican American Studies were 108% more likely to graduate, were 144% more likely to pass standardized Math tests, 144% more likely to pass Writing tests, and 168% more likely to pass Reading tests. We want those results in Texas.

The situation in Texas may only get worse during the upcoming move to streamline Social Studies TEKS.

A past TEKS Streamlining Committee report indicated that there were only 61 Hispanic figures or references across the TEKS for Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Since the Texas State Board of Education session ends without advancing on adopting Mexican American Studies, I fear that “Streamlining” may be a code word for “cutting”.

Thus, in the near future, the TX SBOE will not be providing schools with a MAS textbook, a MAS course, or even as few as 61 Hispanic figures. If the TX SBOE does not move on MAS now, I fear those 61 Hispanic figures will be cut down even more.

That is not enough.

The TX SBOE has failed our schools and our communities.

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