After several years of especially divisive “culture war” battles over what Texas public school students should learn about evolution, history and other subjects, the State Board of Education last week decided that it will adopt new science textbooks for all schools in 2013. The new adoption schedule also has the board approving textbooks for history and social studies in 2014.
The decision to adopt new science and social studies textbooks comes after the board adopted controversial curriculum standards for both in recent years — science in 2009 and social studies in 2010. Independent reports over the past year have given both sets of standards poor marks.
Yesterday, for example, a report from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute criticized the 2009 science standards in Texas as “riddled with errors,” “sketchy,” “redundant,” and “woefully imbalanced.” Last year a Fordham report called the American history standards adopted in 2010 a “politicized distortion” of American history filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.” And last fall a report for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Social Studies Faculty Collaborative warned that the social studies standards are “ineffective,” “fail to meet the state’s college readiness standards,” and “ignore the principles of sound pedagogy.”
Even so, the board will now ask publishers to submit new textbooks based on those deeply flawed standards. All of this comes after the board last summer adopted online instructional materials for some science courses. Working with our friends at the National Center for Science Education, Texas Citizens for Science and other organizations, we succeeded in keeping off of that adoption list any materials promoting creationism/”intelligent design” and related anti-science arguments.
However, the coming adoption of science and social studies textbooks highlights the importance of State Board of Education elections this year. In fact, all 15 of the state board’s seats are up for grabs in 2012. That means the primary elections this spring and the general election in November will determine whether the board’s far-right creationist bloc controls decisions about which science and social studies textbooks students will use for nearly a decade. (Check out TFN’s SBOE Election Watch page here.)
Based on the state board’s decisions last week, this how the schedule for adopting textbooks and other instructional materials looks going forward (estimated costs for purchasing new materials in parentheses):
- 2013: Science, Grades K-12; Math, K-8; Technology applications ($625.65 million)
- 2014: Social studies, K-12; Math, 9-12; Fine Arts ($683.18 million)
- 2015: Languages other than English ($78.82 million)
- 2016: Career and technical education ($103.67 million)
- 2017: English Language Arts and Reading, K-5, Prekindergarten Systems ($536.46 million)
- 2018: English Language Arts and Reading, 6-12; Health; Physical Education ($663.14 million)
The state board is likely to revise and adopt curriculum standards (on which textbooks and other instructional materials must be based) according to the following schedule:
- 2012: Math curriculum standards adoption
- 2013: Fine arts curriculum standards adoption
- 2014: Languages other than English curriculum standards adoption
- 2015: Career technology education curriculum standards adoption
- 2016: English Language Arts and Reading curriculum standards adoption
- 2017: Science and health/physical education curriculum standards adoptions (Health standards include guidelines on sex education.)
- 2018: Social studies curriculum standards adoption
So next year the Texas Freedom Network will once again be mobilizing supporters of science education to stop creationists on the state board from dumbing down instruction on evolution in new textbooks and other materials. And you can be sure that we will be leading the fight for sound textbooks and curriculum standards each year afterward.