It's been a rough week for State Board of Education members, who have upheld their loyalty to TEKS social studies requirements despite bipartisan opposition (although for different reasons, of course).
On Tuesday, the board heard public commentary against proposed social studies textbooks. The publishers, required to conform outrageously biased state social studies standards in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills curriculum, produced products with historical and scientific inaccuracies that angered both left- and right-wing advocates.
Undaunted, on Wednesday, the board voted 12-3 to emphasize TEKS standards in AP U.S. History classes over College Board material. Almost no one was opposed to the idea of incorporating, or even emphasizing, state curriculum over a national test. But the problem, say insiders, is that the state social studies curriculum is just plain bad.
TEKS curriculum standards have been in effect since 2010. "You would hope that the Texas standards are good, but they're deeply flawed and some of the worst in the country," says Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors state education policies. "The board is probably one of the most heavily politicized groups in Texas, and has been for a long time."
And that politicization has led to publishers who struggle between biased curriculum requirements and presenting historically correct material. "There were complaints about bias versus factual error. But bias is about factual error," says Quinn. And on Wednesday, by ensuring that AP U.S. History teachers are bound to state curriculum requirements, the board took one more step to glue Texas classrooms to TEKS.
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The board has until November to adopt social studies textbooks. But between a politicized textbook review committee, a conservative board, and publishers caught in the crossfire, it's doubtful whether the complaints about the books will prompt any significant change in textbook material.
"If you have flawed history standards, they're flawed whether they're in mainstream classes or AP classes," Quinn says. "And if you think history is decided by whatever majority sits in the State Board of Education, you've got a problem."