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SBOE approves ethnic studies course

The State Board of Education today voted to take steps to approve Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for an ethnic studies course focused on Americans of Mexican descent and to use a course originated by the Houston Independent School District as the basis for the standards.

This action will lead to the development of the first state standards for a high-school level ethnic studies course in Texas.  

The specific standards will be presented for a preliminary vote at the board’s next meeting in June, with final approval expected in September. The course now called Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent would become available for use in Texas classrooms in the 2019-2020 school year.

“There is no doubt that the SBOE supports enabling our students to see themselves more clearly as a vital part of our unfolding American story,” said SBOE Chair Donna Bahorich.

The board agreed to create a Mexican American Studies class in 2014 and placed it in a queue for new course development. Most of the new courses placed ahead of it, such as courses on cybersecurity and proper interaction with police officers, were mandated by the Texas Legislature.

Some school districts and charters are already teaching a Mexican American Studies course using an approved innovative course submitted by Houston ISD. This course, with only the course title changed by the SBOE, will be the starting point for the state standards. Other educators teach a similar class under broader state course titles such as Special Topics in Social Studies or Independent Study in English.

But teachers who testified Wednesday told the board that they have had to piece together the curriculum for these courses. Having state-approved TEKS will make it easier for teachers to teach the course and to share materials, they said.

The board also instructed Texas Education Agency staff to bring to the board for consideration any future comprehensive ethnic studies courses in Native-American Studies, Latino Studies, African-American Studies or Asian-Pacific Islander Studies that have been approved through the commissioner of education’s innovative course process.