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SBOE approves second ethnic studies course during first-ever virtual meeting

AUSTIN, Texas – April 22, 2020 – During its first-ever virtual meeting, the State Board of Education gave final approval to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for an African American Studies course for high school students. This is the second ethnic studies course adopted by the board following the passage of Mexican American studies in 2018. Texas is now the first state in the nation to offer standalone Mexican American studies and African American studies courses for its students.  

Like Mexican American Studies, African American Studies will provide Texas students a broad overview of the history of African Americans; the course addresses a variety of topics including history, geography, economics, government, citizenship, culture, and science and technology. 

The course originated as an innovative course developed by the Dallas Independent School District (DISD). The course, implemented for the first time in the 2019-20 school year, is currently being taught at 16 DISD schools. 

Under current board rules, an ethnic studies course in Native American studies, Latino studies, or Asian Pacific Islander studies approved by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath as an innovative course will be presented to the SBOE for discussion and consideration for TEKS inclusion.

In addition to adopting the African American Studies course, the board gave final approval to the Texas State Plan for Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). The Perkins State Plan will provide a renewed vision of career and technical education (CTE) programs for the 21st century. The plan will support students in achieving challenging academic, technical, and employability skills, so they are well prepared for high-skill, high-wage, and in-demand occupations in current and/or emerging professions. The plan also incorporates key elements of the State Board of Education Long-range Plan for Public Education.

More than 1,100 viewers tuned in for the live stream of the meeting, which included a virtual performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” by an ensemble from the Lufkin High School Band. 

“It’s a great honor to know that our state acknowledges the band’s hard work and achievements, and an even greater honor having the opportunity to play for them,” said Lufkin Band member Tolu Ojori.

Board Chair Keven Ellis also praised the TEA staff for overcoming all the challenges of coordinating a virtual meeting, which allowed the board to conduct its important business in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.