Only half of Texas third graders meet grade level expectations in reading. Even fewer – just over 40% – do so in math. And yet, in a recent survey around 90% of parents in Texas and across the country report they believe their own children perform at or above grade level in both subjects. What is causing this disconnect?
While many factors are at play, the instructional materials used in our classrooms are a key concern. According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), fewer than 1 in 5 Texas elementary students has access to on-grade-level reading content in the classroom (38:44). How can we expect our students to meet grade level expectations when their curriculum doesn’t even meet that standard? Fortunately, new legislation would increase access to high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) for any Texas school system that chooses to use them.
As a former pre-K through second grade campus leader at N.W. Harllee Early Childhood Center in Dallas ISD, I saw firsthand the importance of adopting rigorous and aligned curricula. Especially given the significant learning disruptions over the past several years, our students needed all the support we could provide. That’s why we took advantage of a grant from TEA in 2022 and adopted new, high-quality instructional materials for reading and math in all classrooms on my campus.
I learned HQIM is a powerful tool to support our teachers. As noted by Gov. Abbott’s Texas Teacher Vacancy Task Force, teachers spend an average of seven to 12 hours a week searching for and creating instructional materials, but HQIM alleviated that burden. With a reliable framework for instruction, I knew I could go to any classroom on my campus at any given moment, and whether the teacher was a novice or veteran, the students would be engaged in on-grade-level material.
Great curriculum empowers teachers to shift their focus from building new lesson plans to meeting the unique needs of individual students. Veteran teachers can draw connections between their previous work, including their experience with House Bill 3 (86R)’s Reading Academies. For all of Harllee’s teachers, the change provided a common language to better collaborate with one another. All of this helped boost our instruction to new heights.
Ultimately, this strong support of our teachers fostered a culture of high expectations, inspiring consistency and confidence – and our students benefited. In our math classrooms, we saw students have rich discussions about what they were learning, and they were able to manipulate numbers in ways I had never seen before. With literacy, our students were engaging in more complex texts earlier in the school year, and they were even able to respond in writing to what they read.
My story is not an isolated one, and this is not a solution for just one campus. School systems across the state are considering the quality of their instructional materials to improve student learning experiences. In North Texas, Early Matters Dallas partnered with three districts to conduct curriculum audits. Equipped with these results, many of our partner school systems are moving to higher-quality curricula.
That’s why I am so excited about House Bill 1605 and Senate Bill 2565, introduced by House Public Education Committee Chairman Brad Buckley and Senate Education Committee Chairman Brandon Creighton. These bills will ensure that all Texas school systems can opt in to utilizing high-quality materials. Crucially, the bills will also fund essential resources for teachers to both support their success and encourage them to stay in the classroom. Furthermore, they give parents tools to take an active role in their student’s learning.
No singular solution will address every gap in our education system. However, as a campus leader, I witnessed a transformation among my teachers and students as a result of implementing HQIM which I would honestly describe as magical. Utilizing this largely untapped resource could make a meaningful difference for so many teachers and students, not just at Harllee but across the state.