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Superintendent's Opinion: SB 2565 is damaging to districts like Del Valle ISD

Superintendent's Opinion: SB 2565 is damaging to districts like Del Valle ISD

It’s clear during this session of the Texas Legislature that what goes on in the classroom is a top priority for our lawmakers, and I’d like to focus on the purpose of SB 2565 and its companion bill, HB 1605. 

On paper, the bill aims to improve student achievement and reduce teacher workload, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. It establishes a statewide curriculum to address a majority of students not mastering grade-level content and teachers spending hours outside of class on lesson planning. The two goals of the bill are both excellent ones, but we must consider the consequences of taking the route of a blanket approach to school curriculum. 

With 31 years of experience in education, 16 of those in administration, and first hand experience writing curriculum for five Central Texas school districts, with my latest being Del Valle ISD in the Austin area, it’s easy to say that a “one size fits all” solution is asking for more issues in the near future. What’s good for one district isn’t always good for its neighboring district. 

At Del Valle, our curriculum and instruction department tailors curriculum to students to meet them where they are and ensure they’re meeting and surpassing state standards. With this approach we’ve gone from a D-rated to a B-rated district according to Texas Education Agency guidelines. 

This bill and its companion bill in the House will penalize school districts that do this work. It states the TEA will administer the curriculum, adding that funds to implement it will also be included. But what about those of us that are seeing success doing what we’re doing? We don’t receive additional funding, and that’s money that could be used for our own materials to improve on what we have built. 

While this bill is well intentioned, its unintended consequences will ultimately hurt schools. What happens to schools tailoring their own plans when state tests are built around the canned curriculum? Without following the provided instruction, schools would easily be set up for failure and dropping test scores. And teaching to the test is another discussion of its own. 

Schools that choose to keep using their own curriculum because it works will be penalized. While it could benefit school districts with fewer teachers and no curriculum staff in the short term by cutting down teacher prep time, this isn’t the way to do it.

Funding for this bill and the resources it claims it will provide can be used for schools that don’t have a curriculum office to establish one and for those that have a curriculum office to improve its work without a blanket approach. Funds can be used to give teachers additional planning time built into the school day so they aren’t working long hours off campus, thus improving work life balance. 

This bill is the first step in the state dictating day by day what all our kids are learning in the classroom. While parents ought to know what their kids are learning and why it’s important, as the bill states, placing that provision in a bill that will ultimately slash local control will only hurt schools and directly impact our students, our future leaders, who aren’t living the same life situations as their neighbors in another school district. 

I urge our legislators to vote against this bill and search for other solutions, because they’re there. Contact your local school district and ask how SB 2565 will impact your school and what the curriculum office is already doing. Contact your local legislators and urge them to vote against this new, clear encroachment on school material.