TCTA is seeing signs of a potentially major shift in the way teachers could be asked to approach lesson planning, and some classroom veterans are raising concerns.
Instead of the long-standing traditional practice in which teachers develop and design lesson plans, due to increased use by some school districts of curriculum systems which include pre-written lesson plans, the focus is turning to teachers internalizing the lessons that have already been produced.
In presentations to legislators regarding curriculum, TEA has noted that teachers report spending seven hours per week developing or selecting instructional materials; yet are provided on average under four hours per week to engage in this planning. In an effort to address this, TEA has established an “optional set of high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) designed especially for Texas” TEA Available Materials. These materials are for core subjects, including K-2 RLA, K-5 RLA, K-5 Math, K-5 Science, 6-12 Math, 6-8 RLA, 9-12 RLA, and Pre-k. Included in these materials are pre-written lesson plans.
Several initiatives by TEA include HQIM, including its COVID Recovery Instructional Materials Support Initiative (CRIMSI) in which participating school districts pilot use of these materials. TEA’s Texas COVID Learning Acceleration Supports program (TCLAS), includes grant funding for districts using the same HQIM materials. Both of these initiatives are optional for districts to participate in.
Aside from this, some districts decide to purchase their own curriculum systems, some of which may include already-prepared lesson plans.
In all these situations in which pre-prepared lesson plans are in use, instructional practices have shifted from teachers creating their own lesson plans to teachers internalizing content and lesson plans that have already been created.
What does “internalization” mean and what are some implications of this shift?
The TEA graphic below encapsulates the difference between instructional practices with and without using HQIM. In particular, the practice of lesson planning vs lesson internalization is enlarged in the graphic below.
In response to the growing use of pre-prepared lesson plans by districts, along with feedback that current Domain 1 of the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System is focused heavily on lesson planning and development, and thus is not a good fit for the instructional practices occurring in those districts, TEA is considering developing an Alternate Domain I of T-TESS to better align with the practice of lesson internalization. TEA is convening a committee of practitioners to review potential revisions that could become a new Alternate Domain I, with the idea being that both the current Domain I and Alternate Domain I would be available for district use.
In addition, other areas that might also see potential changes include educator preparation curriculum requirements, for example.
For those who have been in the teaching profession for a while, the effort to establish widespread standardization of instruction and instructional practices has somewhat of a checkered history. Probably one of the most notable initiatives was CSCOPE, a curriculum management system provided by regional education service centers to districts. The initiative was highly controversial for a number of reasons, prompting the Texas Legislature to enact TCTA-initiated legislation in 2013 requiring that any instructional lessons developed as part of a curriculum management system by a regional education service center be subject to the State Board of Education review and adoption process, as well as to announce that the CSCOPE system would no longer offer lesson plans or produce them in the future. Additionally, lawmakers required the State Auditor’s Office to conduct an audit of CSCOPE released in June 2014.
What you should know:
The bill passed in 2013 (SB 1474) added a new section of law, TEC Section 28.002(g), to required that before the adoption of a major curriculum initiative, including the use of a curriculum management system, a district must use a process that:
(A) information regarding the initiative is presented, including the cost of the initiative and any alternatives that were considered; and
(B) members of the public and district employees are given the opportunity to comment regarding the initiative.
Accordingly, if your district is planning to adopt a new curriculum system, you may wish to contact TCTA regarding how best to ensure that the district takes the proper steps, as required by law, to include the above-described teacher and public involvement.