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Subject to approval, South Texas symbols will appear in the new Open Texas textbooks

In response to a request from the Texas Legislature to produce reading and math textbooks for Texas schools, the Texas Education Agency has unveiled materials that highlight the history of South Texas.

Last week, the TEA introduced new textbooks from Texas Open Education Resources. On Friday, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath visited Corpus Christi to highlight portions of the materials that reference veteran and civil rights icon Dr. Hector P. Garcia, jazz musician James Polk and Driscoll Children's Hospital founder Clara Driscoll.

Texas Rep. Todd Hunter, who represents Aransas and part of Nueces County, praised the inclusion of South Texas history in the reading material.

“It’s been too long, but it’s never too late,” Hunter said.

In 2023, House Bill 1605 directed the TEA to develop a set of state-owned instructional materials specifically designed to support student learning and close achievement gaps. These “open” textbooks will be owned by the state and available to anyone at no cost.

The State Board of Education is currently tasked with reviewing high-quality instructional materials, including the Open Education Resources as well as 142 products submitted by 25 other publishers. In addition to a professional review process, the public has until August 16 to review the materials and provide feedback.

The State Board of Education will hold public hearings June 25-28 and September 10-13. The public can also access materials and provide feedback online at https://sboe.texas.gov/state-board-of-education/imra.

Schools would not be obliged to use state-approved teaching methods.

School systems that purchase approved “high-quality instructional materials” will receive $40 per student per year from the state. School systems that use Texas' OER textbooks can also receive $20 per student to cover printing costs. Anyone can download an OER textbook for free.

Morath, head of the Texas Department of Education, said there is a connection between schools in Texas with the lowest poverty rates and the best reading scores.

“You can clearly see that the higher the poverty density in schools, the lower the reading skills are,” said Morath. “But you can also see that there are clear outliers. Demographics are not fate.”

Morath said curriculum is one of the building blocks that can help improve student achievement. To improve reading achievement, students need to learn phonics and be exposed to complex vocabulary, Morath said.

A student must learn how to pronounce a word, but he must also know what the word means, he said.

In recent years, the state has piloted elementary reading instruction projects that incorporate this approach in school districts such as Temple ISD and Lubbock ISD.

Morath said reading achievement in Lubbock ISD has soared, including a “disproportionate advantage” for low-income students and black and Hispanic students, groups that have historically performed worse in reading.

The Texas Tribune and The 74 reported that potential new teaching materials developed by TEA include lessons based on Bible stories.

The OER units for kindergarten include lessons on nursery rhymes, the five senses, fairy tales and folk tales, plants and their growth, farms, weather, art, service and community, and historical topics such as colonialists and Native Americans, kings and queens, and American symbols and historical figures.

First grade materials cover astronomy, animals and habitats, the human body, world histories, American westward expansion, American independence, and the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca civilizations.

Second graders learn about the ancient Greeks, the War of 1812, cycles in nature, insects, the American Civil War, nutrition, aviation, American immigration, and people who fought for civil rights.

Third graders learn about animal classification, classical stories, the human body, ancient Rome, light and sound, astronomy, Native American culture, early exploration of the Americas, colonial America, and jazz.

Fourth graders learn about reading personal narratives, the art of invention, contemporary fiction, the Middle Ages, the American Revolution, poetry, geology, the energy industry, and the novel The Number of Stars.

Fifth graders learn about personal narratives, the Renaissance, early American civilizations, the novel Don Quixote, poetry, William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, World War II, chemicals, Juneteenth, and the novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The second grade unit “Fighting for a Cause” includes lessons that focus on Dr. Hector P. Garcia. The unit also covers nonviolence, the biblical figure Esther, William Penn, William Wilberforce, Rosa Parks, abolitionists, the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, Jackie Robinson, Sierra Leonean engineer Kelvin Doe, and young Americans fighting for bees and butterflies.

The Garcia lesson highlights Garcia's history as a doctor, soldier and leader who advocated for education, veterans and those in need of medical care. The American GI Forum is mentioned, as well as Garcia's efforts to ensure that Private Felix Longoria was honored with a burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

“This is a story that Texans will know because we have included it in the curriculum across the state,” Morath said.

Cecilia Garcia Akers, the daughter of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, has been advocating for her father's legacy for years. Garcia has appeared in Texas history textbooks for nearly 15 years, but in 2021, a bill was introduced in the Texas Legislature that would have removed Garcia and other Hispanic and Black figures from the required history curriculum.

The move was unsuccessful, and three years later, Garcia Akers is proud that her father is included in a state-designed curriculum.

“We cannot close our eyes to what is going on,” she said.

James Polk, a native of Corpus Christi, was a famous jazz musician. A third-grade jazz lesson focuses on Polk.

“We need to make sure that kids are reading interesting material … that contains challenging material,” Morath said. “That's how we can build our kids' reading comprehension and knowledge of the world around them. They need to read about our history, the things we're proud of and the things we've overcome.”

As part of a unit on ethics in kindergarten, the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi is mentioned in a lesson on military service.

For fourth-graders, the lessons include personal narratives, including one from Clara Driscoll. Driscoll grew up in the Corpus Christi area and is known as the “Savior of the Alamo” for her role in protecting the historic site.

Materials in Spanish are also available to support bilingual and dual language learners.

If approved, the materials will be available to teachers and students in 2025–26.

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