Texas' new math standards dependent on new books

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by WILL WEISSERT

Associated Press

Posted on January 27, 2012 at 5:19 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Board of Education gave preliminary approval Friday to new math standards for schools statewide, but moved to block implementation unless the Legislature provides funding for books to help students cope with tougher curriculums.
 
The board passed the measure 13-0 with two members absent. The rules still must be formally approved during its next meeting in April. They could, however, potentially put pressure on state lawmakers to approve funding for new books and other key classroom materials before Texas can demand its students learn more.
 
"Today is an important day for this body as well as the schools," said Republican Thomas Ratliff, who authored an amendment compelling funding for books as part of larger rules on new math curriculum for elementary, middle and high school students.
 
"This now says we're not going to pass any new standards without guarantees books will be funded," Ratliff told the board.
 
Based on the textbook provisions included in Friday's vote, new math curriculum standards from kindergarten through eighth grade would take effect for the 2014-2015 school year when new books are available; and in 2015-2016 for grades nine through 12 when those books are ready, according to Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.
 
She said it's difficult to estimate how much state funding would be needed to purchase new books for the future curriculum standards, but that "a very rough estimate for K-12 math material" would be around $350 million.
 
Education authorities use the Permanent School Fund, an endowment established in the 1850s and consisting of state land and mineral rights, royalty earnings and stocks and bonds, to raise money for the purchase of new books — then must have the Legislature appropriate that money back so the purchases can go forward.
 
But the Legislature cut $4 billion in education spending during last year's session — the first time since World War II that lawmakers did not approve education spending increases to meet rising school enrollments statewide. Lawmakers are not in session currently and don't reconvene until January 2013.
 
Ratcliffe said during "the last budget cycle or two, there was a problem with purchasing textbooks," and that the cuts meant authorities had to postpone a plan to buy science books for all grades last year. Instead, they simply bought supplemental text books for some grades.
 
In a statement promoting his amendment, Ratliff said that the board would previously adopt new curriculum standards, then "would hope and pray that the Texas Legislature would adequately fund the instructional materials that cover the new standards."
 
The school board had previously adopted new — or modified existing — math curriculum standards for students in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
 
"For too long we have put educators and students in the difficult position of being tested on new materials for which we haven't provided instructional materials," Ratliff's statement said. "That ended today."

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