A survey by Teachers for Texas shows educators are concerned with the quality of curriculum they’re teaching and whether they have enough time to prepare lessons according to state law requirements.

Per Section 21.404 of the Texas Education Code, teachers are entitled to a 450-minute planning and preparation period every 10 days. But 93 teachers have said a lack of planning time or misuse of the planning period has kept them from being at peace with their job, implying some school administrators seem to feel the education code is merely a guideline. Misusing a teacher’s planning period forces them to plan, grade, and prepare after school or on the weekends.

Teachers are also concerned about the quality of the curriculum and how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

A recurring sentiment found throughout the survey was that school districts and the state are spending money on frivolous ventures that don’t produce results. One North Texas teacher stated: 

There is a sincere lack of respect for teachers as a professional authority in the classroom, and state and local resources are being thrown haphazardly at “workshops” claiming to help improve testing results for a test designed for kids to perform poorly on, then teachers’ pay is tied to performance. This is an absolute racket, padding the wallets of curriculum companies and distributing money overseas that should be going to our local districts for authentic education.

Teachers feel the grade-level curriculums are not age-appropriate and are having negative results. Out of the 2,751 educators surveyed, 114 feel such curriculum issues were keeping them from being at peace in the classroom. 

A Central Texas teacher pointed out she is teaching fourth-grade students on the sixth- or seventh-grade levels, but the students have not mastered the previous Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

“It’s really the curriculum,” the teacher wrote in the survey. “As a fourth-grade teacher, we are now having to teach sixth- and seventh-grade concepts when they can’t even write a complete sentence. There is a lack of foundation from lower grades. We are seeing it more and more each year.” 

“I’m suppose[d] to prepare my students for the STAAR writing test, which [is composed of two] tests: revising and editing and the composition,” the teacher continued. “Yet, I’m still teaching basic grammar skills.”

There’s also an issue with administrators wanting to push students beyond their learning limits to improve the school’s accountability grade. An example of administrators not putting students first can be seen in a survey entry from a Houston-area pre-kindergarten teacher. 

“I have 22 children all by myself. I was told by an administrator that if I don’t have them reading by the end of the year, I have violated their civil rights,” the teacher wrote. “I feel like I should be teaching more social skills at this age [about] how to get along with people. Ye[t] I am still teaching letters and numbers.”

The amount educators must teach in one year has become so large, it’s one of the reasons the curriculum is skimmed instead of being taught thoroughly. One DFW teacher said, “[There are] too many TEKS, so we end up going wide instead of deep.”

Texas Scorecard reached out to a DFW-area history teacher about this topic. He stated, “We had only four lessons on World War II,” and three of the four lessons covered the Holocaust.

This summer, the State Board of Education will decide the curriculum for the state. Concerned citizens may contact their elected school board member.

Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.