Teachers in Texas have a guiding standard to use when writing lesson plans, when establishing a schedule and setting the pace for learning particular content. It’s called Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS. TEKS governs every subject matter taught in Texas and tells teachers what specific skill to teach at a given time. For example, with reading, a middle school 6th grader has to know how to find the main idea in a reading passage, how to compute mathematical algorithms, how to test scientific theories, how to identify geographic locations of varied societies and more. Texas is one of the states that elected not to participate in Common Core Curriculum. To clarify that, it passed the House, but Governor Rick Perry banned it with House Bill (HB) 462.
The TEKS are provided using particular language, and every single one has a unique TEKS number.
However, things get even more specific within the content areas. For example, to take the main idea requirement a little further, a students in 6th grade may start the year off reading informational text and summarizing the main idea and the supporting ideas in that text. Students will learn how to keep opinions out of main idea summarizations, and they learn to do this through practice. Later in the year, the student will need to read expository text and summarize the main idea and supporting ideas in that text. Expository text will likely be more complex, and typically involves Science and Social Studies passages. By scheduling expository text later in the year, planners anticipate that the student will have gained mastery of main idea using the simpler text periodically; and then graduating to expository text when they’ve gained the necessary skill. This is because they will need to have to wade through the complexities of the expository text itself later in the year. If students have mastered main idea, they won’t have trouble with it using varied text. Practice is what will get them to the destination called mastery.
There are even TEKS in physical education. For that same 6th grader, they will need to demonstrate the ability to do activities in a smooth, flowing sequence. The way it reads, they have to “perform sequences that combine traveling, rolling, balancing, and weight transfer into smooth, flowing sequences.” A PE teacher may have to have them practice each individual skill until they master it. Otherwise, when it’s time to do them all in a flowing sequence, they will have much trouble.
The language starts off with words to the effect of, “The student will be able to,” or “The student is expected to.” From there the language completes the sentence beginning with a verb such as demonstrate, conduct, identify, describe, express, etc.
One example for health education for a 6th grader might read like this: The student is expected to analyze healthy and unhealthy dietary practices. Another one reads as follows: The student is expected to compare immediate and long-range effects of personal health care choices such as personal and dental hygiene.
To piggyback off of that last TEKS described, the student learns compare and contrast using reading passages in their reading classes. According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, compare and contrast are higher order skills, and a student who is able to do it well has learned information at a deeper level called synthesis. In addition, the student learns in reading what compare and contrast mean, and how that signals distinguishing similarities and differences. It is often practiced using a Venn Diagram, which is a special graphic organizer of interlocking hoops. If students were to compare and contrast bats and blue jays, the students use the sides and middle to complete the exercise. One side is labeled bats, the other side is labeled blue jays and the middle is labeled similarities. On the side labeled bats, the students will write or otherwise list the things that are true of bats, but not blue jays. On the side labeled blue jays, they will list or write the things that are true of blue jays, but not bats. In the middle, where the loops overlap, they will write things that are true of both.
The truth about TEKS is that they are specific enough to guide teachers in their state’s curriculum, ensure that students are taught content that is specific for their grade level, and builds from year-to-year.