High-quality instructional materials could help reduce teacher workload

Texas 2036 Senior Policy Advisor Mary Lynn Pruneda offered testimony Tuesday in front of the Texas House Public Education Committee in favor of House Bill 1605, which aims to increase rigor in the classroom and reduce teacher workload through high-quality instructional materials.

Here’s her testimony:

Good afternoon. My name is Mary Lynn Pruneda. I work on public education policy issues at Texas 2036, and I am here today for the bill. First of all, I want to give a shout out to Dr. Ott. In conversations that we’ve had on this bill, as virtue of background and better understanding what it actually looks like from the district perspective, I personally, just as a mom, found myself saying that I was going to move my children from my West Austin school to Temple ISD, just given hearing his passion for high-quality instructional materials and making sure that all children in his district have access to those. [I’m] so thankful for Dr. Ott. 

One of the things that I’ve often run into in public education policy is the intersection of doing this work and being a mother. And I happen to have friends who also do this work and are mothers themselves.

I recently had a colleague come to me and show me her daughter’s first grade assignment. In her first grade assignment, she was being asked to sort letters alphabetically. It’s all well and good. It was Disney themed. I guess it’s cute. And the kids might find the characters engaging. But, did you know that’s a pre-kindergarten TEK? And, here I am, talking to my colleague, a mother, one of the best education advocates in the state of Texas, and yet she does not have the ability to make sure her curriculum is on grade level for her child.

That is why I am so thankful for House Bill 1605 and the great work that it can do for all moms and all children across Texas in getting rigorous grade-level instruction into our classrooms.

This, in a lot of ways, I see this as a continuation of the House Bill style of public policymaking that you all have adopted to great effect. You find something that works in a lot of districts like incentive-based pay worked in Dallas ISD, like refined compensatory education allotments worked in San Antonio ISD, you provide an incentive structure through the school finance formula system and you encourage districts to adopt high-quality, data-driven and rigorous programs.

And we know this strategy is working.

Did you know in the past year Texas had the most students reading on grade level that we’ve ever had? This is, in large part, because of your early education allotment and your work with reading academies. When you put in place data-driven programs that encourage districts but never mandate them to take part, we see improved outcomes for children, which is what we’re all about.

The data says that high-quality instruction materials have a great opportunity to improve the quality of classroom instruction in our state.

They have a 40 times higher ROI than lowering class size alone in improving student outcomes. And just by offering high-quality instructional materials to teachers, you can move that teacher from the 50th percentile of performance to the 80th percentile.

Again, just by equipping the teacher with what she needs in order to be the master that she is at her job. Earlier today, we heard someone compare teachers and chefs and cookbooks. I think I would propose a different metaphor. I would say that high-quality instructional materials, like the person that comes into the kitchen in the morning and chops the vegetables for the teacher who is the chef as she follows the cookbook, which is the TEKS, which gets me back to why we’re here.

Texas has been a leader in standards-based reform over the past ten years, and as part of this, we put in place high-quality and rigorous grade-level standards for all of our students. We continue to see 1605 as an outflowing of this work and the important cause that it commits to all of our students to make sure that every child has the chance to be on grade level no matter where they come from.

Thank you for your time.

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