My parents could squeeze a budget like nobody’s business. We once rented an orange Gremlin (the car, not the movie) on vacation. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you Google it to see what it looks like. My sister and I knew not to ask for snacks from the gift shop since my mom was the queen of stashing food in her purse. We were allowed to pick out one souvenir to bring home so we agonized over our choices. And while our vacations were the economy version, we went to some amazing places. You see, my dad was a computer programmer for Braniff airlines and we benefited from flying standby.
Remember that this was before the time of online travel planning, so airline employees could snag empty seats if they were willing to be flexible and patient. We would get up before dawn, dress in our Sunday best (because you were more likely to get a seat if you looked nice), and head to the airport to wait at the gate of the first flight headed to our intended destination. We never got on the first flight, so once that plane left we moved our bags to the gate of the next flight and set up shop to wait once again.
We rarely got to sit together as a family, but it wasn’t uncommon to get bumped to first class once we did get on a plane. The flight attendants would give us playing cards and coloring books and were just lovely to my sister and me because they thought we were flying as unaccompanied minors.
This coming school year, we are venturing on an economy vacation of sorts. The streamlined Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) will be implemented when August rolls around, so it’s our job to be prepared to match existing courses to the pared down science standards. This past school year has been a bit of a layover as we mulled over the newly adopted changes, but our Estimated Time of Departure is quickly approaching so let’s go over the final itinerary to make sure nothing is left to chance.
The intent of the TEKS streamlining process was to narrow the focus to allow for more time to cover required content. Nothing was added to a course or grade level or moved from one subject or grade to another. So if you’ve been worried about finding funds to purchase new materials, here’s your good news for the week. If your teachers have what they need to teach the current standards, they have what they need to teach the streamlined standards. Take a deep, cleansing breath. You only need to get out a highlighter to note the items that have been removed at each grade level. Here at Region 4, we made a crosswalk document to show how our products are still aligned to the new standards. The crosswalk is available here.
Make a Plan, but Be Flexible
If you work with your science teachers to look not only at the streamlined TEKS for their grade level, but also at a grade or two above and below, you’ll discover some details that may impact students’ exposure to content. For instance, the concept and calculation of work was removed from grade 7, so it would be beneficial for physics and Integrated Physics and Chemistry (IPC) teachers to know it might be a first exposure for their students. We’ll also need to adjust our vocabulary in a few instances, such as referring to lady bugs as lady beetles.
Spend your time and district funds on what really matters. Our family vacations to Hawaii, Mexico, and London were amazing, even if we dined on cheese and crackers for a meal or two in the motel. Focus on depth of content and staying true to the streamlined TEKS for each grade level. Remember that although some items may have shifted, you and your science teachers can still take students to amazing places this coming school year—and you don’t have to drive a Gremlin.