Last Thursday, April 10, the Texas State Board of Education approved the creation of a new state elective course, which includes a class in Mexican-American studies. The board is now calling on book publishers to submit new textbooks for these courses.
School districts already had permission to create these special interest courses, but many districts wanted to give these courses some teeth.
Marisa Perez, an SBOE member from San Antonio, said that started with the creation of course standards.
“If you sort of give a set of standards that students can learn and then allow our districts to create the curriculum around these standards it would really strengthen a course like this than if it were to stand alone,” Perez said.
School districts still have the option of teaching these type of cultural-awareness courses and it’s not required that it be a Mexican-American studies -- districts may also use African American, Asian-American and Native American courses.
Dan Quinn with the Texas Freedom Network said studies show these types of courses improve the academic performance of minorities and reduces dropout rates.
"We heard a lot of young people tell the state board how studying about people like them in history is an inspiring experience and it encouraged them to further their own studies," Quinn said. "So this is an important step forward.”
State board members won’t begin selecting textbooks for the four course areas until 2015.