Great public schools need a great curriculum—and great teachers need time for teaching, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath explained in a recent interview with TPPF’s Greg Sindelar.

A new state law should help, Morath said, as the State Board of Education begins the public review and comment period for new instructional materials. Some of these materials are designed to require far less prep time for classroom teachers, while overall, the materials will ensure that lessons are taught at grade level.

Serving as head of the Texas Education Agency since 2017, Morath has been a classroom teacher himself, as well as a trustee on the Dallas Independent School District board.

“Last year, the governor asked us to form a teachers vacancy task force,” Morath said. “One of the overwhelming pieces of feedback we received was honoring [teachers’] time. You find they spend 60 to 70 hours per week working.”

That’s six, seven or eight hours in the classroom, and also time to prepare. And that’s where teachers are losing their personal time.

“It’s untenable,” Morath told Sindelar, adding that teachers need time for reflection.

“For people who have spent a lot of time around sports, this is going to be a very normal phenomenon,” he said. “At Garland High School, I spent every Saturday morning in the field house with the coaches, because they were watching the game film.”

In the same way, he explained, teachers need time to evaluate how well their students are learning the material.

But there’s a solution, Morath said.

“We have to figure out how to streamline the preparation experience and give teachers more time for delivering great instruction,” he said.

School districts adopt a curriculum, but teachers are required to make the lesson plans for delivering that material to students.

“In some ways, we at the state have not been providing school districts with the resources they need,” Morath said. “I’m not talking money—I’m talking about well-developed instructional materials that are based on cognitive science, that cover the material well, and have been through some amount of testing.”

That’s what House Bill 1605 sought to address in the last legislative session.

So the state’s goal now is “ensuring that school districts have access to high-quality instructional materials that are coherently designed, are evidence-based behind and help teachers not have to design everything from scratch,” he said.

But new materials will also address another problem, Morath added.

“This is a little-known but very significant problem that has to be addressed,” Morath said. “We found that only 19% of the assignments that were given in elementary reading classrooms were actually at grade level. So that means 81% were below grade level, and this means that the vocabulary students were exposed to was just below them.”

That explains the discrepancy between report cards and standardized tests, he added.

“All year long, while you’re in third grade, you’re being exposed to first and second grade reading material,” he said. “That’s what’s been happening.”

The public review process that has just started will help ensure the materials are both helpful to teachers and at the appropriate grade level.

“We benefit from all the eyeballs of Texans on this,” Morath said.

Some of these new materials have been in use in a pilot program with several school districts. In many of those districts, students are seeing “significant gains,” according to the TEA.

Already, some in the media are pointing out that Texas students would get “a significant dose of Bible knowledge with their reading instruction” in the new materials. Morath addressed that complaint in his interview with Sindelar.

“Getting back to the fundamentals means making sure that we have high levels of rigor,” he said. “It’s making sure kids are exposed to the classics. It’s making sure that they have knowledge of our collective history…America is what it is because of the struggles and failures we had in the past, and we learned an grew from that as a civil society.”

Sindelar says the new curriculum will benefit all Texas families.

“Texans don’t just want their students to have a good education, they want it to be among the best in the nation,” Sindelar added. “The new high-quality instructional materials are a major step toward realizing the potential of every child.”

To see the list of materials submitted for review, access copies of the instructional materials themselves, SBOE feedback forms, and SBOE-approved IMRA rubrics, the public can visit