Health, physical education TEKS revised for first time in 22 years

Students+in+health+and+physical+education+classes+have+been+expected+to+learn+the+same+Texas+Essentials+of+Knowledge+and+Skills+%28TEKS%29+since+1998.+The+Texas+State+Board+of+Education+is+currently+revising+the+TEKS+and+is+expected+to+make+a+decision+in+the+fall.

Madi Olivier

Students in health and physical education classes have been expected to learn the same Texas Essentials of Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) since 1998. The Texas State Board of Education is currently revising the TEKS and is expected to make a decision in the fall.

By Madi Olivier and Ayra Charania

For the first time in 22 years, the Texas State Board of Education is revising the physical education and health Texas Essentials of Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. These changes will determine if health class should be a requirement as well as its curriculum, which includes sex ed. A decision will likely be made in the fall after a series of hearings. 

Former Irving ISD health teacher Janet Cochran is a member of one of the workgroups revising the health TEKS. She is working with other teachers as well as school district officials, community members and medical professionals to determine which TEKS need to be updated or moved.

“What we’re doing is we’re taking the TEKS… and updating them and making them more relevant to the students of today,” Cochran said. “A lot of a mental health TEKS, we updated and streamlined and moved some things around because they didn’t feel like they fit in that old category.”

Although the TEKS are being updated, LISD students aren’t currently required to take health. However, the class is still mandatory for Irving ISD students. Cochran taught health for 18 years and helped rewrite the Irving curriculum for human growth and development. She believes that health class is an important factor in students’ education.  

“I think it’s very unfortunate and we’re trying to push that back into the Legislature and make them pass that as a requirement,” Cochran said. “…Your parents can only teach you so much. You’re going to go away to college.” 

What we’re doing is we’re taking the TEKS… and updating them and making them more relevant to the students of today.”

— Janet Cochran, former Irving ISD health teacher

When reviewing the health TEKS, the Board of Education analyzed the sex ed requirements in Texas and discussed the appropriate age for certain concepts to be taught to students. Currently, Texas is one of 26 states that does not require public schools teach sex ed, but any schools that decide to do so must emphasize abstinence until marriage and don’t have to provide information about contraception. 

The issue of sex education in Texas has been subject to debate for years. On one side, people are pushing for the Board of Education to require schools to expand their sex ed lesson plans and teach students about options outside of abstinence, including different methods of contraception. 

“They should teach us how to have sex safely, like how to wear a condom or pills,” sophomore Pedro Quintero-Gutierrez said. “It’ll protect [students] from diseases like AIDS.”

The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Director of Policy and Data Jennifer Biundo hopes that the Board of Education will encourage schools to provide students with sex ed and make the curriculum more representative of LGBTQ students.

“There’s a ton of research that sex ed is effective and produces a lot of different outcomes,” Biundo said. “Not just around teen pregnancy prevention, but also around prevention of STIs, promotion of healthy relationships and just general, medically accurate knowledge about your body that we think every single person has the right to know.” 

On the other side of the debate, many groups, including Concerned Parents of Texas, suggest that the Board of Education should ignore the protests for increased sex education. 

“The best way for teens to be healthy, finish school and stay out of poverty is to be abstinent,” Concerned Parents of Texas advocate Karole Fedrick said in a statement. “That is the message teens need to hear clearly and consistently. They do listen and appreciate not feeling ‘pressured’ to have sex.”

As the discussion regarding physical education and health TEKS continues within the Board of Education, people on both sides of the debate hope that their beliefs will be reflected in the final decision to best benefit the students. 

“We would like to see the state catch up to what we believe in,” Biundo said.

This story was originally published on The Marquee on January 29, 2020.