Project ExCELL was responsible for developing the TEKS for LOTE. Following is a brief summary of the project, which ended in 1997, and the standards development process.
In January of 1995, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) applied for and received funds from the United States Department of Education's Office for Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) for the development of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Languages Other Than English (TEKS for LOTE) and related products. TEA then contracted with Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) to implement Project ExCELL (Excellence and Challenge: Expectations for Language Learners). Project ExCELL worked to achieve three objectives:
- Develop and pilot foreign language content and performance standards that reflect high expectations for all students from Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12.
- Develop a criteria for model staff development programs and pilot program models based on high standards in foreign languages.
- Develop model guidelines for effective approaches to teacher education and certification based upon high standards in foreign languages.
The concept of standards development is not new; voluntary national standards have been developed by appointed panels in virtually every discipline. Project ExCELL took this movement a step further by establishing foreign language standards tailored specifically to the needs of Texas teachers and students. In addition, the project provided a framework for challenging curriculum and innovative instruction by enhancing the capabilities of Texas teachers of LOTE through collaboratively-designed teacher education programs and strengthened staff development opportunities.
Project ExCELL worked with a 23-member writing team of foreign language educators to compose drafts of the TEKS for LOTE. This team was reflective of the inherent diversity of Texas itself, composed of members from urban, suburban, and rural areas around the state representing a wide range of linguistic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. Professionals from different levels of the public education system as well as the private sector comprised a group of varied and substantial expertise.
The development of the TEKS for LOTE included recording, collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing the collective knowledge and experience of the TEKS for LOTE Writing Team members and Project ExCELL staff toward the production of successive drafts. All ideas were subject to debate, elaboration, refinement, and verification. To further inform their work, Project ExCELL employed expert state and national consultants, used current research literature, and stayed abreast of the development of national LOTE standards and work in other states. Each successive draft of the working document was shaped from the discussion and notes generated in team meetings, and a consensus-building process was used to approve each section. The utility and quality of the TEKS for LOTE were further validated through field testing and through review by expert professionals and public representatives, the majority of which were part of one of the following committees:
- Field Advisory Committee: a panel of national and state foreign language experts that reviewed the TEKS for LOTE in terms of their clarity, comprehensiveness, appropriateness to the needs and conditions of LOTE education in Texas, and utility in terms of curriculum, assessment, teacher education, and professional development.
- State Board of Education Curriculum Review Committee: a committee appointed by the Texas State Board of Education that periodically reviewed the TEKS for LOTE to offer suggestions and critical analysis.
- Connections Team Feedback Committee: a committee consisting of representatives from each of the other subject area writing teams that reviewed the TEKS for LOTE to ensure and reinforce collaboration and articulation among disciplines.
- Foreign Language Congress: a committee made up of community and business leaders of various personal and professional backgrounds that reviewed the TEKS for LOTE for applicability to the real world and for relevance to the world of work.
The TEKS for LOTE Writing Team incorporated suggestions from all review committees into the draft. Additionally, drafts were made available for public review. Hundreds of respondents offered general comments and feedback on specific items. Their written responses, a majority of which showed a high degree of satisfaction with the work, were analyzed and used to edit the final document.
The TEKS for LOTE were adopted by the Texas State Board of Education in April 1997, clarifying performance expectations for students and serving as the basis for textbook adoptions and state tests, where appropriate. Project ExCELL ended that December. In February 1998 the Languages Other Than English Center for Educator Development was created to focus on implementation of these standards.