Sunday, February 23, 2014

But My District Cannot Afford To Offer More Than The Multidisciplinary Endorsement!

Now that House Bill 5 has defined the five endorsements that a district can offer, we all face the challenge of how to best do so.  The feeling, and sometimes the argument, by the boards and administration of many districts is that they can offer only the multidisciplinary endorsement.  So how do they (and we) address this concern?  How do we strive to exceed the minimum requirements to best drive student success?

It is clear that there is no consensus on how to approach the analysis and determination of the endorsements that an individual district can offer.  And that is a fundamental change from how we have approached curriculum development in the past.  Over the past several years, the State Board of Education has told us what we need to offer (i.e., the 4X4 curriculum) without any regard for the needs of the students in our communities or the workforce demands in our communities.  We were simply told that we must offer the 4X4!

Under HB 5, we now have the flexibility at a local level to determine what is best for our student population.  In conversations with superintendents and board members across the state, there is a significant divergence of opinion on how to approach the challenge.  Of course, the smaller the district, the greater the challenge.  Or is it?

Boards and district administration must weigh a number of factors when making a determination on which endorsements to offer the students in their districts.  They must look at the courses required to fill out an endorsement, and they must assess the staffing implications associated with delivery of new courses; in many cases, this brings about a certification challenge for our teaching staffs.  Depending on the endorsement and the specific course(s), there may be technology needs that need to be met before a particular course can be offered.  And there may be facility issues associated with the new course offerings.

In Part 2 of the discussion on considerations that will perhaps lead a district to offer multiple endorsements, especially smaller districts, we will share with you some of the ideas, and more importantly the actions, being developed by superintendents  These range from simply conducting a curriculum review and slotting specific courses under a particular endorsement, to developing partnerships with neighboring districts and institutions of higher education, to building cooperative relationships with local businesses.  Clearly, we will be faced with challenges on how to address these requirements.  But the reality of HB 5 is that we each have an opportunity to weigh in on how best to do so.

Join us in Part 2 as we discuss these varied ideas and approaches., and let us know how you are approaching the challenges of HB 5.  We would love to hear from you and to share what you have learned works well in your district.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Advocay and HB 5 - How Important Is It?

By now, you should start to get a feel for the game changing elements of House Bill 5.  Whether changing graduation requirements and creating five new endorsement opportunities for incoming 9th graders in school year 2014-2015, or reducing the number of EOC exams for high school students, or requiring that local boards establish formal community and student engagement efforts, HB 5 has altered the public education landscape in Texas.  And while a large part of the credit goes to a group of superintendents led by Mr. H. D. Chambers of Alief ISD and the tireless efforts of the House Public Education committee, chaired by Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock, the reality is that advocacy on the part of trustees has had an enormous impact on decisions made in Austin.

According to Rep. Aycock, "The legislative intent of HB 5 was borne out of campaigns, and ruminated not just through this (83rd) session, but prior sessions as well."  So while school finance has often dominated the discussions about public education, in part due to the trial in Judge Dietz's courtroom, trustees across the state have been working with their local legislators to convey concerns they had about the loss of local control, and the often unfunded mandates imposed upon them by the State Board of Education and the legislature. 

There has been considerable debate surrounding how we maintain a system of flexibility, rigor and relevance, while striving to address the needs and interests of the more than 5 million Texas public education students.  Make no mistake about it --- as trustees, you have the responsibility to ensure that the changes brought about under HB 5 do not "water down" the rigor or relevance of what you do in your district.  And I fully expect that the vast majority of trustees understand that with increased local control comes accountability to do so for all stakeholders, including students, parents, staff, and the community at large. 

So while HB 5 does grant increased local control and flexibility to boards, it does not diminish the obligation of all of us to continue to advocate for our students.  Without question, there will be areas of HB 5 that don't accomplish what they were intended to.  As trustees, you must be willing to communicate your concerns to your representatives; no one else will do it for you.  Where things are working well, let them know that as well ... they do like hearing good news!  And they do want to hear from you!

We have achieved some of what we have sought for years with increased local control and flexibility.  It's up to us now to make certain that we act in a manner consistent with the intent of HB 5, and that we use this newly granted authority to make responsible decisions that favorably impact student success.  And that's why we serve.  The greatest risk is doing nothing!

Monday, February 17, 2014

So How Did House Bill 5 Become a Reality?

So How Did House Bill 5 Become a Reality?

So now that we have started to look at some of the requirements of House Bill 5, let's step back and understand how this legislation evolved.  It's a great story of engagement and advocacy at multiple levels across the State of Texas.

When a group of superintendents led by H.D. Chambers, superintendent of Alief ISD, developed a white paper expressing concerns about what they saw as shortcomings in the legislature-mandated “4X4” curriculum, that document noted that there are perhaps as many as 30% of Texas high school students who will not plan to attend college for a variety of reasons.  The belief of this group of superintendents was that the 4X4 was a “one size fits all” approach and, in fact, may be a contributing factor to the overall dropout rate.

In a conversation with Mr. Chambers, he acknowledged that providing 5 million students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in life would be easy ... if they were all the same!  Given the fact that they are not the same, he and his peers saw a need to rethink the notion of college readiness, suggesting that local districts required greater flexibility and local control than they then had.  Recognizing that student needs and desires were constantly evolving, and that the 4X4 offered a limited perspective relating to career and technology courses, he saw an opportunity to address this changing environment. 

Mr. Chambers and others set out to change the way that public education is delivered in the State of Texas.  Among those he approached was Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock, chairman of the House Education Committee.  Through a series of discussions, Mr. Chambers and Rep. Aycock were able to settle on a set of considerations and criteria that ultimately formed the framework for House Bill 5.  Rep. Aycock was the primary sponsor of this important piece of legislation.

As a former school board trustee, Rep. Aycock was very interested in taking action to return control to local boards.  He also acknowledged the role that local trustee advocacy has played in considering the options.  Quoting Rep. Aycock, “The legislative intent of HB 5 was borne out of campaigns, and ruminated not just through this session, but prior sessions as well”.  What that suggests is that the advocacy efforts of trustees across the state are being heard.  For that, all of us should be proud!

While recognizing the need for local control, Rep. Aycock also expressed concerns that the State of Texas had placed too much emphasis on testing, and that there is a need for more vocational opportunities, as well as greater flexibility at the local level.  He, too, shared a belief that communities and students needed to be more involved in defining how programs and curriculum are delivered at the local level, and defined a need to more closely engage community and business partners in understanding the workforce demands in local communities.

It was with this as a backdrop that Rep. Aycock sponsored House Bill 5, legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry on June 10, 2013.  This is landmark legislation for public education students, and a great opportunity for trustees to demonstrate their ability to not only understand the needs of their local districts, but to act responsibly in ensuring that locally developed curriculum meets the needs of the greatest number of students.

The greatest risk now lies in doing nothing, leaving the door open for the legislature to act where local boards do not.  Act now and act responsibly!  Your students are counting on you to succeed.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

So What Disciplines Fall Under Each Endorsement?

One of the key elements of HB 5, as noted previously and as well documented in the press, is the increased level of local control and governance afforded district trustees and administration.  But there are certain parameters that have been defined in determining the curriculum that falls under each endorsement category.

Following are examples of disciplines included under each endorsement.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)
-          Environment and Computer Sciences
-          Technology
-          Engineering
-          Advanced Math
-          Agriculture
-          Architecture
-          Business Management, Construction
-          Graphics Design
-          Finance
-          Marketing
-          Health Sciences
-          Education and Training
-          Law Enforcement
-          Culinary Arts
-          Hospitality
-          Political Science
-          World Languages
-          History
-          Cultural Studies
-          Music, Theater and Fine Arts
-          Selection from each endorsement

Recognizing that not all districts will be able to initially offer all five endorsements based on existing curriculum offerings, districts must carefully consider the opportunities that partnering with neighboring districts, community colleges, and businesses in the community represent.  As an example, a 2A district near Waco plans to partner with two ISD’s in Waco to be able to deliver an expanded curriculum that enables them to offer three endorsements to their students.  Others may look to the use of Career and Technology funds to expand their course offerings to students.

The bottom line is that the responsibility for defining course and endorsement offerings now falls to individual school districts.  This is a golden opportunity for districts to offer those courses best suited to the needs and desires of their students, the local community, and local businesses.  And, after all, it is all about how public education best serves the needs of the 5.1 M Public education students in the State of Texas.  Our students are counting on us!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Endorsements - What Must You Do?
House Bill 5 included considerations relating to Curriculum, Assessment, and Accountability.  In upcoming articles, we will share an overview of requirements and opportunities in each area, beginning with Curriculum.  One major element in this area is the introduction of an concept known as Endorsements.  Incoming 9th grade students must select an endorsement, in writing, although they do have the opportunity to change their selection during their high school years.
Under HB 5, districts are encouraged to offer up to 5 endorsements, or courses of study.  While fundamentally similar to the career planning efforts of counselors over the years, the endorsement approach formalizes and groups curriculum under specific disciplines, including:
- Business and Industry
- Public Services
- Arts and Humanities
- Multidisciplinary
While offering the Multidisciplinary endorsement is the minimum requirement, by no means should you, as Trustees, limit your thinking to offering only that endorsement.  We encourage you to work closely with your administration to determine how you might realign existing course offerings, or partner with neighboring districts and/or community colleges to offer courses that increase the number of endorsements offered to your students. 
Again, a major thrust of HB 5 is to give you the flexibility to take actions that better address the needs of students in your district; through partnering with other entities, you will have a greater chance to meet those needs.  There will certainly be cost considerations relating to technology, facilities and staffing, but you must weigh these costs against the value students derive from the decisions you make.  Make these decisions wisely and responsibly!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's Up To Us Now!

HB 5, signed into law by Gov. Perry in June, 2013, finally affords Texas school board trustees the local control and flexibility we have sought for so long.  But it is now up to all of us to act.  We cannot wait for direction from the SBOE or TEA ... those guidelines may not come!  And that is in everyone's best interest.

Over the coming months, leading up to presentations by Bobby Rigues, Aledo ISD Master Trustee, and Craig Rothmeier, Carroll ISD Master Trustee, at Winter Governance in Corpus Christi and Summer Leadership Institute in both San Antonio and Ft. Worth, we will share perspectives on how to address the HB-5 defined elements of Curriculum, Assessment and Accountability.

Through discussions with public education champions from H.D. Chairman, Alief ISD Superintendent, to Rep, Jimmy Don Aycock, Chairman of the House Education Committee, and administrators in multiple districts, we will share perspectives on what we must do to leverage the newly defined opportunities.  And we will do so to the great benefit of students in our districts.

Join us as we ride the HB 5 wave and learn how you can and must address the opportunities afforded us by this game-changing legislation.  And a heck of a ride it will be!  We're glad you are with us and thank you for your service to the more than 5 million public education students in Texas.