Friday, June 13, 2014

HB 5 and the New Education "Superheroes"

The passage of House Bill 5 in the 83rd Legislative Session created new opportunities for students who many considered to be underserved, addressed concerns raised by parents and educators alike relating to curriculum design and assessment, and established requirements for community and student engagement.  Having previously documented some of the most significant changes, I won't belabor the point or discussion about the many benefits of this critical legislation. 

So with all of the good emanating from passage of this bill, what are some of the pitfalls?  Over the next couple of blogs, I'll provide perspectives gained through conversations with a number of administrators and fellow trustees across the State of Texas.  The first will focus on what we might call the new Education Superheroes, the counselors in our middle and high schools.

The advent of HB5 and introduction of the concept of an endorsement opened up new career pursuit opportunities for a large number of students in the state. Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, Chairman of the House Education Committee, told me that he believed that as many as 40% of the 5.1 M public education students will benefit from having more career options, specifically those in the Career and Technical Education (CATE) arena.  The shift from a one-size-fits-all approach under the former 4X4 program, to one focused on individual choice tied to endorsement selection, is certainly a positive step for these students.

But this implementation of an endorsement-based approach does not come without challenges.  The most notable of these is how endorsement choices and counseling have significantly impacted the role of the counselor.  Many concluded that the main impact would be on the high school counselor as they work with incoming ninth graders.  The reality, however, is that the impact is felt equally, and perhaps even more so, at the middle school level.

The middle school counselor has a clear responsibility to start a communication process with students and parents as early as seventh grade.  What seems to be a fairly simple process of articulating endorsements offered by a district is much more than that.  Students need to understand their options and the need to begin thinking about where their interests lie.  And the role of the middle school counselor doesn't stop there.  They also have a responsibility to work with their peers at the high school level to coordinate these communications.

So when it's all said and done, and after the dust of selecting endorsements has settled, make sure that you give a hug and a thank you to the counselors that so capably serve the needs and interests of public education students across the State.  They truly are Superheroes to all of us!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Real Value in HB 5

Well, while certainly not the only real value in HB 5, much is being written today about the positive impact of encouraging students to pursue career and technology education (CATE) options now afforded them.  As noted in prior blogs, one of the main considerations behind the initial discussions that ultimately led to drafting and passing this important piece of legislation was the feeling among many educators that the requirements pre-HB 5 limited opportunities for students, or at least that they failed to align opportunity with student interest.

I happened to be reading my “local” newspaper (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram) earlier today and read a cover story (More high school grads certified and ready to work) that discussed the opportunities for high school students to pursue career and technical education opportunities.  The good news is that articles such as this one are no longer isolated examples of how public education has changed in terms of importance and public awareness.  And that is tremendous exposure for all involved in public education in the State of Texas.

It’s certainly possible to access the on-line version of this article (yes, the Star Telegram today is still free to access) by going to, but this exposure is important enough that I wanted to highlight some of the key points made in this article.  One of the comments is that the number of industry licenses in Birdville ISD earned through their technology center increased from 344 in 2009 to 1,890 in the current school year.  And that number will continue to grow as technology evolves. 

In the Hurst-Euless-Bedford district, voters supported a 2011 bond program that included funding for a new Technical Education Academy to replace the former Technical Education Center.  Courses offered will include animation, architecture, automotive technology, engineering and culinary arts.  In Mansfield ISD, students now have an opportunity to choose from 15 different tracks, including EMT certification and food safety and sanitation management.  And the Keller district is weighing a potential opportunity to transform a prior intermediate school into a career and technical education center.

Truly, these represent great opportunities for students!

And these successes are not limited to large school districts such as Birdville, Mansfield and Keller ISD’s.  In a recent conversation that I had with a 2-A district superintendent in central Texas, he highlighted career and technology options now available through partnering with other districts.  Specifically, a neighboring district offered the opportunity for students to graduate and immediately be in a position to work in manufacturing jobs.  So what’s critical here is that the CATE options can be delivered either directly by the district or through partnerships with other districts or local businesses.  All great options, all focused on student achievement and opportunity!

So going back to an earlier blog and paraphrasing somewhat, “How are you doing?”  House Bill 5 was absolutely passed to address many shortcomings of the prior 4X4 system that provided limited flexibility for as many as 30-40% of the students in Texas whose interests do not align with that curriculum.  It’s now up to individual districts and boards of trustees to make decisions that positively impact the students in their districts.  It’s not just an opportunity; it’s a requirement that we, as trustees, have in working with students, parents, businesses, and the communities at large.  As I’ve said before, the students in your district deserve nothing less!