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!

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