Tuesday, November 18, 2014

HB 5 and Beyond – One District’s Success Story

In my last blog, “It’s Year 2, so what do we do?”, I referenced some of the next steps in implementing HB 5, focusing on the importance of outcomes, not just the process relating to Community and Student engagement ratings.  Surprisingly, I have gotten feedback that suggests that a small number of districts actually did very little in year one, believing that HB 5 is a “stop along the way” and that the next legislative session will result in significant changes to, or overturning of, HB 5.

Admittedly, we have no way of knowing exactly what the legislature, under new leadership, will do on the public education front.  There will continue to be significant conversation about charters and vouchers as a part of the school choice discussion.  Remember that public education is, in fact, a part of the school choice dialog; we must be very clear in conveying that message to our representatives in Austin.  Enough preaching, however.

One of the challenges of HB 5 is that it does not offer specific guidance on how to address the requirements of the legislation, only a framework and time lines for reporting of certain data.  Instead, it gives individual school districts the flexibility to define their unique approach to the options and opportunities embodied in the bill.  So we have a choice – do we move forward with implementation of HB 5, or do we stand by passively and wait for guidance?  My guess is that formal guidance will not come, so the latter option seems rather foolhardy to me.

Instead, let’s follow the lead of Garland ISD, a large district just north of Dallas.  In a series of presentations at Winter Governance and both SLI’s, Bobby J Rigues and I highlighted Garland as one of those districts that stepped up and aggressively defined a systematic approach to capitalize on HB 5 opportunities.  GISD administration defined a plan and then followed that plan, to the benefit of the students in their district. 

Here are some of the highlights of their plan and outcomes from their efforts.

In the fall of 2013, GISD created four implementation task forces:
Ø  Foundations Program/4-year Plan
Ø  Endorsements/Course Offerings
Ø  Business and Higher Education Partnerships
Ø  Accountability and Assessment

Foundations Program
GISD embarked on a significant communications program, including conducting parent meetings and hosting a Student Career Expo.  They developed a Foundation High School Course Guide and a Career and Technology (CTE) brochure.  As they moved into 2014, they updated the program guide, held additional parent meetings surrounding HB 5, and conducted senior interviews for each student.

Endorsements and Course Offerings
GISD spent considerable time aligning existing curriculum with the five defined endorsement opportunities.  As part of their communications efforts, they developed a short information film, as well as course guides for each High School and a list of endorsements for CTE.  They have since updated and communicated the FHSP summary document.

Business and Higher Education Partnerships
Beginning with a definition of CTE opportunities and targets, the committee sought out business partnerships for participation in the Student Career Expo.  They established relationships with institutions of higher education (IHE), including Texas A&M-Commerce, Eastland College, and Richland College.  In early 2014, GISD hosted a series of industry sessions, including construction, hospitality and tourism, and health sciences, and expanded dual credit opportunities for their students.

Accountability and Assessment
The Accountability and Assessment Committee went through the process of completing and reporting on self-evaluation criteria for all campuses and the district.  In 2014, the committee is reviewing the self-evaluation criteria and rubric, similar to the approach adopted by Carroll ISD and highlighted in my last blog.

So where are you in implementing HB 5 opportunities?  Are you still in the starting blocks, waiting (or hoping) for the next session to change the overall framework relating to local control and governance?  Or are you at the other end of the spectrum and aggressively implementing programs your district defined that align with the needs of your community and the students you serve?  I certainly encourage you to push forward, to listen to your communities and students, and to take actions that provide the greatest benefit to your students. 

While we may not control the discussion surrounding school choice, we certainly can take steps to strengthen public education.  House Bill 5 gave us that opportunity, an opportunity that we must pursue if we are to retain local governance but, more importantly, an opportunity to provide our students with resources and programs that align with their interests.  Remember, it is all about the kids!  Make sure you keep that in mind in all that you do relating to HB 5.

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