House supports graduation reform: Hutto ISD admins, Gonzales weigh in

Christine Bolaños-April 3, 2013

Story from The Hutto News

The bill would lower the number of math and science courses Texas students must pass to graduate high school and give them the option to complete “endorsements” in areas they plan to pursue after high school such as technology, science and business.

At the local level the bill is seen as a positive step toward what many educators believe is an improvement in education that requires not only more funding ,but, an overhaul.

“HB5 represents a significant step towards giving kids choices, along with college and career pathways, so that public schools can prepare kids with endorsements, certifications and college credit for real world success. The flexibility that will return to the high school schedule will allow kids to take pathways to the career they are interested in, not be forced into a one size fits all system,” said Hutto ISD Superintendent Doug Killian.

Lawmakers see the bill as a win-win for students and the state’s economy.

“HB5 is much more than an education bill, this is an economic infrastructure bill. When I’ve visited with high tech businesses across the state, they have all relayed the same message: ‘We have jobs available, we just don’t have the skilled workers needed to fill them.’ Take a look at the variety of businesses, across all sectors of our economy, which are supporting HB5,” said Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock).

He cites a letter of support from Jobs for Texas, in which the organization supports the bill because it supports one diploma that affords all students a variety of postsecondary opportunities, expands course options and allows students added flexibility; allows school districts to partner with community colleges and industries to develop rigorous courses that address workforce needs, provides technical training and counts toward graduation; and allows high school graduates to apply for admission to Texas public four- year universities.

Gonzales believes the new graduation plan would allow students to focus in areas that may not have necessarily been a focus in Texas school districts before such as STEM, business and industry, public services, arts and humanities and multi-disciplinary studies. Another point he made in his notes on the bill is that the plan reduces the “overreliance” on standardized testing to evaluate student performance by reducing end-of-course (EOC) exams from 15 to five and eliminates the EOC 15 percent rule for final course grades.

He also points out that the reformed graduation plan would allow for “meaningful and informative school ratings” by considering other measures besides student performance on standardized assessments. Schools would be given an A, B, C or F based on academic and financial performance and community and student engagement.

“It takes a fundamental look at how we deliver public education in Texas,” Gonzales said in a video highlighting benefits of the bill.

“One of the most important things about this bill has to do with coursework in that it allows the parents and the students to design a curriculum for graduation that really plays to the talents and interests of that particular student.

“Not all can learn the same and the definition of success can vary from child to child. We want to make sure that our kids, our students, are prepared for a future to join our economic infrastructure to provide a great living for their family,” he said.

There are many critics of the proposal who are concerned the new graduation plan could negatively affect students who do not have the parental support to create their own graduation plan and lower standards.

“The unanimous House support it received gives me hope that the time for students and teachers to focus on learning and not testing is close at hand…There is still work to be done to finalize the bill, but I am looking forward to its continued movement through the Senate,” said Hutto High School Principal Brandy Baker.

 

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