Superintendent's column: HB 5 brings changes to public school districts
On June 12, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced the initial requirements regarding the assessment component of House Bill 5, which was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry.
House Bill 5 embodies significant changes to high school graduation requirements, the state assessment system and the state accountability system. In regards to graduation requirements, House Bill 5 creates a single "Foundation Diploma" and eliminates the minimum, recommended and distinguished graduation plans that are currently in place. It allows students to earn endorsements in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); business and industry; public services; arts and humanities and multidisciplinary studies. House Bill 5 also creates a distinguished achievement level above the foundation diploma that can be attained in any of the above mentioned endorsement programs by completing an additional science and math credit. HB 5 eliminates the 15 percent grading requirement. Under the rule previously connected to the STAAR end-of-course examinations, a student's score on the STAAR end-of-course exams would have counted as 15 percent of the student's final grade in each tested subject area. The STAAR end-of-course cumulative score component has also been eliminated.
In the area of assessment, House Bill 5 reduces the number of end-of-course exams (EOCs) from 15 to five. The five assessments include Algebra I, English I (combined reading/writing), English II (combined reading/writing), Biology and U.S. History. Students must now pass all five of these end-of-course assessments to be eligible to graduate from a Texas public high school. Additionally, students who have already taken a required assessment but have not yet passed will still need to demonstrate satisfactory performance on that exam to meet the state's graduation requirements. For example, reading and writing are currently assessed separately in English I and English II. However, HB5 requires reading and writing to be combined and administered in a single day. High school students who have to-date passed English I or English II reading but not English I or English II writing (or vice-versa) will still need to successfully complete the second test to meet all graduation requirements.
The English I and English II end-of course exams will continue to have separate reading and writing tests for the July 2013 test administration and the December 2013 test administration. Assessments that combine English I and English II reading and writing will be available to students beginning in the spring assessment of 2014. High school students who have not successfully completed a separate reading or writing assessment by that time will be required to take the new combined English I or English II test.
Assessments in Algebra II, Geometry, English III, Chemistry, Physics, World Geography and World History have been eliminated from the testing requirements for accountability. As a result, the July 2013 STAAR administration will not include assessments for these courses, but end-of-course tests will continue to be offered to students in Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology and U.S. History as part of the regular curriculum.
Under HB 5, districts must provide accelerated instruction to students who do not perform satisfactorily on the five end-of-course exams that are required for graduation. Since the end-of-course exams for Chemistry, Physics, Algebra II, Geometry, World History, World Geography and English III are no longer required for high school graduation, the provision for accelerated instruction no longer applies.
In the VISD, we will embrace the changes brought forth in HB5 and will continue our focus on quality. We believe our success is not a matter of circumstance; it is a matter of choice. On behalf of the board of trustees and our entire school district, thank you for choosing to believe in our students and supporting our mission of "Every Child, Every Classroom, Every Day."
Robert Jaklich is the superintendent for the Victoria Independent School District. Contact him at 361-788-9202 or through the VISD website, visd.com.