Superintendent's column: What you need to know about House Bill 5

Robert Jaklich

On Tuesday, the Texas House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (145-2) in support of House Bill 5, which redesigns high school graduation requirements and significantly reduces high-stakes testing among our high school students.

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.

In the area of "assessment," House Bill 5 reduces the number of end-of-course exams (EOCs) from 15 to 5. The five EOCs will consist of English II (reading and writing), Algebra I, Biology and U.S. History. It also eliminates the requirement that EOCs count for 15 percent of a student's final course grade and the requirement for students to earn a certain cumulative score on the EOC. In the VISD, we are extremely excited about the requirement in House Bill 5 that encourages school districts to partner with area colleges and industry to develop rigorous courses that relate to the area economy and can count towards graduation standards.

In the field of "accountability," House Bill 5 creates three rating systems for school districts. The first rating is based upon academic performance, the second rating is based on financial performance, and the third rating is an area rating system that is determined by a school district's community and student engagement.

The changes brought forward in House Bill 5 are a result of parents, teachers, school administrators, policy makers, board members and community and business leaders all coming together to ensure an accountability system that is fair, consistent and measurable for "all" students. Having strong advocates like Raise Your Hand Texas is also important for continued student success. Raise Your Hand Texas is an organization that works to strengthen our public schools by investing in public school leaders and by advocating for public policies that make public education better for all Texas students. You can learn more about these issues as well as other legislative updates by visiting the Raise Your Hand Texas website at raiseyourhandtexas.org/advocacy.

Voltaire once stated: "Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well." On behalf of the board of trustees and the entire VISD, thank you for your excellence and for all that you do to make our school district such an exceptional place to be.

Robert Jaklich is the superintendent for the Victoria Independent School District. Contact him at 361-788-9202 or through the VISD website, visd.com.