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Superintendent's column: House Bill 5 offers students new directions

By BY ROBERT JAKLICH
Oct. 5, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.

Robert Jaklich

During this past Legislative session, House Bill 5 (HB5) was passed into law. This bill 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. HB 5 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 also eliminates the 15 percent grading requirement. Under the previous rule, a student's score on the STAAR end-of-course exams would have counted for 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 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.

HB5 also mandates the State Board of Education (SBOE) to adopt rules and approve a variety of advanced courses that comply with the new Foundation Program requirements, provided that each approved course prepares students to enter the workforce successfully or enter postsecondary education without remediation. The Victoria ISD is proud to state that we have submitted two innovative Technical Education Programs to the SBOE for approval. These programs are the Process Technology Program and the Instrumentation and Electronics Technology Program.

The first two courses in the sequence of a certificate leading to an associate degree in process technology consist of two foundation courses that help prepare students for a career as a process technician or operator. Process technicians gather information using instruments that monitor process conditions such as pressure, temperature, level and flow rates. They operate lab equipment to keep their plants running safely and efficiently along with ensuring the efficient production of products that meet customer specifications. As a process technician or operator, one may work indoors and outdoors alongside chemical engineers, maintenance personnel and other professionals. Students will be expected to use their knowledge of computers, math, physics and chemistry to monitor and troubleshoot plant operations. Strong communication skills are also required, as the student will need to prepare and present oral presentations and exercise effective listening skills in order to succeed as a process technician.

The first two courses in the sequence of a certificate leading to an associate degree in either instrumentation or electronics consists of two foundation courses that would help prepare students for a career as an instrumentation and/or electronics technician. The Instrumentation and Electronics Technology Program will provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to continue in their postsecondary studies to secure an entry-level position as an instrumentation technician. Instrumentation and control technicians install, maintain, troubleshoot, repair and replace process control equipment to produce quality products and ensure environmental protection, safety and cost-effective operations. As an instrumentation and control technician, students will be able to work in a number of different industries such as chemical, petrochemical, power generation, manufacturing, hospital/medical equipment and construction.

Tuli Kupferberg once stated: "When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge." In regard to today's educational opportunities for our students, this is definitely the case. In the VISD, we will embrace the changes brought forth in HB5 and are extremely excited about the possibility of providing our students and community with these new and innovative career path choices. We also believe that what you receive by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire VISD, 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.

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