The following are two bills from the 84th Legislative Session that merit your attention (HB 18 and HB 2804):

 

HB 18: Schools to Provide College & Career Instruction for 7th-8th Graders

  • This bill does not require students to take a new course for this instruction.
  • You should monitor your district’s planned implementation of this bill.
  • Online program to be available Dec. 1.

House Bill 18 requires that districts must provide college and career instruction for seventh or eighth graders beginning in the 2015–2016 school year. The instruction must cover five areas: the creation of a high school personal graduation plan, the distinguished level of achievement, the five endorsements, college readiness standards, and education requirements to enter potential career areas.

We all know the struggles our students experience to schedule electives in these grades, and with expanded local requirements, STAAR remediation, and state requirements such as this, that challenge could become even more significant. However, the reality is that leadership at the capitol recognized that for HB 5 (which restructured graduation programs) to be successful, students in middle school must be adequately informed on the above-mentioned topics. Especially important is educating students who do not plan to attend college about the career opportunities available in their geographic area.

When House Bill 5 was being developed in 2013, part of the discussion was to require a middle school course to provide this information, but that did not make it into the final version of the bill. HB 18, then, is a follow-up to that priority but stops short of requiring a course, allowing districts to determine how best to meet this mandate. While TMEA had proposed language that allowed for instruction to be provided in a variety of arrangements and settings determined by the local school district, as with all legislation, final language represents a compromise.

The bill states that the above required instruction can be embedded in an existing course in the required curriculum or in an existing CTE course designated as appropriate for this purpose by the SBOE or be delivered in a new elective course. The Center for Teaching and Learning at UT/Austin is developing online materials for districts to use to provide the required instruction within an existing course. However, there is no definitive timeline for when these materials must be completed.

It will be critical for you to monitor how your district plans to meet this requirement. At this late date, it is highly unlikely that a campus will create and schedule every seventh- or eighth-grade student into a new course, especially since there is no state funding supporting this new mandate. The most likely option is that your district will expand how they counsel students on HB 5 and will provide more information on career opportunities, perhaps provided by the new online materials.

The bill is silent on whether each student must receive this instruction in the same manner. Some may get it in a CTE career opportunities course, some through AVID, or some through an existing course by counselors visiting those classrooms. To help students who already struggle with scheduling to remain in your program, you could offer to cover these areas as part of your instruction, using the new online materials. Meanwhile we will be communicating with TASA, TASB, and TASSP to devise methods that address the mandate with limited negative impact on electives for students.

HB 2804: Public School Accountability

HB 2804, the bill that will ultimately broaden Texas’s public school accountability system so that schools are not judged primarily on a standardized test, was discussed in the Editor’s Column of the August Southwestern Musician. Since that information was published, TEA as advised that implementation of Domain V that requires campuses/districts to identify three community and student engagement (CaSE) programs as a part of the local accountability process might take place in the 2016-2017 school year but doubt that districts would be required to identify these three areas of CaSE before the 2017-2018 school year. During the 2015-16 school year school districts should continue with their multi-area community and student engagement reporting (which includes fine arts) as required by HD 5 during the 83rd legislative session.