Houston ISD board managers during their Sept. 7 workshop approved a resolution allowing officials to begin the process of applying for a District of Innovation designation, laying the groundwork for managers to potentially extend the district’s school year.

The overview

The resolution approved during the workshop represents the first step in a process for receiving the designation that could take months.

According to the Texas Education Agency, the designation would allow HISD to become exempt from certain sections of the Texas Education Code that inhibit the goals of the district as outlined in a locally adopted innovation plan.

The TEA broadly defines an innovation plan as a comprehensive education program that may include:
  • Innovative curriculum; instructional methods; and provisions regarding community participation, campus governance and parental involvement
  • Modifications to the school day or year
  • Provisions regarding the district budget and sustainable program funding
  • Accountability and assessment measures that exceed the requirements of state and federal law
  • Any other innovations prescribed by the board of trustees
Additionally, the innovation plan must identify the requirements imposed in the Texas Education Code officials believe the district should be exempted from upon the adoption of the plan, according to the TEA.

Why it matters

Few details were provided during the workshop regarding how officials were planning to use the designation. However, Superintendent Mike Miles—who was appointed by the TEA in June to help improve the district’s accountability ratings and board governance—said schools within the district need 180-185 days of instruction to close the achievement gap. Currently, the district operates on a 172-day schedule.

During the workshop, HISD board Secretary Angela Lemond Flowers noted 965 school districts in Texas are operating under the designation, which she said represents 89% of districts statewide.

“We are now the outlier in not being innovative,” Flowers said. “I very strongly believe we need to use everything in our toolkit possible because we have big gains that we need to achieve. ... We need to have kids in the building learning. Our hands are bound right now by days, so this opens up that flexibility.”

What’s next

At the board’s Sept. 14 meeting, board managers will hold a public hearing to formally consider developing an innovation plan. Once the plan is developed, it must be posted on the district’s website for at least 30 days. The board of managers would then hold an additional public hearing to consider formally adopting the plan. Managers would need to approve the measure by at least a two-thirds vote.