HB 5, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013, requires school districts across the state to offer advanced courses in fields that better prepare students to enter the workforce.
CFISD gives students the choice of five broad career paths: business and industry; arts and humanities; public service; multidisciplinary studies; and STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Eighth-graders must choose one category, referred to as an endorsement, to pursue starting in ninth grade. Although students are allowed to change course, a majority of students stick with their initial decisions, said Linda Macias, CFISD’s associate superintendent of curriculum, instruction and accountability.
“Students are becoming more focused on what their interests are and focusing their classes toward that interest,” she said.
The first class of ninth-graders to enter the program in the 2014-15 school year is now in its junior year. Macias said students are more confident in their future career paths than they were before the endorsement initiative was implemented.
Students are distributed fairly equally through the five endorsements, but the multidisciplinary track has slightly higher numbers, she said.
“This tells us the kids want to experience and study an array of areas,” Macias said.
Junior Achievement Inspire, an organization that helps connect eighth-graders to job opportunities, hosts an annual career fair for CFISD students in February. The fair gives students a chance to speak with professionals about the kind of courses they need to take and which skills potential employers are looking for.
Macias said the transition into this new program has been smooth because of the preparation students receive before choosing an endorsement.
As students approach junior and senior status, they are able to collect college credit by enrolling in Advanced Placement courses and taking advantage of the district’s dual-enrollment partnership with the Lone Star College System, Macias said.
“Our teachers and [LSC] professors work hand-in-hand in looking at curriculum,” she said. “This provides clarity for students and puts them further along in their college career. They’re not floundering to determine courses that might not count toward their degree.”