Several components of House Bill 5—signed into law after the 83rd legislative session in 2013—are making their way to Cy-Fair ISD as administrators prepare to implement new changes for the 2014-15 school year.
"House Bill 5 brought with it a new high school graduation plan—one with more rigor, but added flexibility," said Mary Jadloski, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
The bill created the Foundation Graduation Plan—requiring students to earn 22 credits—and removed the existing minimum, recommended and distinguished graduation plans.
Students can also take four additional credits by selecting from one of five newly created endorsements under the Foundation Plan, which include STEM, business and industry, public service, arts and humanities or multidisciplinary studies. Students currently in eighth grade will be the first class to graduate under the new plan, which added flexibility and careerfocused courses, Jadloski said.
"Different from the recommended plan, it allows for choice in many forms," she said. "For example, students have an option to select from a list of courses instead of taking the traditional English 4 class. They can enroll in literary genres, debate or humanities among other options."
Although students previously had to pass 15 end-of-course exams to graduate from high school, HB 5 dropped the number down to five. Students must now pass EOC exams in algebra 1, English 1, English 2, U.S. history and biology to graduate.
"In 2011 and 2013 legislators were hearing from parents, students, teachers, administrators, local business groups and school boards that there was an overwhelming emphasis on standardized testing," said Ashley Clayburn, assistant superintendent for school improvement and accountability. "These groups were requesting a reduction in testing as well as a way to tell the story of and place value on what is happening in districts when it is not a testing day."
CFISD has hosted dozens of meetings throughout the past couple of months to educate parents on what the new graduation plan will mean for students in the coming years.
There were two district-level parent involvement meetings in February and March with nearly 1,000 parents in attendance at both meetings combined. Each high school and middle school hosted meetings at each campus as well.
In addition to the Foundation Graduation Plan, HB 5 also requires districts to partner with at least one institute of higher learning to create English and math coursework for students who have not passed their EOC exams by the end of 11th grade.
"While some districts have struggled with this component, it was one of the easiest for us to begin implementing because of our strong relationship and collaboration with Lone Star College–CyFair," said Linda Macias, CFISD associate superintendent for curriculum, instruction and accountability.
The courses are aligned to both high school course content and developmental English and math courses and are available for the 2014-15 year.
"This agreement provides a significant opportunity for our students, one that we will encourage and support in the coming years," Jadloski said.