TISD plan for flexible graduation set for vote

Published on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 23:20 - Written by EMILY GUEVARA eguevara@tylerpaper.com

The Tyler ISD board of trustees is scheduled to vote today on a graduation plan that includes greater student flexibility.

This plan is based on the state requirements and includes some additional requirements set by TISD.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Christy Hanson said the plan offers students flexibility to design a program that is most aligned with their individual educational and postsecondary goals.

“So, it’s no longer a one-size-fits-all approach,” she said. “Students and parents can design a high school experience that is aligned with what their goals are for after high school.”

The program as outlined by the state includes a Foundation Plan with endorsements and the possibility for distinguished achievement and performance acknowledgements.

The Foundation Plan requires 22 credits achieved through a combination of courses in math, science, social studies, English and more.

In addition to what the state requires, the district is proposing a half credit of health and a half credit of speech. This will be substituted for one elective credit.

The state will require students to select an endorsement to pursue before entering high school.

An endorsement essentially is in which the student chooses to specialize. The state outlines five possible endorsements and TISD will offer all of them.

They are STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), business and industry, public services, arts and humanities and multidisciplinary studies.

Each endorsement requires the student to take four math credits, four science credits, plus two electives related to their chosen endorsement and four additional electives.

The Foundation Plan plus the endorsement totals at least 26 credits, according to information provided by TISD.

A student must go beyond the Endorsement Plan to reach the Distinguished Level of Achievement.

It requires 26 credits, the same as the Endorsement Plan, but must include Algebra II in the four math credits; chemistry and physics in the four science credits; world geography and world history in the four social studies credits; and five credits of electives instead of four.

A student must graduate with the Distinguished Level of Achievement to be eligible for top 10 percent automatic admission to college.

Beyond the endorsements, students can obtain performance acknowledgements in different areas such as bilingual, National Merit Scholar, or for performance on AP or IB exams.

Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said school districts can require more of their students than the state requires, but not less.

Assuming board approval, TISD’s plan will go into effect next school year, 2014-15, starting with the high school freshman and the students that follow them.

Dr. Hanson said next year’s sophomores will be encouraged to move over to the new plan as well, while juniors and seniors will be encouraged to stay on the existing graduation plan.

Moving forward, starting in the eighth-grade year, parents, students and counselors will work together to create individualized high school graduation plans for students based on their interests and needs, according to district information.

The district will automatically place eighth-graders on the most rigorous plan, the Distinguished Level of Achievement, before they start their ninth-grade year.

However, as students progress through high school, they, with parent permission, can opt out of that plan. But, the district is going to encourage students to choose the most rigorous plan possible, Dr. Hanson said.

Students will be able to earn more than one endorsement if they choose.

Districts officials are excited to see the change in the graduation plan coincide with the 2015 opening of the career and technical education enter.

Dr. Hanson said there is some confusion about the career and technical education courses. Many people think of them as vocational courses, but the planned offerings for the district’s new career and technical education center, also will prepare students for professional careers.

The career pathways are expected to include: health care, technology, education and public service, business and industry and arts and hospitality.

Within these pathways are multiple career options, such as nursing, pre-med, engineering, computer programming, process technology, marketing, architecture, auto mechanics, audio and visual production and culinary arts.

Dr. Hanson said she is trying to get people to see that pre-law, pre-engineering and pre-vet are CTE courses and the district wants students to have those courses on their high school resume.

“We are building a high school resume now,” he said.

The board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. today in the Dr. Jack L. Davidson Conference Center in the Jim Plyler Instructional Complex, 807 W. Glenwood Blvd.

The meeting is open to the public. For more information about the district’s proposed graduation plans, visit TylerISD.org.