SBOE Seeks Input on New Graduation Plans

The State Board of Education is seeking input from educators and community members Graduationas it begins to restructure graduation requirements to address recent changes in state law.

House Bill 5, passed by the Texas Legislature this spring, made substantial changes to the state’s graduation requirements, moving from the current “4×4” graduation plans to a 22-credit Foundation High School Program that allows students to earn endorsements in specific areas of study by completing four additional credits.

This requires the SBOE to make a number of policy decisions, such as deciding which courses will count as advanced mathematics, English, and science courses, and determining the requirements for each endorsement area.

The following are the endorsements students can earn:

  • STEM, which includes courses directly related to: science, including environmental science, technology, including computer science, engineering, and advanced mathematics;
  • Business and Industry, which includes courses directly related to: database management, information technology, communications, accounting, finance, marketing, graphic design, architecture, construction, welding, logistics, automotive technology, agricultural science, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning;
  • Arts and Humanities, which includes courses directly related to: political science, world languages, cultural studies, English literature, history, and fine arts; and
  • Public Services, which includes courses directly related to: health sciences and occupations, education and training, law enforcement, and culinary arts and hospitality;
  • Multidisciplinary Studies*, which allows a student to: select courses from the curriculum of each endorsement area and earn credits in a variety of advanced courses from multiple content areas sufficient to complete the distinguished level of achievement under the foundation high school program.

The board will have a public hearing on September 17th in room 1-104 of the Travis State Office Building in Austin to receive input from educators and others about the changing graduation requirements.

Those who wish to submit written comments about the graduation changes may send their comments to sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us through September 10th.

Some of the issues that need to be addressed are:

  • The number of courses that a student must complete to earn an endorsement.
  • Should they require courses for any or all endorsements?
  • What courses should be included in the endorsement options?
  • Which courses should count as an advanced math or science credit?

A list of the current CTE and Technology Application Courses can help assist those who want to provide comments.

After the public hearing on September 17th, the Texas Education Agency will craft a proposed rule dealing with graduation requirements. The board will then consider this draft rule at its November 20-22 meeting in Austin. If the rule receives preliminary approval in November, it will be posted in the Texas Register and there will be a 30-day public comment period. Comments during this time may be submitted to rules@tea.state.tx.us.

A final vote on the changes is expected during the board’s January 29-31 meeting. All board meetings will occur at the Travis State Office Building at 1791 N. Congress Ave. in Austin.

These new rules will not go into effect until the 2014-2015 school year. As updates become available they will be posted on the Texas Education Agency’s website (http://www.tea.state.tx.us/graudation.aspx)


* Districts are required to offer at least one endorsement. If they only offer one, it must be the Multidisciplinary Studies endorsement.

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TEA Releases Legislative Briefing Book on 83rd Legislative Actions

 

IMG_1471The Texas Education Agency recently released the Legislative Briefing Book of the 83rd Texas Legislature. This resource is designed to provide school districts with information about the impact of the more than 100 education-related laws that were passed during the legislature.

Below are the bills that impact educational technology and computer science. Included are the page numbers in which you can find the information related to technology and computer science.

HB 5 – Comprehensive education reform bill (in HB 5, Section 16 beginning on page 67, and in HB 5, Section 65-68 starting on page 137).

TCEA’s Summary

  • The courses in the technology applications curriculum were added to the definition of “an applied STEM course”. This change allows the State Board of Education (SBOE) to select courses from advanced career and technical education courses (CTE) and technology applications courses to substitute for the fourth year of math credit.
  • The bill also broadened how a district would be evaluated for accountability. The bill creates a list of areas in which a district will evaluate its progress in a variety of areas. TCEA and TechNet lobbied to ensure that district’s would annually evaluate their progress in achieving a digital learning environment.
  • The bill also allows for students to take two courses in computing programming languages as a substitute for two courses in a foreign language. This was included in the House version of the bill. We recommended this substitution be included in the final version. The conference committee agreed with our recommendation.
  • The word “computational” has been added in the phrase “critical and computational thinking” to reflect today’s students need to formulate solutions that can be aided by the use of computers.

HB 2201 – Relates to CTE and Technology Applications courses counting at the fourth math credit.  (Page 57)

TCEA’s Summary

  • Requires the SBOE to establish six CTE/Tech Apps courses that could satisfy the fourth year math requirement; this language is also in HB 5.
  • The amendment provided by TCEA and TechNet:  “Technology applications” courses, including computer science, are included in the list of courses the SBOE can consider to satisfy the fourth year math credit.

HB 3573 – Relates to teacher certification (Page 34)

TCEA’s Summary

  • Allows technology applications certificate holders to teach two CTE courses: Principles of Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications and Principles of Information Technology.

HB 1926 – Related to the Texas Virtual School Network (Begins on Page 92)

TCEA’s Summary

Allows non-profit and private entities to offer courses in the TxVSN if they:

  • Have prior successful experience offering online courses to middle or high school students
  • Have demonstrated student success in course completion and performance, and
  • Meet all the requirements established by the administering authority.

Also the bill:

  • Permits a school district or open-enrollment charter the discretion to select a course provider for their students within the TxVSN.

Requires TEA to conduct a broadband study of Texas school district network capabilities (amendment provided by TCEA and TechNet)

Find more details on an earlier post.

HB 642 – Relating to Teacher Certification (begins on page 36)

TCEA’s Summary

  • Requires the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) to ensure that 25% of continuing education credits (CPEs) for teachers and principals includes topics such as “integrating technology into classroom instruction.” 

HCR 104 – Relates to educational technology (begins on page 155)

TCEA’s Summary

  • Outlines the benefits of the use of technology in education and encourages districts to create policies that promote the use of technology and technological devices in classrooms (TCEA helped draft this resolution and TechNet supported)
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Changes Made to the TxVSN in the 83rd Legislature

Some changes are in store for virtual learning in the state of TexasIMG_1179 if Governor Perry signs HB 1926. This bill recently was passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature. It makes some significant changes to the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN). Below is a summary of some of the changes.

 

Funding and Course Provider Selection

  • The bill added two more ways a school district or open-enrollment charter may deny paying for a student to take a course via the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN):
      • The district offers a substantially similar course
      • A student wants to take more than three year-long courses during any school year via the TxVSN
  • A student may elect to take more than three courses within a year at his or her own expense.
  • The maximum cost was left unchanged by the bill. It is currently $400 for a single course or $4,800 for full-time enrollment.
  • The bill establishes that funding for full-time, online programs is only available for programs that were in existence on January 1, 2013.
  • A school district or open-enrollment charter is given the discretion to select a course provider within the TxVSN for a particular course for their students.
  • The bill stipulates that nothing in Chapter 30A (education code) entitles a student who is not enrolled on a full-time basis in a school district or open-enrollment charter school to the benefits of the Foundation School Program.

Reporting Requirements:

  • TEA is required to create a system in which districts may list distance learning courses that they offer and is seeking to inform other districts of the availability of these courses. The commissioner is not able to set the price for the courses. It appears these courses would not be offered through the TxVSN.
  • Additional reporting requirements for course providers are established in HB 1926. The course providers must provide the following information for the administrative authority to list on their website:
      • The entity that developed and the entity that provided a course
      • The course completion rate of each entity
      • The aggregate student performance on an assessment for a specific course
      • The aggregate student performance on all assessment instruments administered to students who completed the provider’s courses
      • Any other information determined by the commissioner
  • The bill requires a school or open-enrollment charter to provide parents with a written notification of their TxVSN policies once a year.
  • The bill requires TEA to develop a comprehensive course numbering system for all courses offered through the TxVSN.

Course Providers:

  • A nonprofit or private entity will be allowed to offer courses through the TxVSN if they possess prior successful experience offering online courses for middle or high school students, have demonstrated student success in course completion and performance, and they meet all the requirements established by the administering authority.
  • Only school districts or open-enrollment charters may award credits or diplomas.
  • Open-enrollment charters may be course providers in the TxVSN if they are rated acceptable or higher and may only serve students within their service area. However, they are able to offer courses outside their service area if they have an agreement with the attending student’s district.
  • The state has the authority to enter into a reciprocity agreement with one or more states to facilitate expedited course approvals as long as the courses meet the state curriculum requirements.
  • A course provider may not offer inducements such as equipment or anything of value to entice a student to take a course via the TxVSN.
  • The definition found in 20.U.S.C. Section 1001 is to be used when establishing a higher education institution as a course provider. 

Broadband Study:

  • The bill requires the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to conduct a broadband study to determine the network capabilities of each school district.

 

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HB 1926 Takes Another Step Forward

Late Wednesday night, the Senate passed their version of HB 1926 which makes changes to the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN). The Senate sponsor for HB 1926 is Senator Hegar.  In an earlier post I listed some of the provisions in the House version of the bill.

The Senate version:

  • Requires a school or open-enrollment charter to notify parents once a year of their TxVSN policies
  • Adds language that stipulates that only a school district or open-enrollment charter school is authorized to award course credit or a diploma for courses taken through the TxVSN
  • Adds that a school district or open-enrollment charter has the discretion to select a course provider within the TxVSN for a particular course for their students
  • Uses the definition of an “institution of higher education” found in 20.U.S.C. Section 1001
  • Requires TEA to develop a comprehensive course numbering system for all courses offered through the TxVSN
  • Requires the commissioner to consider comments from school district and open-enrollment charter school representatives before establishing a standard agreement that governs the cost and payment of funds between course providers and sending schools.  This is currently in statute but the House version stripped this language. The Senate version adds it back.
  • Stipulates that nothing in Chapter 30A (education code) entitles a student who is not enrolled on a full-time basis in a school district or open-enrollment charter school to the benefits of the Foundation School Program
  • Requires the TEA to conduct a broadband study to determine the network capabilities of each school district

Since the Senate version of HB 1926 is different than the House version, either the House will concur and accept the Senate version or they will have to go to conference committee to work out the differences. Both chambers will then have to pass the conference committee version by midnight on May 26th.

Tall order, but possible.

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HCR 104 – Resolution Supporting the Use of Technology in Schools

Representative Angie Button

Representative Angie Button

Update: (May 14th at 12:04 p.m. Central)  HCR 104 was heard in the Senate Ed. Committee and they recommended it to be placed on the local and consent calendar of the Senate.

 

Representative Angie Chen Button’s HCR 104 is being heard in the Senate Education Committee today. Senator Seliger is the Senate sponsor for this non-binding resolution. HCR 104 encourages school districts to adopt policies that promote the use of technology and technological devices in Texas classrooms. Representative Button has reached out to TCEA to support the use of technology in Texas schools. We collaborated with the representative to prepare the resolution. HCR 104 is intended to send a message to school districts that the legislature is supportive of the use of technology in Texas classrooms and that districts should continue to work toward the digital conversion of teaching and learning. HCR 104 passed the House on May 8th.

TCEA has testified in support of this resolution. Below are the written comments submitted to the House Technology Committee urging them to support the resolution.

Screen shot 2011-03-09 at 3.33.17 PM

The Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) is pleased to support HCR 104. We believe that although technology has been in schools for many years, only now is there a convergence of factors that is creating a “tipping point” of the digital conversion of education.

Today’s students are finding the one-size-fits-all education model to be woefully inadequate for providing them with a student-centered, customized learning model that addresses the diversity of their backgrounds, interests, and learning goals. Students’ now desire to map their own learning journey by directing their path and choosing the mode of educational exploration that best fits their own personal style and interest.[i] Outside of the classroom, students are utilizing technologies that enable them to create personalized learning environments that directly fuel their individual learning passions in a modality that is highly customized to their learning needs.[ii]  Today’s students have digitally converted their personal lives outside of the classroom with the adoption and adaption of technology to communicate, collaborate, and connect with peers and experts.[iii] However, many schools do not provide a learning environment that matches what these students have created outside the school. There is a growing disconnect between how students learn and collaborate outside of school with how they learn and collaborate within the school. Students are consequently finding that their school experiences are not relevant and do not meet their needs.

This has not gone unnoticed by Texas educators, business leaders, and legislators. Steps have been taken in recent legislative sessions to begin to digitize the learning environment by providing more flexibility with funding that had been set aside for textbooks and technology. The legislature has also provided telecommunication discounts to assist Texas districts’ pursuit of robust broadband connectivity. The Texas Virtual School has given more opportunities for Texas students to take some of their classes online.  Many school districts are using these opportunities to increase the access to mobile devices in their classrooms and provide students with opportunities to engage with rich-media content.

For the past nine years, Project Tomorrow has conducted the Speak Up survey documenting the growth in teachers, students, parents, and administrator’s use of technology both inside and outside of the classroom. This national survey gives districts, educators, and parents a trend analysis of a birds’ eye view of the changing environment for digital learning. The most recent survey was conducted in the fall of 2012.

The Project Tomorrow researchers believe that the confluence of multiple factors are creating a “perfect storm” that is driving new excitement and enthusiasm for leveraging technology to transform teaching and learning.

The following are transformative factors that Project Tomorrow believes is driving a momentum toward a digital conversion of the teaching and learning process. [iv]

  • Today’s teachers, administrators and parents are increasingly mobile-using, texting, tweeting social media devotees whose personal and professional lives are dependent upon Internet connectivity and online collaborative learning environments. In fact, a majority of teachers (52 percent), parents (57 percent) and district administrators (52 percent) are now regularly updating a social networking site, and many are using a personal mobile device such as a smartphone to do that.  This is creating an unprecedented “readiness” on the part of educators to adopt and adapt new technologies within learning.
  • A continuation of the multi-year stagnation in funding for new education technology investments is now forcing school and district leaders to scrap many of the plans that have been on hold waiting for a resumption of funding.  Their new approach is to test innovative ways to leverage technology to increase revenue or decrease costs even though some of these approaches challenge conventional wisdom and long-held policy positions.  For example, with 74 percent of technology leaders acknowledging that their ed tech budgets are less today than in the 2008/09 school year, it is not surprising that administrators are re-thinking their hard stance against student owned mobile devices in class. In just one-year from 2011 to 2012, districts piloting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach increased by 47 percent.
  • Digital tools and resources have transcended the classroom and are emerging strongly as key components of 21st century school-to-home communications.  Today’s administrators are increasingly looking to engage parents as co-teachers in the learning process, and thus, the linkages between home and school are more essential than ever before.  How the new “digital parent” wants to receive school communications is challenging many traditional assumptions.  Over one-third of parents (37 percent) now say that they would like their child’s teacher or school to communicate with them via text messaging; only 5 percent held that same view just two years ago.
  • The clamor of the corporate employers for better skilled employees with work ready, global skills is at a fever pitch – and this is propelling many economically-minded school boards and mayors to put renewed pressures on school leaders for better student outcomes.  49 percent of administrators see leveraging technology through online learning, digital textbooks, and/or mobile devices, as a key driver for student success.

The Texas Speak Up survey data closely mirrors these national trends.  These four factors are true of Texas schools and districts. HCR 104 acknowledges that technology is changing the way we work and conduct our lives and that schools need to make the necessary changes to complete the digital conversion of teaching and learning in their classrooms. It is an imperative to the economic growth of the future of Texas students and the state as a whole.


[i] Innovate to Educate: System [Re]Design for Personalized Learning, page 6

[ii] Speak Up 2011: Mapping a Personalized Learning Journey, Page 3

[iii] SpeakUp 2012:  From Chalkboard to Tablets: The Digital Conversion of the K-12 Classroom, Page 1

[iv] SpeakUp 2012:  From Chalkboard to Tablets: The Digital Conversion of the K-12 Classroom, Page 3-4

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Seliger’s Amendment on HB 5 Has Positive Impact on the IMA

Senator Kel Seliger offered an amendment to HB 5 in the Texas Senate on May 6th that would have aSenator Keliger positive effect on a school district’s use of the Instructional Materials Allotment (IMA).

School districts will not receive their 2013-2014 biennial IMA funding until September 1, 2013. This could potentially prevent schools from having the funds necessary to purchase instructional materials or technology that is needed for the beginning of the school year. Senator Seliger’s amendment requires that as soon as practical, the TEA commissioner would notify Texas school districts the amount of funds that will be placed in their IMA account for the upcoming school year. Districts could then purchase items using the IMA prior to September 1st, as long as the vendor is willing to delay payment for the items until after the official budget year begins. Without this amendment districts could incur a fine for this action.

The amendment and HB 5 passed unanimously. This amendment was not included in the House version of HB 5 so it will be up to the conference committee to decide if the amendment is in the final version of the bill. TCEA will advocate for this amendment stay in HB 5.

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HB 1926: Virtual Bill on the Move

Several bills that would make changes to virtual or online education in Texas have been making their way through the legislative process.  HB 1926 by Representative Ken King, passed the House on third reading on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Below are some of the provisions of this bill.

Representative Ken King

Representative Ken King

  • A school district or open-enrollment charter would be able to deny paying for a student to take a course via the TxVSN if the district offers a substantially similar course. 
  • A school district or open-enrollment charter would not be required to pay for a student to take more than three year-long courses during any school year via the TxVSN. However, a student could elect to take more than three courses within a year at their own expense.
  • TEA would be required to create a system in which districts may list distance learning courses the district offers and is seeking to inform other districts of the availability of their distance learning courses. The commissioner would not be able to set the price for the courses. It appears these courses would not be offered through the TxVSN.
  • A nonprofit entity or private entity would be allowed to offer courses through the TxVSN if they possess prior successful experience offering online courses to elementary, middle, junitor high, or high school students and they meet all the requirements established by the administering authority.
  • Open-enrollment charters would be course providers in the TxVSN if they are rated acceptable or higher and would serve only students within their service area. However, they would be able to offer courses outside their service area if they had an agreement with the student’s district to do so.
  • The state would have the authority to enter into a reciprocity agreement with one or more states to facilitate expedited course approvals as long as the courses meet the state curriculum requirements.
  • A course provider could not offer inducements such as equipment or anything of value to entice a student to take a course via the TxVSN.
  • Additional reporting requirements for course providers would be established in HB 1926.
  • The maximum cost which is currently at $400, was left unchanged by the bill.

HB 1926 will now go to the Senate for their consideration. SB 1298 authored by Senator Hegar was voted out of the Senate Education Committee but has not yet come up for a vote on the Senate floor. These two bills are not companion bills although they have a few similar features. At this time it is not known if HB 1926 will become the vehicle for changes to virtual education in Texas.

 

 

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