The Houston Independent School District (ISD) will extend its school year and begin classes earlier in August after approval by the district’s school board on a “District of Innovation” plan, according to an article in K-12 Dive.
Although the vast majority of Texas school districts have already received the District of Innovation designation, the potential changes have sparked controversy in HISD.
Community members have voiced several concerns, including that the allowance of unlicensed instructors could lower academic standards.
The plan’s provisions take effect immediately.
With HISD now a District of Innovation, here’s what will change:
- HISD’s school year likely will begin as soon as the first Monday in August next year, thanks to a provision of the plan that allows the district to skirt state law requiring the first day of class to be the fourth Monday in August. Nearly all other Texas school districts that have received innovation status start their school year before the fourth Monday in August.
- HISD will be allowed to hire high school teachers that do not have certifications without seeking a waiver from the Texas Education Agency, as would be typically required, under the innovation plan.
- The implementation guidelines say uncertified hires will have to earn a certification within two years of working in the district.
- HISD will be allowed to implement a homegrown teacher appraisal system in the 2025-26 school year under the District of Innovation plan. The evaluation tool will place a higher premium on instructional techniques such as soliciting student responses during class roughly every four minutes.
- The district hopes to grant high school principals the flexibility to award students grades even if the child missed more than 10 percent of class days. State law says grades should be withheld from all K-12 students who attend less than 90 percent of class days, barring them from receiving credit, except in certain cases when principals provide an alternate assignment. HISD is seeking the ability to waive that requirement for high school students earning at least a C grade in all classes, with the expectation that schools maintain at least 70 percent attendance for all classes. The change will not affect elementary or middle schools.