Meeting in San Antonio Addresses House Bill 5's Additional Provision

October 2013 | Houston, Texas
BY: Amy Williams

With the passing of House Bill 5 (HB5), much publicity was centered on the decreased amount of tests students would be required to take.  Unknown to many, however, is another provision that will influence all Independent School Districts (ISDs) and a considerable amount of Higher Education institutions.

Tori Austin, coordinator III, curriculum support co-director, Transformation Central Texas STEM Center, has begun working diligently with ISDs and partnering higher education institutions in Bexar* County, San Antonio, to fulfill this additional clause of House Bill 5 before the deadline.

“There is a piece in House Bill 5 that requires ISDs to partner with at least one Higher Education institution to develop a college readiness course to be taken by 12th graders who have demonstrated that they are not college ready,” explained Austin.

Under HB5, every high school statewide must begin offering a college-preparatory class in the content areas of mathematics and English/language arts beginning in the 2014–2015 school year to seniors who are projected to need to complete remedial classes before entering credit-bearing courses.  The provision does not specify what the course material should contain, nor how it should be instructed.

A meeting held October 18, 2013, among San Antonio’s Bexar County ISD representatives and representatives for Alamo Colleges and UTSA, served to address these obstacles and to develop a plan to implement this statewide by the fast-approaching deadline. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's Kristen Kramer, senior director of Success Initiatives was present at the meeting.

“We formed three committees. One that works just on Mathematics, one on ELA and an operations committee — the operations committee will work on the memorandums of understanding and partnerships that need to be built,” said Austin.

One concern that was tackled was deciding the type of curriculum and tools to be used in these classes so that the financial cost will not be a burden to districts. The class will not receive state funding, so the classroom material must be affordable.

“We will be aligning the lessons to CRAfT, materials that have come from AVATAR and items from On Track for College Readiness through project share,” said Austin. “Our goal is to use state- or university-developed resources that are free or low cost that the teachers can use as instructional materials for the planning of the course. “

During the meeting, the committee also was successful in deciding what the course content should include, so that students who complete the course will be college ready.

“For mathematics, we decided to anchor the course around the seven competencies from Intermediate College Algebra, which is basically the last remedial course someone would take before entering into a credit-earning course; the ELA committee decided to anchor their course around the Integrative Reading and Writing course competencies.”

One goal that the committee will be tackling in upcoming meetings is ensuring that the preparatory classes are not just established by the deadline in Bexar County, but in all ISDs in the state of Texas.

“What we are trying to develop is a general framework of discussion points so that our smaller ISDs can take it to their community colleges to then begin building the structure and initiating the conversations to that course.”

Once this framework is developed and vetted, it will be up to the individual ISDs to finalize their model, begin professional developments and determine which students are eligible for this senior-level class. Though the deadline is short and the tasks are extensive, Austin is confident the course’s framework will serve beneficial for all eligible students in Texas.

“A lot of our kids are mobile and transfer districts at some point. So if we have some common structure — if they do happen to be mobile in their senior year — they will still get an experience that yields them college and career ready.”

The next committee meeting is scheduled for December 2013. Stay tuned to receive a meeting update in the TXCCRN Newsroom.

*A previous version of this article had referenced "Bear County" as the meeting location; the correct meeting location was in Bexar County.