HISD released a comprehensive draft plan under the “District of Innovation” (DOI) status that could potentially enable the district to forge ahead with several transformative changes in education.
“The draft plan is designed to support the district’s progress toward Destination 2035, where every student graduates prepared to succeed in the modern workplace and world,” the district said.
The district said the draft includes proposed exemptions that fall within three areas, which are, quality of instruction, modern staffing, and improved schools.
This is a designation that more than 960 school districts across the state fall under. It allows more than 60 exemptions from state laws over school operations. About every eligible school district in Texas is a DOI, and HISD, along with Cypress-Fairbanks, are the only two districts in the Houston area that have not obtained the designation.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s on the horizon:
HISD is contemplating a shift in its academic calendar, allowing the commencement of the school year as early as the first Monday in August. HISD is considering extending the academic calendar to include up to 185 days of instruction, which will most likely result in educators working a longer academic year. Currently, HISD has 172 instructional days in the school year, along with 75 in the first semester and 97 in the second semester.
The proposal also introduces a significant shift by allowing the hiring of uncertified teachers without necessitating a waiver from the state. The draft says the district will offer a “competitive compensation package for instructional staff.” The amount, however, was not stated.
HISD may gain greater autonomy over class size limits, particularly for elementary students and will develop its own teacher evaluation system under this proposed plan. This year, HISD Superintendent Mike Miles made the attempt to implement an evaluation system only to be blocked by a judge in a lawsuit from the Houston Federation of Teachers.
The quest for “District of Innovation” status is not new for HISD. In 2020, the district pursued the District of Innovation status and was shot down by the District Advisory Committee, who are responsible for voting for the plan. In September, Miles and the appointed board of managers voted for the process to begin.
The district’s seven-member DOI committee includes school board member Janette Garza-Lindner, HISD’s deputy chief of staff Janette Garza-Lindner, HISD’s deputy chief of staff Jessica Morffi and other community members who developed the plan.
Here are a few exemptions in more context:
Modified School Yea r: HISD seeks the authority to start the school year earlier and extend it up to 185 days, offering more flexibility in the academic calendar.
Teacher Evaluation Independence : HISD plans to develop its own teacher evaluation system, distinct from the state’s system, tailoring assessments to the district’s unique objectives.
Streamlined Teacher Training : Instead of campus-by-campus teacher training, HISD wants the ability to conduct training in regional or district-wide events, enhancing efficiency.
Certification Requirement : The district aims to waive the requirement for all teachers to hold certification to teach their grade and subject, thus diversifying the teaching staff.
Certification Notification : HISD plans to eliminate the need to notify families if their child’s instructor lacks certification, emphasizing flexibility in teacher assignments.
Discipline Staff Designation : The proposal seeks to scrap the rule requiring each campus to have a designated staff member solely focused on student discipline.
Excused Absences for College Visits : HISD intends to increase the number of excused absences students may have for college visits, facilitating college preparation.
Classroom Sizes : The maximum number of students per classroom in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade could change, with a reduction to 20 students in pre-k, 25 in kindergarten and first grades, and an increase to 28 in second through fourth grades.
Vaping Punishments : Mandatory punishments for vaping may be lifted, allowing the district to address such incidents with more flexibility and context.
Community members will be able to share their thoughts and concerns about the plan during a Nov. 14 meeting, with the HISD board scheduled to vote on these proposals and potentially grant final approval on Dec. 14.