Lost in translation

October 20, 2014

In response to a change in graduation laws set by the state, the school administration adjusted the academy structure for the current school year to a two-academy system which now pairs sophomores with freshmen in the CHAMPS academy.

Under the impression they would move up the academy system, sophomores are retained in their previous academy as a result of yet another overhaul in the education system by the State Board of Education. What was only supposed to affect freshmen caused a ripple effect in schools which sophomores feel the most of.

House Bill 5 puts into place new graduation requirements. Texas education no longer follow the previous four-by-four plan, which mandated students take four years of math, science, English, and social studies; and in its place, adopted a system called “endorsements.” This new graduation plan forces students to choose an endorsement, and they are required to take certain classes within one of the five endorsements: Arts and Humanities, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), Public Services, Business Industry, and the Multidisciplinary plan. With this difficult shift and new process to understand, the school faced the task of communicating HB5 to students and teachers with very little concrete information from the State Board of Education.

Last year’s freshmen spent a lot of time preparing for future academies, filling out multiple forms, and spending Advocacy time to learn about each academy. So, the sophomores of 2014 planned on moving into their new academies on the first day of school, but soon found out that they were back in the CHAMPS academy, which was known amongst students as the “baby academy,” since it housed only freshmen. It was not only disappointing, but frustrating because sophomores lack direction as to what the future of their education looks like. People want students to take control of their education and their future, but it’s significantly harder to do if students don’t know what requirement they need to fulfill to have a successful future.

The school’s staff wants to help and be able to inform students about their future years of education, but they have little control over what goes on in the district. The powers-that-be who control the main rules in the school is the State Board of Education. They create new laws for schools and decide what is best for a student in the classroom when, in reality, less than half of the people on the Board were previously educators. Meaning even though they met all of the requirements needed to be on the Board they don’t always know what is needed for a student to have a successful classroom experience.

House Bill 5 was meant to only affect this years freshmen, but it still ended up changing the sophomore’s graduation plans. Because of how little information is shared between the Board of Education and schools, counselors and administrators are unable to tell this year’s sophomores what is needed to graduate, and if sophomores will be put on the same endorsement plan as freshmen. It is infuriating to not know what the future of high school will look like. Sophomores spent middle school years and their freshmen year planning for their four years in high school around what was known to graduate, but to find out everything changed and that sophomores may have to revise their whole high school plan is aggravating.

The State Board of Education made a decision that confused and frustrated the students and staff, and they make these decisions thinking they understand what is best for a student in the classroom, when in reality, all they need to do is ask the students and teachers to see what is really needed to best support and guide the students through their high school years.

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