House Bill 5 Empowers Students

September 25, 2014 |

This is the third of six in our fall blog series, House Bill 5: Past, Present and Future. HB 5 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock is the landmark accountability and assessment legislation passed during the 83rd Texas Legislative Session (2013).

Each blog in this series features an introductory video by HD Chambers, Superintendent of Alief ISD and pioneer for the HB 5 movement, followed by information about one of the many ways HB 5 impacts education, business, and communities across Texas.

HB 5 as a Game Changer for Students

As described in the first installment of our HB 5 blog series, the bill’s most significant impact is on Texas students, specifically those in eighth through 12th grade. Instead of having to pass 15 standardized, end-of-course exams to graduate high school, as was the law prior to HB 5, Texas students now must pass five, in addition to regular coursework.

The other major effects of HB 5 relate to how and when students elect an academic focus, called an “endorsement,” and what courses are available to fulfill the requirements of each graduation path.

Understanding the Endorsements

So what are the five endorsement areas, and what opportunities do they give students for ensuring their studies are relevant to college and career?

Before digging into the endorsements, the first step is to understand the Foundation High School Program, or the minimum requirements to graduate high school in Texas. Students must complete 22 credits in eight subject areas, as well as pass the five required end-of-course exams. Local school districts have discretion to increase requirements above the state minimum. If a student wishes to graduate with the minimum Foundation Program only, the student and parent must submit a form after the student’s sophomore year to allow graduation without an endorsement.

To earn an endorsement above and beyond the Foundation Program, a student must specify in writing prior to enrolling in 9th grade what endorsement they intend to earn, and they must complete 26 credits to graduate. Students are permitted to switch endorsements, so no choice is “locked in stone” in the 8th grade. At the same time, students may earn more than one endorsement if they choose.

Not all districts, especially very small ones, are equipped to offer classes in all five endorsement areas, but all districts must at least provide courses to meet the Multidisciplinary endorsement area requirements. See the graphic below for details about each endorsement.

HB5 Endorsements Table

Celebrating Student Choice

Alief ISD, home to 45,000 students in suburban Houston, took the opportunity with HB 5’s new graduation paths to celebrate student choice. The district held “Endorsement Pep Rallies” to recognize the five academic areas, as well as provide students with a sense of belonging and empowerment as they plan for high school.

The pep rallies were a huge success, and the district saw students and parents more engaged in academic decisions than ever before.

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Students attending Endorsement Pep Rally at Olle Middle School, Alief ISD


Chambers at Pep Rally

Superintendent HD Chambers addressing Endorsement Pep Rally attendees

The engagement piece of HB 5 is crucial, and students, along with their parents, are now making informed choices about courses relevant to their interests, aspirations, and plans for college or career. Although he wasn’t able to take advantage of the HB 5 improvements to the graduation requirements, Misael Garcia, a graduate of Hastings High School in Alief ISD describes the empowerment he felt by taking certain Career & Technical Education (CTE) classes that were relevant to his college and career goals. These benefits will only be enhanced for future Texas students who are learning in a post-HB 5 educational system.

Have you or your child gone through the process of selecting an endorsement? Tell us about your experience! Leave a comment to this blog or e-mail us at [email protected]

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