This week’s guest post comes to us from Claudette Jenks, Assistant Director of College Readiness and Success Initiatives with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). Note: Beginning September 8, this blog will shift to a monthly schedule, updating every 2nd Tuesday.
When I think of what’s going on in college readiness across the state, I begin to reflect on David Bowie’s song “Changes.” While the lyrics of the song focused on artistic reinvention it seems fitting when we think about the changes happening with education in Texas with the passage of House Bill 5 (HB 5). While change can seem daunting, much work is being coordinated across the state to ensure college and career readiness alignment to the new curriculum.
House Bill 5
HB 5 replaced the Recommended, Minimum, and Distinguished Achievement Programs with one 22-credit Foundation Program. Starting in fall 2014, students entering 9th grade must also choose from one of the five endorsement areas which include Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), Business and Industry, Public Services, Arts and Humanities, and Multidisciplinary Studies to pursue beyond the Foundation Program. Given that the curriculum changes under HB 5 allow a magnitude of flexibility and options for students to choose their educational path, there also lies a level of complexity with the variation in student choices. A student’s level of preparation can differ significantly depending on his or her course work and chosen pathway.
To address the gap between college readiness expectations and student preparedness, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) is continuing to work on incorporating the Texas College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), which were adopted in 2008, into postsecondary preparation and success for students.
With the passage of HB 5, school districts are required to partner with an institution of higher education to develop and provide a college preparatory course in mathematics and English language arts to prepare students for success in entry-level college courses. The courses must be designed for 12th grade students whose performance on an end-of-course assessment, college entrance exam, or the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) or coursework does not meet college readiness standards. Upon successful completion of a college preparatory course, a student is exempt from the requirements of the Texas Success Initiative (TSI) in that content area at the partnering higher education institution.
CRAs as Tools for College Prep Courses
Across the state, groups of K-12 teachers and higher education faculty are collaborating to develop the courses within their region. Part of their partnerships encourage the use of the College Readiness Assignments (CRAs) as they are both open source instructional materials and adaptable to instructional needs. In fact, there are many school district and higher education partnerships that specifically endorse the use of CRAs in building HB 5 college prep courses.
CRAs are ideal for use in college prep courses because they specifically seek to build readiness skills and are mapped to both the CCRS and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Also, almost all of the CRAs can be used in ELA & Math courses; plus, the CRAs are designed to be flexible and accommodate any course content. We encourage all high school and introductory college faculty to look over the CRAs and think about ways these could support their readiness efforts.
Other Readiness Initiatives
In addition to CRAfT, the THECB supports several other college and career readiness initiatives implemented across the state; listed below are a few of the highlights of recent work that address the Texas CCRS and HB 5 alignment.
Academic Vertical Alignment Training and Renewal (AVATAR) aligns core curriculum to the Texas CCRS and TEKS across secondary and postsecondary education. AVATAR is designed to engage faculty and administrators in on-going dialog through work groups to conduct horizontal and vertical alignment of curriculum among lower-division course sections and between secondary and postsecondary course sequences. These alignment networks are designed to support seamless transition and completion for students preparing for higher education and careers, and to decrease the need for postsecondary developmental coursework. Teams have conducted alignment in mathematics, English language arts, and science and are now working on HB 5 partnerships to assist in the development of the college preparatory courses in mathematics and English language arts.
New Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) is a single statewide college-readiness standard and aligns to the Texas CCRS. The TSIA provides a diagnostic tool to measure college readiness, measures knowledge and skills identified by Texas teachers and higher education faculty as critical for success in college, and it is intended to serve as a tool for academic advisers to more effectively target academic support services for students who do not meet college readiness standards.
Texas College and Career Profile Planning Guide is a tool designed to assist leaders in K-12 with college and career planning, develop an understanding for college and career readiness, and to operationalize a college and career culture in Texas schools.
The Graduation Toolkit, developed in collaboration with the THECB, Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Work Force Commission, provides essential information regarding the new graduation plan under HB 5. The toolkit provides a summary of the state’s new graduation plan and descriptions of the five potential endorsements that can now be offered by high schools, as well as a checklist to begin planning for high school and beyond.
Although change can be overwhelming, and there is a lot of work to be done across the state, the initiatives and tools showcased here can support anyone who will assist students in navigating the pathways of HB 5 and to ultimately prepare them to be college and career ready.
 “Changes” (David Bowie song). (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 18, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Changes_(David_Bowie_song)