Make education a priority

On June 10, 2013, Governor Perry signed into law one of the most significant educational bills passed by the 83rd Legislative Session.  Known as House Bill 5 – abbreviated as HB 5 – this bill made sweeping changes to our Texas educational landscape. 

Affecting communities, school districts and children, it begs the question; what do you know about HB 5?  You are not alone.  Most people are unaware of the impact from this landmark piece of legislation. 

Using terms that need definitions to truly understand, HB 5 significantly changes three major aspects of public education: accountability, assessment and curriculum.  The bill itself is more than 100 pages and includes more than 80 sections.  To summarize all of the provisions in the space of 600 words would diminish the importance of the overall bill.

Future commentaries will breakdown the information concerning the various provisions.  For now, let me focus on the overall relevance of the bill with an objective of engaging you – peeking your interest to the point that the term “HB 5” intrigues you and leaves you asking questions for the right reasons.

Now that I have your attention, we start with an understandable explanation of HB 5. 

For parents and students, HB 5 is a game changer.  It changes the concept of education as you currently know it.  It includes how our local schools will be evaluated and how your children will be tested.  HB 5 opens the door to new educational opportunities; individual pathways magnifying the value of student interest.  It is about new curriculum course choices like we have never seen before.  It changes the standard diploma as we know it and makes it personal. 

HB 5 shifts the focus on student testing from 15 end-of-course test to five and bridges high school coursework with college and career interest.  Along with acknowledging academic achievement, graduation diplomas will now include one of five possible endorsements reflecting a pathway of interest completed by the student. 

At the same time, HB 5 is a conversation starter for parents, counselors and students as early as 6th grade.   HB 5 magnifies the importance of these relationships.  Cultivating the value of academia in middle school with an emphasis on the future improves the opportunities for success in high school.  

With regards to the community, HB 5 enhances the opportunity to share the ownership in our local schools. Partnerships with the community, local colleges, business and industry will shape curriculum to address the workforce needs of tomorrow.  Flexibility and local control are woven throughout this bill.   Under HB 5, engaging the community and the students at the local campus and district level now become measurable to reflect a shared ownership.       

As a school board member, I see this new legislation as a grand opportunity filled with prospects of promise.  Although this bill is not perfect, it is perfect for our time.  HB 5 provides us with a fresh start; a reset button to involve, educate and engage our local communities and students. 

In its entirety, the implementation of HB 5 seems like a daunting task.  Bill provisions are scheduled and required to be in place starting this school year and running through 2017. 

Here is the best part: the overall implementation of HB 5 is not intended to be solely completed by school boards, superintendents, administrators, counselors, teachers and supporting staff alone – it is intended to include you – the community – the owners of our local public schools. 

Today and under the umbrella of HB 5, school districts across Texas are in various stages of implementation.  Through conversations, community meetings and business partnerships, the underlying promise in this bill, House Bill 5, is taking shape – to enhance student achievement. 

True success will depend on how successful school districts and communities come together – making education a priority.   

Bobby J Rigues is the founder of Make Education a Priority, Aledo ISD School Board Member and a Leadership TASB Master Trustee

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