With the passing of the Texas House Bill 1842 on June 19, 2015, school districts are eligible to be recognized as “districts of innovation.” The concept, which is effective immediately, grants traditional school districts in Texas more flexibility in the way they operate.
Alief ISD is officially a District of Innovation after a vote by the Board of Trustees and the District Educational Improvement Council on February 21. House Bill 1842, passed in 2015, allows school districts the chance to develop new plans for educating students that are exempt from certain state regulations aimed towards improving the education offered by Alief. The District of Innovation plan is to be developed by district staff, community members, and parents.
Among them is committee member Mary Davis, a parent of Senior Matthew Davis, who thinks that the transformation will lead to important changes to students in 2018 and on.
“I believe that students will be impacted by the change in positive ways,” she said. “Students will have more nontraditional opportunities regarding the how and where they learn. I am encouraged that the district is embracing alternatives to traditional classroom learning and that the parents and the communities will be impacted positively by Alief embracing a different, and hopefully, a better way to educate children.”
Davis believes that the plan would promote nontraditional ways of learning.
“I think the main purpose of a district of innovation is to allow and encourage school districts to explore the world of education outside the traditional box,” she said. “Not everyone learns the same and the same could be said for school districts. It encourages the district to explore different ways to administer the school year, the course load, the hours spent in a traditional classroom, etc.”
Becoming a District of Innovation has many benefits for the district, but in a letter to Alief staff, Superintendent H.D. Chambers said the most important is local control.
“Alief can decide how to meet the needs of Alief students best and not be restricted to state regulations,” he wrote. “For example, the district board can now determine when to start the school year, when to end it, and what standard to set for student attendance.”
For the 2017-18 school year, Alief has already moved the first day of school to August 16, more than a week earlier than in past years. The last day of school will be May 25, 2018, ending the year before Labor Day.
Junior Gabriel Rossi said the change in the calendar does not mean much to him.
“I would feel a little on the neutral side because while less school would give me more of a break time, it wouldn’t necessarily give me the education I need which can help in my future,” Rossi said. “The only benefit that others would gain is more break time.”
Junior Oluwatoni Abidoye agrees.
“I feel like while it would be fun to have a longer summer break, it would be bad for you,” Abidoye said. “A shorter school period wouldn’t be beneficial in the long run because you would be rusty when you come back.”
The committee members are looking at other innovations for the district. Once the plans are sent to the Texas Education Agency, they will be approved for implementation in 2018.