The “District of Innovation” designation aims to give school districts in Texas more local control. The Aldine ISD Board of Trustees at the Oct. 18 meeting unanimously passed a resolution to start the research process.
The state created the District of Innovation (DoI) program during the 2015 legislative session under House Bill 1842.
According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the designation allows districts more flexibility in a number of items including educator certification, teacher contracts, school calendars and class sizes.
For example, having the DoI designation could allow the District to hire professionals with industry experience but without a teaching certification.
“This would allow individuals with a lot of practical experience in industry to help teach students who are enrolled in one of the Career and Technical Education programs,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Wanda Bamberg. “This is something we couldn’t do before. If someone has 10, 15, 20 years of experience, that should be as notable as a certification or a degree. Individuals thinking of going into teaching now can definitely consider this an option. And this would be a win for our students.”
The designation does not allow districts to exempt in certain areas, including student assessments, curriculum, federal requirements or financial operations. TEA will monitor long-term results. In addition, districts must remain in good academic standing.
Districts of Innovation may choose to seek flexibility in:
- Unique instruction methods
- Class size
- School calendar
- Teacher certification
- Teacher appraisal system
- School attendance
- Budgeting options
“This is an opportunity to shape the future of Aldine,” said Board of Education President Dr. Viola M. García.
To become a District of Innovation, the school board held a public hearing and appointed an Innovation Plan Committee to write a comprehensive education plan for the AISD. The plan will include any changes allowed by the designation that the District wants.
Aldine ISD engaged the community to take part in planning of the DoI. The group of nearly 50 was comprised of parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators and business partners. The group held the final DoI community meeting on Feb. 21. The next steps are to have both the District advisory committee and the Board review the District of Innovation plans.
The plan would need to be sent to the Texas education commissioner. The adoption process requires posting the DoI plan for community feedback, majority approval by the committee and two-thirds majority approval by the school board. If approved, the DoI plan would be in effect for up to five years.
The DoI designation, if approved, will allow Aldine ISD more flexibility in class size, teacher certification, school attendance and the teacher appraisal system.
More than 95 school districts in the state have notified TEA that they have adopted a local innovation plan and are designated as Innovation District.
“This is exciting,” said Bamberg. “The Innovation District designation could create incredible opportunities for our students. And that is really the bottom line. We are making decisions about what is best for students.”