District of Innovation (DOI)
What is a District of Innovation (DOI)?
The 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1842 in the Spring of 2015, providing public school districts the opportunity to become a District of Innovation and obtain more local control. The designation as a District of Innovation provides the district an opportunity to be exempt from certain sections of the Texas Education Code (TEC) that inhibit the goals of the district as outlined in the locally adopted Innovation Plan. Potential benefits of becoming a District of Innovation include:
- Local Control: Districts decide which flexibilities best suit their local needs.
- Customization: Districts can create an innovation plan for a level of school (e.g., only high schools), grade level, or a single campus.
- Autonomy: Districts must submit a District of Innovation Plan to the Commissioner of Education, but approval is not required.
- Flexibility: Districts will have the flexibility to implement practices similar to charter schools, including exemptions from certain mandates.
How are DOIs different?
About 80% of traditional Texas public school districts now have a District of Innovation certification which gives them an option to exempt themselves from certain state laws. The most popular exemptions that are used involve the school calendar, class-size ratios, disciplinary provisions, student attendance, teacher planning periods, and teacher appraisals.
DOIs can also hire educators for hard-to-fill positions. The added flexibility allows the district to provide exciting project-based programs that might not otherwise be offered. One example of the benefits of a District of Innovation is allowing key industry experts with a tremendous wealth of experience and knowledge in a specific area, such as welding, culinary arts, oil, and gas, etc. to come into the classroom and enrich our curriculums. Without District of Innovation status, non-teacher-certified professionals are not allowed to teach even though they may have decades of experience in their field. Educators would still be subject to background checks, continued training, and on-the-job certification achievement. This type of flexibility and choice allows the school to meet the needs of its students while staying in compliance with the state’s educational requirements for graduation.
EARLIEST POSSIBLE SCHOOL START DATE
Texas Education Code §25.0811 and 25.0812 – EB (LEGAL)
Students may not begin school before the 4th Monday of August. In the past, districts could apply for a waiver to start the school calendar earlier to meet the needs of the local community. This waiver opportunity was met with resistance from the Texas tourism groups who lobbied to have the practice ended because they believed it was detrimental to the Texas tourism business. Therefore, several years ago, the legislature took away all waivers and dictated that districts may not begin until the 4th Monday, with no exceptions.
This flexibility with the earlier start date would allow NBISD to have the ability to move the start date before the 4th Monday of August. An earlier start date would allow for creative scheduling for more intentional teacher professional development and also enable students to have a schedule that is more conducive to their learning.
CAMPUS BEHAVIOR COORDINATOR
Texas Education Code §37.0012 – FO (LEGAL)
Senate Bill 107 requires the designation of a campus behavior coordinator on each campus. This designee is responsible for maintaining student discipline and implementing Chapter 37, Subchapter A.
- Currently, legal policy states, “A person at each campus must be designated to serve as the campus behavior coordinator (CBC). The person may be the campus principal or any other campus administrator selected by the principal. The CBC is primarily responsible for maintaining student discipline and implementing education Code Chapter 37.”
- On large campuses (high school - 2,900 students; middle school - 1,200 students), one individual is designated as CBC to manage discipline.
- It is necessary to have additional administrators provide notice to parents about disciplinary incidents.
- The exception to the law seeks to no longer require a single administrator but allow multiple administrators. This would allow for CBCs to be used with fidelity.
Exemption from this requirement will provide campuses the opportunity to allow campus administrators to fully understand and get to know the students in their caseload rather than sourcing all discipline matters to one employee designated as a campus behavior coordinator. While it is imperative that all employees work together and be informed as to the discipline that is occurring on campus, it is just as crucial for students to depend on an administrator they know and trust in all facets of their education, including their discipline. Each campus administration should have the freedom to designate more than one campus behavior coordinator to best meet the needs of their students and teachers.
The recommendation is to change the wording in the Campus Behavior Coordinator, Duties, and Notice to Parents section and the quantity/designee.
STATE CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR TEACHERS AND OTHER EDUCATORS
Texas Education Code §21.003, §21.053, §21.057 – DK (LEGAL), DK (LOCAL), DK (EXHIBIT)
In the event, a district cannot locate a certified teacher or other employee for a position, or a teacher is teaching a subject outside of their certification, the district must submit a request to the Texas Education Agency. TEA then approves or denies this request.
NBISD is seeking flexibility in hiring professionals in hard to recruit/retain areas. This would include, but not be limited to, areas such as Career Technical Education (CTE), Language Other Than English (LOTE), Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), and areas of advanced academics. This flexibility would relate only to those positions the district identifies as difficult to fill and would be assessed individually. In addition, campus administrators will have the ability to consider out-of-state or out-of-country educator certifications. The district will establish local criteria, such as years of experience, formal education/training, and industry certifications, to qualify for a local (district) teaching certificate. Principals, along with corresponding curriculum departments, will submit candidates to the Superintendent with credentials for approval. Parent notification will not be required for these employees.
TEACHER APPRAISAL SYSTEM & ADMINISTRATOR/PRINCIPAL
Texas Education Code §21.352, §21.353, §21.354, §21.3541 – DNA (LEGAL) and DNA (LOCAL)
The state implemented a new teacher appraisal system called the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS), and the Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System (T-PESS). The domains within these systems were developed by the state to meet the needs of the entire state of Texas.
This flexibility will allow NBISD to make decisions in the evaluation process that they believe will make the biggest impact on student success without spending unnecessary time on compliance pieces that do not provide a significant impact. Exemption from T-TESS and T-PESS allow campus administration and teachers to more specifically align the evaluation process.
MINIMUM DAYS OF ATTENDANCE
Texas Education Code §25.092 – FEC (LEGAL) and (LOCAL) and EIE (LEGAL)
State law currently requires students to attend class 90 percent of the school days on a district calendar to earn credit. The law requires districts to award class credit to students based on the time a student is present in a classroom for instruction rather than mastery of content and subject proficiency.
Relief from this statute could potentially allow the following:
- Eliminate credit denial, 90% rule
- Additional credit options for Alternative Campus
- Additional credit options for working students and students who are parents
- • Flexibility for different learners – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Gifted Talented (GT), etc.
- Elimination of Texas Education Agency (TEA) waivers
- Potential options for half-day kinder
- Potential options for students with medical history or concerns
Exemption from this requirement will provide NBISD with the flexibility it needs to consider instruction and award credits in ways that make sense for students, especially students who have unique needs. This exemption can be used to craft programs for all students to best meet their needs. Instruction does not always have to take place in a classroom seat, and this exemption will allow the district to explore more online options, project-based learning outside the classroom, and the structure of programming for various groups of students.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION PERIODS
Texas Education Code §21.404 – DL (LEGAL)
Each classroom teacher is entitled to at least 450 minutes every two weeks for instructional preparation, including parent-teacher conferences, evaluating students' work, and planning. Under this section, a planning and preparation period may not be less than 45 minutes within the instructional day. During a planning and preparation period, a classroom teacher may not be required to participate in any other activity.
Exemption from the requirement will provide each campus with the local control needed to determine how best to use staff time, especially as it pertains to collaborative planning and best meeting the needs of the students.
THREE-DAY LIMITATION ON SUSPENSIONS
Texas Education Code §37.005 – FOB (LEGAL)
The principal or other appropriate administrator may suspend a student who engages in conduct identified in the student code of conduct and under Texas Education Code Section 37.01 as conduct for which the student may be suspended.
- A suspension may not exceed three school days suspensions.
- This limitation minimizes a campus's options for discipline without sending a student to DAEP.
Because of the law’s three-day limit for suspensions, campus staff is limited in the choices of discipline that can be applied to students for moderately serious offenses. Providing a range of options for the campus is a new and innovative way of thinking about discipline and more fully meeting a student’s needs while they are being disciplined.
SUSPENSION LIMITATION FOR STUDENTS BELOW 3RD GRADE
Texas Education Code §37.005 – FOB (LEGAL)
Under the law, a student who is enrolled in a grade level below grade 3 may not be placed in out-of-school suspension unless while on school property or while attending a school-sponsored or school-related activity on or off of school property:
- Conduct contains the elements of an offense related to weapons under Penal Code 46.02 or 46.05;
- Conduct contains the elements of a violence-related offense under Penal Code 22.01, 22.011, 22.02, 22.021; or
- Selling, giving, or delivering to another person or possessing, using, or being under the influence of any amount of:
- Marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined by Health and Safety Code Chapter 481, or by 21 U.S.C. Section 801 et seq.;
- A dangerous drug, as defined by Health and Safety Code Chapter 483; or
- An alcoholic beverage, as defined by Alcoholic Beverage Code 1.04.
It is foreseeable that elementary campuses and students could be adversely affected by the strict limitation on suspensions. If a student’s behavior reaches a level of such disruption that the school cannot function properly, immediate action should be taken to maintain the effectiveness and safety of the educational environment for all students. There are instances in which a student needs specially designed plans and support in order to be successful in his or her learning environment. At those times, the student’s needs can be met if the staff has even a day or two to prepare a plan for the child’s needs. If additional staff is needed to help control behavior, for example, the central office may need a day to find and place staff for that purpose. In these limited instances, it serves the student's best interest and the campus to briefly suspend the student.
Texas Education Code §21.102 (DCA LEGAL)
Under current guidelines, probationary periods for newly hired teachers who have been in public education for at least five of the previous eight years cannot exceed one year. This limited period is insufficient in some cases to fully determine the teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom.
Relief from Texas Education Code 21.102 will permit the district the option to issue a probationary contract for a period of up to two full years for experienced teachers, counselors, or nurses newly hired in NBISD. This will allow NBISD to better evaluate a teacher’s effectiveness.
NBISD DISTRICT OF INNOVATION TIMELINE
- Board Approved Resolution
- January 25, 2022
- Public Hearing
- February 7, 2022
- Board Approved District of Innovation Committee
- March 7, 2022
- District of Innovation Committee Meetings:
- March 28, 2022
- April 4, 2022
- April 26, 2022
Published: July 7, 2022