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April 24, 2014

GISD prepares for changes under new bill

GREENVILLE — When Texas House Bill 5 passed last year, it made some significant changes to the public school system.

It encompassed a wide-variety of topics from equitable funding for public schools, to standardized testing and graduation plans for high school students.

Wes Underwood, executive director of secondary education at Greenville Independent School District, is keeping students and parents informed of how the bill affects the upcoming 2014-15 school year.

One of the major changes to the public education system came from months of lobbying against the amount of standardized testing.

The new bill addresses that issue.

Instead of 17 End of Course exams, high school students are now required to take five EOCs, which include Algebra I, Biology, English I and II, and U.S. History.

Underwood also said there are “pretty big changes to graduation plans.”

Before HB5, there were three graduation plans students could follow, the “minimum,” the “recommended,” and the “distinguished” plans.

Under new law, Underwood said the plans reflect more on higher education plans.

“It’s now kind of like choosing majors,” he said.

In the eighth grade, students can now choose from five different career paths.

Selections students can choose from include business and industry, public service, STEM, arts and humanities, and multidisciplinary endorsements.

Underwood said the new endorsements enable students to begin laying a foundation for career paths from nursing all the way to teaching programs.

“It gives a little bit more flexibility,” he said. “It’s a coherent sequence of courses for each career path.”

Built into the new endorsements is the ability to switch among the different endorsements as a student grows into what they want to do for a career.

Underwood said the new endorsements are more user-friendly than in previous years.

“All the pathways revolve around career and pathway programs,” he said. “There are a lot of ways to help those kiddos.”

Since approximately 50 percent of high school students do not go on to attend college, Under-wood said the district is meeting the challenge of preparing students for life after high school, whether that is moving on toward higher education, or earning a certificate and moving into the workforce.

“We want to make sure whatever a student wants to do, we prepare them for it,” he said. “That is an important goal for us.”

One way Underwood said the district will begin to implement this is by creating a career and technology advisory board, which looks at the workforce needs Hunt County businesses face.

“We’ve reached out to businesses,” he said. “We’re in the process of that right now.”

Underwood said from contacting businesses to hosting meetings with parents and students, the district has been able to prepare students for their high school career and beyond.

“I think we’ve been able to jump on it and really create some good opportunities with students,” he said, adding the counselors have been meeting one-on-one with students to create “long-range goals for kids.”

For more information on HB5, visit and click on the HB5 tab.

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