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SBOE Starts to Closely Scrutinize Innovative Course Requests to Eliminate “Redundancy”

Click here for links to June 2023 SBOE meeting resources and articles.

Requests by school districts for SBOE approvals and renewals of innovative courses are now undergoing much closer scrutiny, and the board’s newly revised rules governing innovative courses will be tweaked again soon to help meet that goal.

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That is what Audrey Young, R-Trinity, told the full SBOE at its June 25 general meeting about the direction that the SBOE Committee on Instruction (that she chairs) is taking when considering whether to recommend that the board approve or deny innovative course requests submitted by school districts.

“We have a lot of innovative courses, and it is my desire, as the chair of the Committee on Instruction, to clean up our innovative courses — and also ensure that we don’t just have redundancy and duplicity over and over again in some of our courses,” said Young, who is Nacogdoches ISD‘s director of student support services.

  • Note: Approval by the SBOE (or, for certain types of courses, the education commissioner) is required to elevate a course offered by an ISD for local elective credit to a state approved innovative course that all districts can offer for state graduation credit. Innovative courses do not fit within the regular SBOE approved foundation or enrichment curriculum (TEKS).

    Click here for more info about the innovative course approval process, and here for the list of innovative courses approved as of the 2022-23 school year.

Rejected
The full board approved the committee’s recommendation to deny a request submitted by Mesquite ISD to add the district’s Navigating Excellence course to the innovative course list. MISD describes the course (here) as being designed to help students improve their interpersonal and leadership skills.

Objections raised by the committee members included observations that the course was duplicative of another previously approved leadership-focused innovative course, and that Dallas College offers parents the opportunity to enroll their children in a similar course for free.

Approved
Meanwhile, the board accepted the committee’s recommendation to give a two-year approval to add Plano ISD‘s one-credit course Multilingual Acculturation Studies — which focuses on the educational needs of recent immigrant students — to the innovative course list.

Committee members informally concluded that the course was not duplicative of other innovative courses, and said they believed that districts in other parts of the state, including districts near the border, could benefit from the course.

There were no previously approved innovative courses that were up for renewal.

Rule Revision Planned
The committee, in a separate agenda item, directed TEA staff to bring to the committee a draft version of revisions to the current innovative course rule that the full SBOE could vote on during its August/September meeting for possible approval on first (of two) reading. (The SBOE last revised the innovative course approval rule in November 2022 to include a mandate that the board won’t approve requests for innovative courses unless the applying district provides data demonstrating the successful piloting of the course.)

Based on the committee’s discussions, the rule tweaking areas to be addressed for possible revisions to the current rule include decisions on:

  • Whether to designate a minimum time period that a local course must be piloted.
  • Whether to give the SBOE authority over approving all innovative courses instead of the education commissioner having innovative course approval over certain types of courses. TEA staff said that the SBOE has the authority over innovative course approval, but had previously delegated some of its authority to the education commissioner.
  • How to address the “unintended consequences” that have arisen due to specific kinds of career and technical education (CATE) courses that the TEA would like to see designated as innovative courses without first having been piloted by a district.
  • Whether to specify uniform innovative course approval and renewal time periods.

Ethnic Studies
The committee briefly discussed — without recommending any changes to — the part of the current rule that limits Social Studies innovative courses in Ethnic Studies to only courses that were previously piloted by districts in the areas of Latino, African American, Native American, and Asian Pacific Islander studies.

TEA staff told the committee that local districts are piloting Native American and Asian studies courses with an eye toward seeking approval of those courses as innovative courses. (African American and Mexican American are now full fledged Ethnic Studies courses after having gone through the local district piloting and innovative course approval process.)