TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A new law is changing high school graduation requirements for East Texans in Region 7 that includes 96 school districts and 10 charter schools. House Bill 5 was in 2013 year during the Texas legislative session. The law is having a big impact on eighth graders about to enter high school. Students will now have about eight graduation paths to choose from and several new courses that can substitute for advanced English, math and science classes. With new requirements, guidance counselors will need help from parents to get their child prepared for the changes.
"House Bill 5 is such a paradigm shift," said Region 7 Education Service Center Federal Programs Coordinator Debbie Connor. "It's a high mountain but we're all climbing it together I think."
Parents and guidance counselors are working together on these new changes.
"It's new to us, too, and things are still kind of evolving," said middle school counselor Shana Steele. "We really want to be open to making everything clear and being able to tweak that if we need to."
School districts in East Texas are working to meet with parents whenever and wherever to discuss their high school student's future.
"We need to go where the parents are; to their work places, to parks in their subdivisions, to churches before their church services start or after their church services," Connor said. "So, there's going to be a lot of give and take I think on both sides."
Current high school seniors will not be affected by HB5 and current juniors have the choice to stay on the current graduation plan or switch over to a new path.
"The biggest difference is that in the previous graduation plans it was pretty rigid as far as what a child had to take. They did have some choices, they did have some electives, but everybody had to take pretty much the same; four Englishes, four maths, four sciences, and four social studies," Connor said. "Now more career and technology courses have been created that can count as third and fourth science and math classes."
Mary Smith has a daughter in middle and feels every parents should be involved in their child's future.
"As a parent, I'm excited about House Bill 5," Smith said. "I think House Bill 5 provides for some options to the students that we haven't always had. My daughter now has options. She's interested in nursing, so I think she'll probably choose the STEM endorsement plan."
Eighth graders going to ninth grade and current high school freshmen and sophomores have no choice but to follow the new law.
"We all know in reality every ninth grader doesn't know what they want to do when they graduate from high school," Connor said.
Now more than ever schools need students to at least narrow their career paths to two or three choices by the end of the school year.
Shana Steele says she's excited about the new options and paths students can take.
"There's so much out there and it's so exciting to kind of find out what the kids are interested in, and guide them a long that pathway, and know that they're going to get a little taste of that before they go into the workplace or go into college," Steele said.
Steele says some students and parents may be overwhelmed with the new changes.
"A lot of these students have older siblings who have been on different degree plans, so this is very new for the parents and it's very new for the students," Steele said. "So, to be well informed is the most important thing right now."
Tyler ISD is informing parents of current eighth grade and ninth grade students about HB5, how it will impact your child's high school graduation, and how to start preparing.
On Monday, March 24, 2014, at six p.m., parents can go to an informational meeting at the John Tyler High School theater.
On Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at six p.m., parents can go to an information meeting at the Robert E. Lee High School Fine Arts Building.
TISD will also have two other tentative parent meetings in April.
For more information on House Bill 5, you can visit the Region 7 information page at http://www.esc7.net/default.aspx?name=HB5.homepage.
Other resources for students and parents in making career and educational decisions can be found on the HB5 additional resources web page at http://www.esc7.net/default.aspx?name=HB5.additionalresources.