In the last legislative session, the big topic was education money.
This year, it was curriculum, and that has made life tough for school counselors.
The whole idea seemed to be simplicity.
The legislature wanted to make your child’s graduation plan easier to figure out.
Well, so much for that.
It was called House Bill 5 and it turned Texas graduation plans upside down.
Under the new law, high school counselors are the front line soldiers, and have new legal responsibilities.
Starting next year, a counselor must meet with each incoming freshman and help design a graduation plan.
That plan can be aimed at college or some other professional certification.
And high school diplomas will now reflect different levels of academic accomplishment.
But the problem is, schools are still in the dark about the details.
“All we know is the Commissioner of Education, Commissioner Williams, is going to give us a transition plan,” says Lindale ISD Superintendent Stan Surratt. “We have no timeline when that plan will come.”
And the work load of counselors is about to increase.
“Yeah, Principals and Counselors,” Surratt agreed, “they’re the ones that all the questions are going to come to. I know they are frustrated and really don’t have the answers at this point. We know where we’re going, from House Bill 5, the end road. We just don’t know how to transition. So there some questions out there that’s remaining.”
Many districts laid off counselors when budgets were cut, and now are short.
That means a choice of quantity versus quality time.
The law did kill 10 of the 15 Staar tests students must prepare for as well.
“Of course, the less emphasis on testing,” Surratte said, “reducing the number of tests to graduate with a high school diploma, that’s a good thing.”
It’s going to involve a steep learning curve for all educators, but primarily counselors.
And then there’s the question of choosing a child’s future too soon, and aiming too low.