The Texas State Board of Education met the week before Thanksgiving and discussed some important issues related to educational technology. On November 17, the board met in a workshop entitled Learning Roundtable – Educating the Digital Generation. There were eight panels of experts and two individuals that discussed the various issues related to the use of technology in an instructional setting. Some of the panels dealt with broadband infrastructure, the instructional use of digital materials, the support of instructional materials, blended learning, OER (Open Educational Resources), and the technical support of technology. Donna Bahorich, the chair of the State Board of Education, wanted to deepen the board’s understanding of the possibilities and realities of educating students who are immersed in technology outside of school and are frustrated that their classrooms don’t offer the same types of opportunites. TCEA will be producing a white paper on the testimony with some suggested next steps in the near future. In the meantime, you can access the testimony on the TEA website.
The remainder of the week was devoted to a series of meetings, during which they took up a variety of topics. Two of the issues dealt with computer science education. HB 5, passed in 2013, provided a new graduation requirement option of substituting two credits in computer programming languages for two LOTE credits. In January 2014, the State Board of Education designated Computer Science I, II, and III as courses that could satisfy this new option with the added provision that these three courses would cease being an option to satisfy this requirement on September 1, 2016. The purpose for this expiration date was to force the board to revisit this issue so that they could gather more feedback from the districts to determine if these are the right courses that should meet the HB 5 requirement. On November 18, the SBOE voted to delete the expiration date, which would make their original recommendation permanent. This was approved on first reading and will be taken up by the board in January for second reading. Once that happens, it will be final. Districts should plan on continuing to offer these three courses as an option for students who want to substitute two computer science credits for the LOTE graduation credit requirement.
On Thursday, the Committee on Instruction had a discussion about adding AP Computer Science Principles to the Technology Applications curriculum beginning in the school year 2016-2017. This is a new AP course that will be tested for the first time in 2017. The board will vote on adding this to the curriculum in January on first reading, and then again in April for second reading. Once it is approved by the board on second reading, TEA can assign it a PEIMS number. It is fully expected that this will be approved by the board.
TCEA will continue to work with the state board on these issues in order to provide more opportunities for Texas students.