A District of Innovation is a concept passed by the 84th Legislative Session in House Bill 1842, effective immediately, that gives traditional independent school districts most of the flexibilities available to Texas' open-enrollment charter schools. To access these flexibilities, a school district must adopt an innovation plan, as set forth in Texas Education Code chapter 12A.
DOI Possible Exemptions
A. Minimum Attendance for Class Credit or Final Grade
B. First Day of Instruction
C. Teacher Certification for Dual Credit and Career and Technical Education Instructors
D. Designation of Campus Behavior Coordinator
E. Teacher and Administrator Appraisals
F. Alternative Group Health Coverage
G. Visits to Accredited Institutions of Higher Education
DOI Prohibited Exemptions
Elected boards of trustees
Powers and duties of school boards, superintendents, and principals
Criminal history record checks and educator misconduct reporting
Curriculum and graduation requirements
Academic accountability, including student assessments
Financial accountability and related reporting
Reporting of improper relationships between employees and students
Certain purchasing requirements and conflicts of interest
Civil immunity under Texas Education Code, chapter 22, subchapter B
Other state and federal laws outside of the Texas Education Code
SMCISD Explorations (4C's)
First Day of Instruction (§25.0811)
Teacher Certification (Dual Credit and Career and Technical Education Instructors ONLY)(§21.003)
Minimum Attendance for Class Credit or Final Grade – 90% Rule (§25.092)
Visits to Accredited Institutions of Higher Education (§25.087)
First Day of Instruction
Texas Education Code Section 25.0811 prohibits the District from beginning instruction before the fourth Monday in August. Flexibility to begin instruction earlier in the calendar year enables the District to improve active learning by balancing the amount of instructional time in the semesters, which allows teachers to better pace and deliver instruction before and after the winter break. In addition, by having the flexibility to start and end the school year earlier, students can enroll in college courses that start in early June, thereby increasing college and career readiness. Finally, starting the school year earlier for students transitioning from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school promotes social and emotional learning by giving those students additional time and support to enable them to adjust socially and emotionally to their new campus environments.
Teacher Certification for Dual Credit & CTE Instructors
Texas Education Code Sections 21.003, 21.053, limits the District’s ability to hire noncertified teachers to teach hard-to-fill, high-demand dual credit and career and technical/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics) courses when high-quality certified teachers are not available. By obtaining an exemption from existing teacher certification requirements for dual credit and career and technical/STEAM teachers, the District will have the flexibility to hire credentialed community college instructors or university professors in specific content areas to afford more students the opportunity to take dual credit courses if certified teachers are not available to teach those courses. In addition, this exemption will afford the District the flexibility to hire professionals in certain trades and vocations to teach the crafts of those trades and vocations (such as welding, fine arts, etc.) in career and technical/STEAM courses if certified teachers are not available to teach those courses. In order to enable more students to obtain the educational benefit of such dual credit and career and technical/STEAM course offerings, the District seeks to establish its own local qualification requirements for such courses in lieu of the requirements set forth in law.
Minimum Attendance for Class Credit or Final Grade
Texas Education Code Section 25.092 “Minimum Attendance for Class Credit or Final Grade” currently requires students to attend class 90% of the time a class is offered in order to earn credit or a final grade, placing value on “seat time” rather than content mastery. An exemption from this requirement would mean that the District would not be required to penalize students who miss class due to extra/co-curricular activities, academic activities, or other extenuating circumstances. This exemption will allow the District to promote student engagement, as well as social and emotional development, by encouraging more students to participate in such activities and allow credit to be awarded based on content mastery instead. Relief from Section 25.092 does not in any way impact or alter existing compulsory attendance requirements or University Interscholastic League (“UIL”) rules. Moreover, opting out of Section 25.092 in no way limits or modifies a teacher’s right to determine the finality of a grade in accordance with Texas Education Code Section 28.0214, nor does it restrict or alter a teacher’s right to assign grades in accordance with Texas Education Code Section 28.0216.
Visits to Accredited Institutions of Higher Education
Texas Education Code Section 25.087 (b-2) provides that a district may excuse a student from attending school to visit an institution of higher education accredited by a generally recognized accrediting organization during the student's junior and senior years of high school for the purpose of determining the student's interest in attending the institution of higher education, provided that: (1) the district may not excuse for this purpose more than two days during the student's junior year and two days during the student's senior year. The Committee recognizes that visits to institutions of higher education can be pivotal in a student’s decision to apply to a school or institution. The Committee believes that increasing the number of days a junior and/or senior are excused from school for the purpose of institutions of higher education visits may increase the College, Career, and/or Military readiness rate for the District. In addition, the flexibility of an additional day would provide students with additional travel time for long-distance/out-of-state visits. Exemption from this Section is sought to allow for the flexibility to allow up to three (3) days for institutions of higher education visits during the student's junior year and three (3) days during the student's senior year, with administrator approval.
Timeline to become a District of Innovation
Jan. 17 - Board approved the process to begin.
Jan. 24 - District of Innovation Committee reviewed the proposed plan.
Jan. 25 - The plan is posted on the district website for 30 days. A community survey is sent to SMCISD families. The deadline to submit feedback is February 25.
Feb. 13 - The board hosts a public hearing and votes to notify TEA of its intention to vote on the proposed plan.
Feb. 21- DEIC/DOI Committee holds a public meeting and votes on the final plan.