Accelerated instruction was addressed by the 87th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature in House Bill (HB) 4545.
Schools have new requirements for ensuring students are achieving learning targets. Accomplishing this task may impact staffing, master scheduling, and an increased use of tutors in schools.
HB 4545 establishes new requirements for schools implementing accelerated instruction for students who do not pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). The new statute, effective June 16, 2021, requires accelerated instruction to be implemented for students beginning with the 2021–2022 school year.
A broad overview of the requirements for school districts and campuses include the following:
- Elimination of the grade placement committee (GPC) to be replaced by an accelerated learning committee (ALC) for any student who did not pass the STAAR test in grade 3, 5, or 8 in math or reading in spring 2021. The ALC committee will develop an individual educational plan for the student and provide a copy to the parent or guardian, as well as monitor student progress over the year.
- Accelerated instruction must be provided for students who failed to perform satisfactorily on any grade 3 through 8 STAAR assessment or any end of course (EOC) assessment.
- Instruction must occur in the 2021–2022 school year (beginning in fall 2021) or the subsequent summer (2022).
- The student must be assigned to either a classroom teacher who is certified as a master, exemplary, or recognized teacher for the subsequent school year in the applicable subject area or be provided at least 30 hours of supplemental instruction (i.e., tutoring) in the applicable subject area(s).
- Districts must establish a process allowing the parent or guardian of a student who fails to perform satisfactorily on a STAAR or EOC assessment to make a request that the student be assigned to a particular classroom teacher in the applicable subject area for the subsequent school year (if more than one classroom teacher is available). Districts are also required to adopt a policy providing for a parent or guardian grievance process directly related to HB 4545 requirements.
- Students requiring accelerated instruction cannot be removed from the following:
- Instruction in grade level foundation curriculum (e.g., English language arts and reading, mathematics, science, social studies)
- Instruction in enrichment curriculum for the grade level (e.g., career and technical education, fine arts, health education, languages other than English, physical education, technology applications)
- Recess or physical activity that is available to other students enrolled in the same grade level
- Any supplemental instruction delivered to students in summer 2021 must meet HB 4545 requirements to be considered applicable for the 2021–2022 school year. More details can be found in the Texas Education Agency (TEA) frequently asked questions document related to HB 4545 implementation.
Master schedule and staffing implications
HB 4545 broadens a parent’s or guardian’s right to choose a teacher for a student for the school year (through the ALC process) which could impact master scheduling. Requirements to embed supplemental instruction during the school day or outside of the regular school day could impact both staffing and scheduling.
To accomplish a one tutor to three or less student ratio will increase other staff to student ratios for the 30-minute block during the school day. This may require hiring additional staff to maintain a pre-determined student to staff ratio.
Schools will have to rethink master scheduling and staffing patterns to ensure students receiving supplemental instruction during the school day are provided the same instructional opportunities as peers. Schools may need to hire extra staff to supplement instruction or redesign master schedules to provide more flexibility for instruction throughout the school day.
To accomplish supplemental instruction during the school day at a secondary campus the master schedule may need to be modified, including the insertion of intervention periods. A traditional seven- or eight-period schedule may result in shorter periods three of the five days in a week to carve out the 30-minute tutoring sessions. The same scenario could be applied to a block schedule by shortening the three “A” block days week one and the three “B” block days week two and so forth to balance the instructional time provided for all class periods.
Elementary campuses also may adjust their daily schedule to build in these same types of interventions. All foundation and enrichment curriculum could be shortened to carve out 30 minutes three days per week.
Consideration will have to be given for students not needing the supplemental instruction. Activities not related to the foundation or enrichment curriculum will need to be offered. These may include club participation, personal skill building (e.g., knitting, basket-weaving, scrapbooking, horseshoes), or extracurricular practices. This may also provide an opportunity for a peer tutoring program for students struggling in an academic area but not identified in need of intervention due to failing an assessment.
Surveying for student interests and tapping into staff talents may provide opportunities to build student skills in areas not otherwise available.
Unfortunately, students participating in the supplemental instruction program would miss out on these non-foundation and non-enrichment curriculum activities.
High impact tutoring
A recommendation for supplemental instruction provided by the TEA is to design high impact tutoring programs. High-impact tutoring programs lead to substantial learning gains by supplementing students’ classroom experiences. It focuses on students’ individual needs and is a complement to the existing curriculum.
Key attributes of these high-impact tutoring programs include:
- Well-trained, consistent tutors providing instruction in small groups consisting of ratios between one and three students per tutor
- High-quality instructional materials aligned to standards and core curriculum
- Embedded instruction during the school day or immediately before or after school to maximize student access for a minimum of three sessions per week of at least 30 sustained minutes or more
- Data-driven sessions with tutors building sessions around student needs and strengths
- Data-tracking of formative assessment to ensure student growth and progress
While high-impact programs are recommended by TEA, staffing these tutoring programs will be a challenge for many school districts. One option, supported by new legislation in Senate Bill (SB) 288 and SB 1356, may be to hire retired teachers to help address learning loss.
These bills provide relief for school districts and retirees making it a viable option. TEA is collaborating with the Texas Retirement System (TRS), Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA), and local education service centers (ESCs) to develop additional guidance for districts related to this legislation. Additional details about the two bills can be found in the HRX article, Legislative Update: Teacher Retirement System Issues .
HB 4545 doesn’t require a tutor to be a teacher, and research shows different tutor types can be successful. School districts could consider hiring college students, active or retired teachers, or engaging community volunteers and paraprofessionals to provide tutoring during the school day or before or after school.
School districts will have to be creative to implement a supplemental instructional program while preserving a student’s foundation and enrichment curriculum opportunities in a budget conscious environment. Through careful planning and leveraging additional resources such as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, districts should be successful in accomplishing this task.
TEA has created a HB 4545 FAQ containing a lot of helpful information. The Accelerated Learning Resources page on the TEA website provides a HB 4545 overview and retention and retesting and learning acceleration information. TEA is providing the following series of webinars:
For further implementation questions email TEA at Accelerated.Instruction@tea.texas.gov.
Jennifer Barton is an HR and compensation consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Jennifer an email at email@example.com.
Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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