Jimmie Don Aycock

State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, listens to HB5 debate in House on March 26 in Austin.

Texas Tribune/Marjorie Kamys Cot

Let local school districts have as many choices as possible in implementing the state’s new sweeping high school curriculum changes, House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock told the State Board of Education on Friday.

Lawmakers wanted the state board to be in charge of certain details but to ultimately leave enough flexibility for local school districts to “have it their way,” Aycock said.

The Legislature passed House Bill 5, which Aycock, R-Killeen, authored, in May. In addition to reducing the number of standardized tests high school students must take to graduate, it also makes substantial changes to high school curriculum requirements. School districts must implement the new curriculum standards by the 2014-2015 school year.

Critics worry that Texas, which had been a national leader in strict academic standards based on frequent testing, is retreating from that model while watering down its academic standards.

“This bill calls for something of a culture change,” Aycock said. “What this bill calls for is a less prescriptive nature to education.”

After board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, raised concerns that students would no longer be required to take a fourth year of social studies, Aycock again emphasized that those decisions should be kept local.

“I think there are certainly children who will make that choice,” Aycock said. “I would encourage you to leave that choice to those local school districts. I know that’s not what you want to hear.”

Aycock also referenced the role parents played in passing HB 5 during the regular legislative session. Outrage over the amount of standardized testing in Texas schools brought parents across the state together in a grassroots campaign to push for changes during the session.

“It’s very rare that you see an idea catch on and spread like wildfire across an entire state,” Aycock said.

After Aycock’s remarks, the board decided to release a resolution clarifying some diploma standards for students graduating in 2014 and 2015. Because of the changes in HB 5, students graduating in those years no longer have to take four years of social studies and will now be allowed to take an upper-level class tailored to their interests.

Parents at the meeting said students were confused over which upper-level classes they could take next year and asked the board to provide further clarification on what would be acceptable. Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, said the board would be releasing a resolution clarifying that some Advanced Placement and IB courses have been considered upper level in the past.

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