District of Innovation Plan
What is a District of Innovation (DOI)?
DOI, or District of Innovation, is a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2015 that gives traditional public school districts many of the flexibilities available to open-enrollment Texas charter schools. The legislation is intended to give districts more local control to suit their individual needs. The Texas Education Agency does not have the authority to approve the innovation plan of a school district. That means there is local control over the DOI standards so that each school can pursue the best options for their individual students and staff.
Regarding the necessity of the DOI program, James Crow, Executive Director of the Texas Association of School Boards stated that “Texas school board members and administrators have complained about the ever-increasing number of state mandates and prescriptive laws and bemoaned the continual erosion of local control. Now there is a realistic process for districts to do something about this.”
How are DOIs different?
About 80% of traditional Texas public school districts now have a District of Innovation certification which gives them an option to exempt themselves from certain state laws. The most popular exemptions that are used involve the school calendar, class-size ratios, disciplinary provisions, student attendance, teacher planning periods, and teacher appraisals.
DOIs can also hire educators for hard-to-fill positions. The added flexibility allows the district to provide exciting project-based programs that might not otherwise be offered. One example of the benefits of a District of Innovation is allowing key industry experts with a tremendous wealth of experience and knowledge in a specific area, such as welding, culinary arts, oil, and gas, etc. to come into the classroom and enrich our curriculums. Without District of Innovation status, non-teacher-certified professionals are not allowed to teach even though they may have decades of experience in their field. Educators would still be subject to background checks, continued training, and on-the-job certification achievement. This type of flexibility and choice allows the school to meet the needs of its students while staying in compliance with the state’s educational requirements for graduation.
How do districts qualify for a DOI certificate?
To achieve District of Innovation status, a school district’s academic performance rating must be deemed acceptable. This means a district performing with an unacceptable preliminary accountability rating is not able to adopt an innovation plan until they improve their rating.
Districts must also maintain financial integrity. The School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas ensures that every public school in the state is held accountable for its financial practices, and districts must uphold a satisfactory financial assessment to maintain eligibility compliance in the DOI program.
The District of Innovation standards are meant to help provide individual plans that are specific to each district, each campus and community, and each student and staff member. It is another way that our public schools can offer personalized learning experiences to our unique children.
RENEWAL OF DISTRICT OF INNOVATION
The District of Innovation plan must be renewed at the end of every five years in order to continue applying the flexibilities available by the designation. With the support of the Board of Trustees, HCISD has undertaken the feedback process to determine interest in the renewal of the District of Innovation plan that was approved 5 years ago. Below is the District of Innovation plan that was developed and approved for HCISD in the Spring of 2016 and would be submitted for renewal, this Spring.
The plan was reviewed, in its entirety with the District Education Improvement Committee on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. The membership voted to determined whether to renew the plan approved in 2016. The resubmission and renewal of the District of Innovation plan received unanimous approval by the committee.
The plan will be presented before the Board of Trustees on February 9, 2021. Upon approval, the Texas Education Agency will be notified of the final decision.