A District of Innovation is a concept passed by the 84th Legislative Session in House Bill 1842 giving traditional independent school districts most of the flexibilities available to the state’s open enrollment charter schools. Any district with an academic performance rating of at least Academically Acceptable is eligible.
The idea behind Districts of Innovation is that a local school district may want to pursue specific innovations in curriculum, instruction, governance, parent or community involvement, school calendar, budgeting, or other areas. An innovation plan allows a district to gain exemption from many Texas Education Code requirements, thus gaining more local control. Each innovation plan is expected to be unique to each school district, allowing for local values and goals to be incorporated into the plan.
Dripping Springs ISD took the first step in exploring this opportunity when the Board approved a resolution initiating the process in April. The Board then held a public hearing to consider whether the district should develop an innovation plan, at which time the Board decided to move forward in the process. A committee was appointed to develop an innovation plan. The plan then will have to be posted on-line for at least 30 days and the District Advisory Committee would have to approve it before it could go back to the Board.
Some areas where Districts of Innovation can gain flexibility are: school start date, minimum minutes of instruction, class size ratio, 90-percent attendance rule, teacher certification and contracts, teacher appraisal system and student discipline provision. Each district may identify different areas where their plans would take advantage of the flexibility that is available.
Requirements that Districts of Innovation cannot be exempted from are: elected Boards of Trustees, PEIMS reporting, criminal history checks, curriculum and graduation requirements, bilingual education, special education, preK programs, academic accountability including student assessments, financial accountability, open meetings and public records rules, and purchasing regulations.