This article appeared in the Summer 2016 edition of The Classroom Teacher. 

As of mid-July, 12 districts had completed the process and were recognized as Districts of Innovation by the Texas Education Agency. 

Here’s a look at the exemptions each plan incorporated:

CANTON ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. School start date: To start no earlier than third Monday in August, a week earlier than state’s recommended start date of fourth Monday in August. Teachers to report back no earlier than second Monday in August.
Rationale: District wants to evenly distribute number of days in first and second semesters and improve district attendance and student success through schedule flexibility.

2. Class size waivers: Keep 22:1 ratio in kindergarten through fourth-grade, notifying parents when ratio exceeds 25:1. Superintendent/school board to allow increase in ratios, eliminating waiver requests/approval from TEA.
Rationale: District wants more flexibility and less bureaucracy. 

3. Teacher and principal evaluation: District will create own appraisal system to combine PDAS, T-TESS and best practices, teachers to be evaluated at a minimum of once every three years, at least 50 percent on a campus each year; six walk-throughs per teacher per year.
Rationale: District wants an appraisal system that reflects its strengths, areas of concern and goals.

4. Teacher certification: Principal may send superintendent a request to allow a certified teacher to teach one out-of-field subject; in CTE fields, an individual can get local certification for one year to teach as an at-will employee.
Rationale: District seeks more flexibility in scheduling and wants to keep certification decisions at the local level instead of seeking permission from TEA for out-of-field assignments.  

DRIPPING SPRINGS ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. School start date: District to start before fourth Monday, but no date specified.
Rationale: District wants scheduling flexibility to determine what start/end dates best meet needs each year.

2. Minimum minutes: District wants flexibility to determine best length of school day to allow for teacher development and personalized learning plans for students.
Rationale: District wants local control rather than state mandate.

3. Class-size ratio: Principal to notify superintendent/school board, rather than TEA, when K-4 exceeds 22:1 student-teacher ratio.
Rationale: District wants local control of class size, no TEA waivers.

4. Attendance requirements for class credit: Eliminates state 90 percent attendance rate for credit. Instead student can pass by showing content mastery. (Note: The district plan will not impact or alter existing compulsory attendance requirements or UIL rules, nor modify a teacher’s right to assign grades.)
Rationale: District seeks more flexibility for school day and instructional methods.

5. Student discipline requirements: District to eliminate need for campus behavioral coordinator on each campus.
Rationale: District prefers more collaborative approach to discipline.

6. Teacher certification: District to create local certification requirements for qualification and training in hard-to-fill positions, such as CTE, STEAM, dual-credit.
Rationale: Local control gives district more flexibility than state allows.

7. Teacher appraisal: District to use locally developed system for teachers, principals and other staff, rather than state-recommended T-TESS/T-PESS.
Rationale: Local system better aligns with district’s goals in strategic plan.

EL PASO ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. Minimum attendance for class credit: Want flexibility from 90 percent rule. (Note: The district plan will not impact or alter existing compulsory attendance requirements or UIL rules, nor modify a teacher’s right to assign grades.)
Rationale: District aims to seek greater innovation to help students learn.

2. School start date: Can start before fourth Monday in August, but no start date included in plan.
Rationale: District wants flexibility to start/end year sooner for better pace of instruction and to allow graduates to enroll in college in early June.

3. Teacher certification: Allow district to create qualifications for dual-credit and CTE/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) courses when certified teachers are not available.
Rationale: District seeks flexibility and wants to eliminate TEA approval.

4. Campus Behavior Coordinators: Eliminates state requirement to have one person on each campus designated as a CBC.
Rationale: District wants to create better classroom protocols and utilize school culture to foster development of individual responsibility and positive behavioral interventions.

5. Teacher and principal evaluation: District to use own appraisal/evaluation process that focuses on individual growth.
Rationale: District wants to continue current practice.

LOS FRESNOS CISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. School start date: District to start before fourth Monday in August.
Rationale: District wants to balance days in fall/spring semesters and align calendar with local community college to aid students in dual-enrollment program.

MABANK ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. School start date: Plan doesn’t specify earliest start date.
Rationale: District wants calendar to maximize instructional minutes.

2. Class-size waivers: Superintendent to approve ratios above 22:1 state limit in kindergarten through fourth-grade.
Rationale: District seeks more flexibility among campuses.

3. Teacher certification: If a certified teacher cannot be found for a certain position, principal will seek permission for out-of-field assignment from superintendent.
Rationale: District increases flexibility, eliminates requests through TEA.

MANSFIELD ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. Teacher certification: District to create local certification requirements/qualifications for hard-to-fill CTE and STEAM courses. (Note: District will not be exempt from any existing laws relating to teacher contracts or teacher benefits.)
Rationale: District seeks flexibility to hire certified trade professionals, community college instructors or other professionals full or part time for specialty courses.

2. Uniform school calendar: District seeks local control of school start/end dates, but dates not specified.
Rationale: District wants to balance days in fall/spring semesters and align testing calendars and wants ability to create year-round schools, as desired.

PALMER ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. School start date: To start no earlier than third Monday in August, a week earlier than state’s recommended start date of fourth Monday in August.
Rationale: District wants more educational days before state testing,  to evenly distribute number of days in first and second semesters and to improve district attendance and student success through schedule flexibility.

2. Teacher and principal evaluation: District will create own appraisal system to combine PDAS, T-TESS and best practices, teachers to be evaluated at a minimum of once every three years; probationary teachers every year; six walk-throughs per teacher per year.
Rationale: District wants system that reflects its strengths, areas of concern and goals.

3. Teacher certification: Principal may send superintendent a request to allow a certified teacher to teach one out-of-field subject; in CTE fields, an individual can get local certification for one year to teach as an at-will employee.
Rationale: District wants more flexibility in scheduling and to keep certification decisions at the local level instead of seeking permission from TEA for out-of-field assignments.  

4. Teacher contract days: Reduce state-mandated 187 days to 182 days with no impact on salaries.
Rationale: By increasing daily rate paid to teachers, district hopes to improve morale and help recruitment. District claims plan also better aligns with state switch to instructional minutes, rather than days, required each year.

POINT ISABEL ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. Attendance requirements for class credit: Eliminates state 90 percent attendance rate for credit, instead student can pass by showing content mastery. (Note: The district plan will not impact or alter existing compulsory attendance requirements or UIL rules, nor modify a teacher’s right to assign grades.)
Rationale: District wants more flexibility for school day and instructional methods.

2. Class-size waivers: District will cap K-4 at 25:1 ratio, instead of state-recommended 22:1 ratio, on a case by case basis.
Rationale: District seeks more flexibility and wants to eliminate need for TEA waivers.

3. Prohibited exemptions: District also sought flexibility on when attendance is captured and wanted to create own graduation requirements, but TEA will not allow districts to be exempt from those areas at this time.

ROSCOE COLLEGIATE ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. School start date: District to start on second Monday in August.
Rationale: Earlier date better aligns with community college schedule for dual-enrollment program, also offers equal days in fall/spring semesters.

2. Class-size ratio: Principal to notify superintendent/school board, rather than TEA, when K-4 exceeds 22:1 student-teacher ratio.
Rationale: District wants local control of class size and no TEA waivers.

3. Teacher and principal appraisal: District to develop local evaluation system combining parts of PDAS, T-TESS, T-PESS and best practices to evaluate all teachers every year, with minimum six walk-throughs per year.
Rationale: District hopes system will better align with its objectives.

4. Teacher certification: District to create local certification requirements and qualifications for hard-to-fill positions, such as CTE. Principals to ask superintendent to approve out-of-field assignments for certified teachers.
Rationale: District seeks local control to give it more flexibility than state currently allows.

SAN ANTONIO ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. Class-size waivers: Raises kindergarten through fourth-grade cap from 22:1 to 24:1 and eliminates requirement to notify parents of larger class size.
Rationale: District seeks flexibility, and eliminates need for TEA waivers.

2. Length of school day: Removes limits of 420 minutes a day for instruction. Lamar Elementary, for example, plans to start 45 minutes earlier and allow students to eat breakfast during day, giving teacher more time for professional development on Wednesdays.
Rationale: District gains scheduling flexibility and more creativity to meet 75,600 minutes of instruction per year. District plans to compensate teachers for longer work days.

3. School start date: Can begin school before fourth Monday in August, but no set date was given in plan.
Rationale: District wants to end first semester before winter break and maximize student performance.

SPRING BRANCH ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

Plan doesn’t specify which exemptions the district is seeking, but any exemptions will require a two-thirds vote from the board of trustees.
Rationale: District wants increased freedom, flexibility, agility and responsiveness as well as more local control.

VICTORIA ISD

Plan in effect: Five years, starting fall 2016

Exemptions

1. School start date: District to start year three days earlier than state-mandated fourth Monday in August; approved calendar has 187 teacher days, 172 days of instruction.
Rationale: District hopes schedule change provides more time for professional development during the school year.

Many other districts are in the process of creating innovation plans, so check tcta.org/innovation_districts for the latest information, including links to the plans that have been adopted.