Countdown to 2014-2015: What’s new in HISD #10 — Big changes in high school

This is the first in a series of stories counting down to the start of school, spotlighting what is new in HISD in the coming year.

For some students, high school planning used to involve plotting a college path, and for others a vocational path. Starting this August, under a package of state legislation known as House Bill 5, all ninth-grade students will be charting a personalized course that will combine academic rigor with potential career choices.

Ninth-graders — working with their parents and counselors — will be required to pursue a 26-credit Distinguished Level of Achievement basic graduation plan, including Algebra II. HISD opted for the more challenging plan because it makes students eligible for automatic admission into state universities, if they graduate in the top 10 percent of their class, and prepares them more fully for higher education or workforce training.

In addition, students will be required to choose one or more “endorsements” — science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); business and industry, arts and humanities, public services, and multi-disciplinary — that will give them direction toward higher education and career choices.

Students will also have the opportunity to “supersize” their diploma with Performance Acknowledgments for dual-credit courses, bilingualism and biliteracy, outstanding performance on AP and IB exams, the PSAT, ACT-Plan, SAT, or ACT, or earning a recognized business or industry certification or license.

HISD offers a thorough website to familiarize students and their parents with this new Plan Your Path customization. It includes a video, lists of endorsements and pathways by school, state-mandated requirements for testing and attendance, and a series of FAQs.