Districts of Innovation
In Texas, school districts have the ability to designate themselves Districts of Innovation, which allows them greater flexibility in serving their students. Districts of Innovation (DOI) can exempt themselves from provisions of the Texas Education Code through their DOI Plan. Typical exemptions include changing the start and end dates for the school year, allowing non-certified teachers like university professors or trade professionals to teach courses, and altering the length of the school day. Districts may not exempt themselves from provisions related to district governance, curriculum, state accountability and assessments, school finance, and federal requirements.
The flowchart shown illustrates the process for a district to be designated as a DOI for 5 years. All of the steps must be completed to claim DOI status, and the school board and District Advisory Committee (DAC) must vote to continue four times collectively. If the process is initiated by a board resolution, the board can include parameters the innovation plan committee must use to develop the DOI plan.
If Houston ISD approves DOI status, it would join the majority of districts in Harris County and Texas. This could be a big step for HISD in addressing achievement gaps, expanding Career and Technical Education offerings, and putting HISD students on track with surrounding districts. For example, HISD is currently one of the only districts in the area that does not have the ability to start the school year earlier than the fourth week in August without a waiver from the Texas Education Agency. This means that students in HISD receive at least one fewer week of schooling than most surrounding districts, putting them at a disadvantage in instructional time and preparation for standardized tests. If HISD were to be designated a DOI and start the school year earlier, it would reduce this disparity and help combat summer slide for children who do not have access to educational enrichment during the summer months.
Types of Exemptions
To learn more about the types of exemptions other districts claim, take a look at our chart below. By hovering over each dot, you will be able to see any limitations that the district placed on the exemption in its DOI plan along with additional notes to help clarify how the district is choosing to innovate. If the chart is not rendering properly, please refresh the page.