From the desk of Dr. Kirk Lewis

Updates from the Superintendent

A Case for Flexibility


As we reflect upon our life achievements, it may be that graduating from high school would stand as our first significant accomplishment. The focus on what a high school diploma means has evolved over the years. When I graduated high school in 1972 B.C. (Before Computers), that little piece of paper meant only that I had met the requirements for graduation from high school. It did not reflect my readiness for college or career training. The assumption was that if I wished to attend college, I’d prove my readiness by scoring highly enough on the SAT/ACT and subsequently by passing the college curriculum. The proof was in the pudding, in my ability to make the grade. Today, a Recommended or Distinguished high school diploma is supposed to mean a graduate is college ready.

At the heart of a debate swirling through the legislative halls in Austin today is the idea that not every student desires to be prepped for a four-year college experience, nor does every community need that level of proficiency for the job market that sustains its local economic growth. As Shakespeare might say, “There’s the rub.” The conflict in philosophy depends on whether your company needs engineers or welders, whether your community is supported solely by high-tech industries or a mixed employment environment like Pasadena that requires four-year degrees and/or certifications and associates degrees.

There is absolutely no question that public education needs to push toward more rigor in preparing our students for the university experience. Too many of us in the past were unprepared for the challenges of college curriculum. It is a commitment Pasadena ISD made eight years ago with Expectation Graduation. However, there is no question that students need scheduling flexibility allowing allows them to gravitate toward career interests that match their dreams and ambitions.

New graduation plans are being discussed in Austin. These plans propose a Foundation high school diploma with multiple endorsements in a number of fields of study…in essence a high school major…rather than the Minimum, Recommended or Distinguish Diploma Plans currently in place. A Foundation diploma would indicate that students have demonstrated they are college or career ready. The Foundation diploma gives students more options for a satisfying life and career.  The proposals offered by Sen. Dan Patrick, Sen. Kel Seliger, Rep. Jimmy Don Aycock, Rep. John Davis and others deserve serious consideration by the Texas Legislature. 

Any plan that offers increased flexibility is a positive move for our students, for the Pasadena community and for the State of Texas.

Author: Dr. Kirk Lewis

Dr. Kirk Lewis serves as Superintendent of the Pasadena Independent School District, a position he has held since April, 2006. Over the past 26 years Dr. Lewis has served as the Deputy Superintendent for Administration, Public Relations and Governmental Affairs; Executive Director for Communications and Community Relations; and Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent.

2 thoughts on “A Case for Flexibility

  1. Recently I began to meditate in this matter. Truly there are many careers and many ways of becoming a master in the field one chooses. I studied four years of Economics, however never became an economist. Studied only two semesters of education and became an educator and mentor. I did well in college and graduated with high scores and many recognition in the field of economics. However, I have never practiced it in the real world. There are those who never studied what I did, and excel because they practiced it, they researched it and they understand more than what is in the books.
    Therefore, I believe every student must be taught how to connect their talents and potential to what they learn in school, and schools with programs that allow students to have real world experience through internships and study/work groups will better prepare them not only for college but for society.

    • I think you are right on point. One major responsibility we have as educators is to teach students how to learn. Statistics show that most people enter four to five different career paths by the time they retire, most of which have little to do with their college major. Teaching students to maximize the ability to learn new things, adapt to new situations and find success in a new area of interest should be one of the goals of public education. The flexible pathways under consdieration seem to answer at least a part of that concern. I encourage all of feel this way to contact members of the Texas House and Senate Education Committees to let them know how you feel.

      Flexibility is not a retreat from rigor. It is a new way to help students make connections between their interests and what they are studying. In a world that changes as rapidly and routinely as ours, it’s a skill our children must develop.

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