Legislative Session: AISD Testifies on Endorsements for Special Education Programs

HB 3417 relates to providing endorsements for public high school students enrolled in special education programs.


This morning, Tony Dishner, principal of Clifton Career Development School, provided testimony on the bill.

Good afternoon, Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock and members of the committee. My name is Tony Dishner. I am the principal of Clifton Career Development School. I am the very proud principal of Jacob Guerrero whom you heard earlier. I am here today to provide neutral testimony on House Bill 3417.

Clifton is a school in Austin ISD that provides focused career and technical education for students receiving special education services. Our students are enrolled in a coherent, three-year sequence of study. We provide courses in the areas of agricultural mechanics (commonly referred to as welding), animal science, child care, culinary arts, horticulture and hospitality.

All of the students who attend Clifton take industry-standard certification exams such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), Texas Food Handler certification, the Texas high-school floral design certification, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission certification and others. For the past two years, our passing rate on certification exams at Clifton was 95 percent.

I would like to share with you how the current commissioner’s rule on endorsements impacts my students.

Jacob Guerrero from Clifton Career Development School testified about endorsements for special education programs with Principal Tony Dishner at the Capitol.

Jacob was a student who started in 2009 in our animal science/agriculture mechanics class. He got off to a rocky start due to a couple of issues, including attendance. But, each year of the program, Jacob's attendance and confidence grew.

During his time at Clifton, he competed in various livestock shows, attended a regional level Future Farmers of America conference, and completed his 10-hour OSHA certification. He started exceling at Clifton and picked up some additional coursework, taking horticulture and business. While in the business program, he completed the office proficiency assessment and certifications in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Windows.

When Jacob left Clifton, he had earned a total of 12 hours of articulated credit, which he took with him to Austin Community College. Needless to say, all Clifton staff join his family in expressing how proud we are of him and his accomplishments.

At Clifton, students are responsible for 100 percent of the curriculum. Most of our alterations come in the form of accommodations. That is how we expose our students to the curriculum and how we monitor their mastery. We do a great deal of hands-on work at Clifton. Our tests are either accessible via third-party readers, done orally, or students are allowed to demonstrate the concepts. This way, we assess knowledge and understanding, not simply the reading ability of the students.

The modifications are made by changing the verb in the objective. Instead of using words like “analyze,” “evaluate” or “determine,” we may use words like “identify,” “discuss” or “review.”

Jacob and many other students have demonstrated what I believe to be the intent of the endorsements in House Bill 5 (2013 legislative session), which is an expertise and knowledge in a focused area that will improve the student’s success post-graduation. Currently, I have to tell students like Jacob and their families that they can earn articulated college credits and industry-standard certifications; but, unfortunately, they cannot earn an endorsement under the current rule.

I trust that this will no longer be the case. Thank you for your time and attention.

Watch the video (AISD testimony starts at 1:46:45).

Learn more about AISD's legislative priorities.