Texas OnCourse Projects

Dr. Maria Carlson, Dr. Hsun-Yu Chan and Dr. Brittany Hott of the Texas A&M University-Commerce Department of Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education each received competitive grants to explore the impact of House Bill 5. HB5 created “endorsement” tracks for high school students that consist of approximately four credits in a particular subject area. Students may choose from five endorsements that are currently available: Arts and Humanities, Business and Industry, Public Service, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and a multidisciplinary option which allows students to choose courses from different endorsements. HB5 requires that middle and high school counselors ensure that all students entering high school have created a personal graduation plan (PGP) with at least one endorsement, as well as having chosen courses they will take throughout high school that align with their endorsement and graduation plan.

The Texas OnCourse Initiative evolved from House Bill 18, which was passed in 2015 by the Texas Legislature to help with the implementation of House Bill 5. House Bill 18 was developed to bolster the postsecondary and career advising available to students in middle and high schools. Counselors are required to inform students of the postsecondary and career implications of the endorsement tracks they select, for example: the occupations, industries and postsecondary pathways aligned with each endorsement.

Dr. Hsun-Yu Chan said, “The application of the project started in summer 2016, when Dr. Matthew Giani, a researcher at the Education Research Center (University of Texas at Austin), notified me about this grant opportunity. My past research has touched upon high school dual enrollment, and postsecondary and employment success for community college students in STEM fields, so I have always been interested in this field. In this grant I extend my research to high school coursework, which can be understood as students’ college preparation, so I spent the summer (when at the same time moving from Wisconsin to Texas) on reviewing relevant literature and charting the research design. When the call for proposal was released in early September, I wrote it up, asked my colleagues to take a look, and submitted the proposal. During this process, the dean of CEHS, our department chair, the director of Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, my colleagues and my graduate assistant have all been very supportive and helpful.”

Dr. Chan will explore the patterns and pathways of course completion among public high school students in Texas and how these pathways are connected to students' college enrollment, choice of major, college graduation, and employment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Dr. Hott said, “Dr. Maria Carlson, assistant professor of psychology, and I are excited to be selected through a competitive application process to join the Texas OnCourse Research Network. Our project, funded through a $20,000,000 grant awarded to UT-Austin, will explore how student and school characteristics (e.g., grade by which Algebra 1 is completed, gender, ethnicity, disability status, socio-economic status, English language learner status, rural, suburban, urban school location) influence the likelihood that Texas students succeed in advanced coursework in high school, enter college, obtain STEM degrees and work in STEM positions.  This work has the potential to assist Texas agencies with making decisions about areas of student need and teacher professional development activities. Ultimately, if predictors of success in STEM fields are identified, policies can be adjusted to address the needs of Texas students.”

The researchers were each awarded $10,000 and access to the Texas P-20/workforce data repository located on the University of Texas at Austin campus; the repository is one of the most complete longitudinal databases in the country.  Additionally, Texas OnCourse will pay for hotel costs and reasonable travel expenses for required meetings. The achievement of this competitive award by these highly talented faculty members further substantiates why our Pride runs deep!