AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the roughly 400,000 eighth graders in Texas, it’s decision time. They’re required to choose between one of five endorsements — also known as academies or tracks — to pursue in high school.
Those tracks include arts and humanities, business and industry, multidisciplinary studies, public service and STEM.
“I was excited and nervous at the same time because it kind of really sets what you’re going to do for the rest of your life,” said Hibah Alam, an eighth grader at Round Rock ISD’s Walsh Middle School.
To make the decision easier, educators at UT Austin lead an initiative to developed Texas OnCourse, an interactive website designed to help eighth graders figure out what they want to do.
“With Texas OnCourse tools, students really are empowered to make the decisions that will help them to fulfill their potential after high school, while also meeting the workforce needs of the state,” said Allison Rizzolo, a Texas OnCourse Marketing and Communications Associate Director.
In 2013 the Texas legislature passed HB5, which required students to select an endorsement before entering ninth grade.
Texas OnCourse was developed two years later when the legislature tasked UT with creating an online academy for professional development for college and career advising, along with resources for middle school students and families to help them explore career and college options so they can choose an endorsement and graduation plan.
New this year is a section called MapMyGrad, which allows students to explore each track and the careers connected to it.
Additionally, there’s a new game called Middle Galaxy, which pairs potential careers with work projects they’d be involved in.
Walsh Counselor Jennifer Pugh said the new programs are making students more interested in what’s next in their education careers. “Research shows that students are more engaged if they’re interested in something,” she said.
Alam is choosing the Business and Industry endorsement and hopes it’ll give her a leg up pursuing a career in economics
“I knew that I wanted to do what I liked because I would be doing it for the rest of my life,” she said.
The resources are free to Texas students, parents and educators. You can find them online at TexasOnCourse.org.