The UT Austin College of Education is the new home to The University of Texas at Austin High School District (UTHSD). Since 1999, UTHSD has operated as a Texas public school and is classified by the Texas Education Agency as a special purpose district.
“We are excited that University High School is now part of the College of Education. Their extensive reach helps meet high school students where they are—in every corner of Texas and beyond,” says Charles R. Martinez, dean of the College of Education. “Access to quality education, especially during the last year, has been critical. Their faculty and staff have a proud history of providing outstanding coursework for students as they work to earn their high school diplomas. We look forward to working alongside them.”
“By working more closely with College of Education faculty and students, UTHSD staff will be able to collaborate on K-12 learning technologies, curriculum design, student support services, professional development, and state policy to continuously improve our innovative course instruction and comprehensive support services for our students, while also expanding our outreach to serve Texas school districts,” says Beth Cooper, UTHSD superintendent.
Prior to moving to the college, UTHSD was part of the Texas Extended Campus in the Office of the Provost.
Each year, approximately 4,000 high school students across Texas and beyond take one or more courses through UTHSD. Students may enroll in the school full-time to earn their high school diploma, take single courses to meet graduation requirements, access courses not available at their home schools, recover credits, or simply get ahead over the summer. Students may also earn high school credits through a process known as Credit by Exam. The school also serves international students.
Currently, UTHSD offers more than 60 courses, including core academic courses and electives. Allcore courses are NCAA-approved, while UTHSD’s Advanced Placement courses are College Board-approved. All courses are online and self-paced, facilitated by experienced and highly qualified Texas-certified teachers.
“We have a core team of subject area learning specialists who lead the design of the online curriculum and serve as department chairs,” says Cooper. “They work full-time and serve as instructors for some of the courses, while also supporting approximately 35 part-time, adjunct certified teachers who facilitate the instruction of the courses.”
With thousands of Texas high school students learning remotely at home for the past year due to COVID-19, high-quality remote learning opportunities have become even more important to students and families.
In the 2020-21 school year, UTHSD saw an 18 percent jump in enrollment among Texas residents for its full-time diploma program and a 34 percent increase in the number of students taking single online courses, especially during the summer. However, multiple factors affect the school’s enrollment. According to Cooper, it’s also possible that some UTHSD students decided to utilize their local school district’s remote learning option this school year rather than enrolling in UTHSD courses.
Under the UTHSD model, students can start their courses anytime and study from anywhere. Courses are taught asynchronously, which means that there is no set meeting time for students to log into a class, take an exam, or submit an assignment. All semester-long courses are designed to take the same number of hours to complete as semester-long traditional in-classroom courses. Although students have the flexibility to manage their own schedules, UTHSD offers semester pacing guides to help students stay on track and meet certain established deadlines like exams. UTHSD students also have access to tutoring and academic counseling.
Although UTHSD may be best known for its online courses, the school’s leadership also works with approximately 250 Texas school districts each year to provide a variety of specialized face-to-face and online training and professional development for teachers, administrators, and counselors.
The move to the college is a strong fit that will benefit both faculty and students, according to Cooper, offering a lab school context for research and piloting new curriculum and programs.