New Graduation Rules–What Should SBOE Decide? Have Your Say

Here is your chance to submit your own comments to the State Board of Education on revised graduation requirements to be voted on at the SBOE meeting next week. By responding to our quick online survey, you also can help to shape Texas AFT’s comments.

First, here’s some background:

The proposed rules currently are open for public comment through January 28. Comments are to be submitted to this e-mail address: SBOE members are scheduled to hold an additional public hearing on the rules on January 29. A final vote on new graduation rules is expected before the Board adjourns January 31.

House Bill 5 by Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen), enacted last year, eliminates the Minimum, Recommended, and Advanced High School graduation programs, creating a new Foundation High School Program in their place. The bill provides for endorsements on a student’s diploma to indicate completion of certain courses reflecting career interests: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; business and industry; public services; arts and humanities; and multidisciplinary studies.

The bill requires students to identify an endorsement they intend to pursue when they start ninth grade. Four years of math, including Algebra II, are among the prerequisites for earning “distinguished achievement” recognition and qualifying for automatic admission to state universities under the Top 10 Percent rule.

A student could choose to graduate under the 22-credit Foundation plan, without any additional work to earn an endorsement, after full notice of the consequences (such as no chance of automatic college admission) and with parental approval. The 22-credit plan includes four years of English, three of math, three of science, three of social studies, two of foreign language, one of fine arts, one of physical education, and five electives. All graduating students would be eligible for state college financial aid.

Under HB 5, the State Board of Education must draft new state graduation requirements. SBOE members at their November meeting voted 14 to 1 against a plan to require Algebra II on all five of the specialized pathways to graduation (endorsements) created by HB 5. Board members heard personal entreaties from the chairmen of the state legislature’s education committees, Rep. Aycock and Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), not to make Algebra II a requirement for all endorsements. Currently, fewer than half of all states require students to complete Algebra II to graduate.

Under the current draft SBOE plan, the only pathway requiring Algebra II would be the STEM endorsement. You can see the proposed SBOE rules implementing HB 5 changes in graduation requirements at this link: Text of Proposed New 19 TAC Chapter 74, Subchapter B (PDF).

Left unresolved are concerns raised by civil-rights organizations and by Texas AFT regarding equitable access to the resources needed to make the promise of multiple rigorous and relevant pathways to graduation a reality for all students. As Texas AFT testified at a September SBOE hearing, resource inequities could leave economically disadvantaged students concentrated in lower-wealth districts with fewer graduation options. Many witnesses who raised equity as a concern at the SBOE hearings also voiced fears that predominantly minority low-income students will end up being “tracked” disproportionately into less-demanding graduation pathways.

With that background, please respond now to the Texas AFT survey regarding options that SBOE members should consider.