Texas AFT Testimony on Graduation Rules Cites Survey Results

In testimony submitted today to the State Board of Education, Texas AFT buttressed key points with results from last week’s online survey on the role of Algebra II in new draft rules for high-school graduation. Thanks are due to all who took part in this quick survey. Upcoming Hotlines will report further on the dialogue between the State Board and witnesses today. Meanwhile, here’s the testimony Texas AFT legislative counsel Patty Quinzi presented to the Board:

“Texas AFT does not propose that the Board revisit now its nearly unanimous initial decision to adopt graduation requirements under which Algebra II will be required to attain a STEM endorsement and to demonstrate the distinguished level of achievement necessary to be eligible for automatic college admission. We believe that this decision, making other endorsements available without requiring Algebra II, does conform to legislative intent in House Bill 5.

“However, we also believe that the Board should enter into this experiment with caution and with due regard for concerns that have been raised about the potential for the lowering of common standards and for inequity in the name of local flexibility. This legislatively directed change in policy truly is an experiment, a significant departure from the prior view that the default standard for all students should include completion of Algebra II.

“We recently conducted an informal online survey of our members and other educators, parents, and community stakeholders on this issue. The results indicate closely divided opinions on the proposed standard omitting the Algebra II requirement for many students.  Just over 50 percent of our 1,200 respondents favored requiring Algebra II only for the STEM endorsement. But nearly 46 percent preferred either requiring Algebra II for all endorsements or requiring either Algebra II or a math course of equivalent rigor, as determined by subject-matter experts, for all endorsements.

“This nearly even split on the merits of requiring Algebra II or an equivalent for all endorsements occurred even though at the same time 59 percent of respondents said they did not consider completion of Algebra II a prerequisite, as a practical matter, for college or career success. Yet under HB 5 and the proposed Board rules, Algebra II does remain a touchstone of college readiness and an eligibility hurdle for automatic college admission.

“Nearly 90 percent of our respondents said that, if Algebra II were deemed essential to college readiness, then the state should be required to ensure that all students have equal access to appropriately prepared and qualified teachers and to the resources needed to take and pass Algebra II.

“Thus an overwhelming majority, regardless of their views on requiring Algebra II to graduate, wanted to hold the state responsible for ensuring equitable availability of the qualified teachers and resources needed to provide Algebra II to all students. Texas AFT shares this stance in solidarity with other educators and civil-rights advocates. Flexibility cannot be allowed to become an excuse for inequity.

“Given the high levels of uncertainty regarding this issue of equity as the experiment with flexible graduation requirements unfolds, Texas AFT encourages the State Board to set an early date for the review of these proposed rules in light of practical experience with their implementation. Then either the Board itself or, if necessary, the legislature on the Board’s recommendation, can quickly make any necessary course corrections to achieve balance between flexibility and the assurance of equity.”