Legislation passed in 2013 created new high school graduation requirements that become effective beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

Foundation Program

The new law replaces the current three high school graduation plans (Minimum, Recommended, and Distinguished Achievement) with one Foundation program, on top of which students can earn endorsements and a "Distinguished Level of Achievement." (See TEA's side-by-side comparison chart of current graduation requirements and HB 5 requirements to be implemented in 2014-15.)
The new law makes earning an endorsement on top of the Foundation plan the default high school graduation plan for students, requiring that students entering grade 9 specify in writing which endorsement they intend to earn. Students can choose to graduate under the Foundation program alone (with no endorsement) only upon written permission of their parents and only after the sophomore year.

Plan Information Distribution

Starting in 2014-15, TEA must make information available to each school district that explains the advantages of a student pursuing the Distinguished Level of Achievement and each endorsement. It must explain which path students must pursue to rank in the top 10 percent of their class, and encourage parents to have their children choose these higher level high school graduation plans. Districts must publish this information online and ensure it is available to students in grades 9 and above in the language in which parents are most proficient (if at least 20 students in a grade level primarily speak that language).

Personal Graduation Plans

Also in 2014-15, principals must designate a school counselor or school administrator to review personal graduation plan options with students entering grade 9, together with the student’s parent or guardian. Before the end of the school year, the student and his parents must confirm and sign a personal graduation plan, which must identify a course of study that promotes college and workforce readiness, career placement and advancement, and facilitates the student’s transition from secondary to postsecondary education. Students may change their personal graduation plans, but if they do, their school must send written notice to their parents.

Foundation Program Required Course Credits

  • Four English language arts, including ELA I, I, III and an advanced course
  • Three math, including Algebra I, Geometry, and an advanced course
  • Three science, including Biology, an advanced course, and either another advanced course or Integrated Physics and Chemistry
  • Three social studies, including U.S. History, one-half credit for Government, one-half credit for Economics, one credit for World Geography or World History (Students can complete a combined World History/World Geography course to meet this requirement.)
  • Two foreign language (Students can substitute two credits of computer programming languages to meet this requirement.)
  • One fine arts
  • One PE
  • Five electives

The SBOE must approve a variety of advanced courses that can be used to meet the Foundation program requirements. Students can also satisfy the requirement for advanced courses by completing advanced courses approved by the local school board.
With approval from the commissioner, districts can allow students to satisfy the fine arts credit by participating in a community-based fine arts program not provided by the school district. The program must provide instruction in the Fine Arts TEKS.

Course Substitutions

  • A student can substitute another appropriate course as determined by the State Board of Education for the second credit of the foreign language requirement if, after completing the first credit, the student demonstrates that he/she is unlikely to be able to complete the second credit.
  • A special education student who is unable to complete the foreign language requirements can substitute two credits in ELA, math, science, social studies, CTE, Technology Applications or other academic electives for these credits.
  • Technology Applications is among the categories of applied STEM courses that the SBOE can allow to be used to satisfy ANY math and science requirement (not just the fourth credit) under the Foundation program. Such a course can be used only to substitute for a science course taken after the successful completion of Biology.
  • Students can satisfy elective requirements under the Foundation program with additional courses completed under the Distinguished Level of Achievement, an endorsement or an advanced CTE course.
  • Students can satisfy Foundation program course requirements by successfully completing dual-credit courses.

School districts must provide, to the greatest extent possible, opportunities for students enrolled in a CTE program to enroll in dual-credit courses designed to lead to a degree, license or certification.

Distinguished Level of Achievement

Students can earn a Distinguished Level of Achievement under the Foundation program by completing four credits in math (must include Algebra II) and four credits in science, and obtaining at least one endorsement.

A student who has completed the core curriculum of an institution of higher education, as certified by the institution in accordance with commissioner rule, is considered to have earned a Distinguished Level of Achievement under the Foundation program and is entitled to receive a high school diploma from the appropriate high school, as that high school is determined in accordance with commissioner rule. A student who is considered to have earned a Distinguished Level of Achievement under the Foundation program in this situation may apply for admission to an institution of higher education for the first semester or other academic term after the semester or other academic term in which the student completes the core curriculum.


To earn any endorsement, students must successfully complete four credits each of math and science (the three required under the Foundation program plus an additional advanced math and an additional advance science course or advanced CTE course), and seven electives (the five required under the Foundation program plus an additional two).

Endorsement options include:

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) – includes courses directly related to science, including environmental science, technology, computer science, engineering, and advanced mathematics.
Business and Industry – includes courses directly related to database management, information technology, communications, accounting, finance, marketing, graphic design, architecture, construction, welding, logistics, automotive technology, agricultural science, and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning.
Public Services – includes courses directly related to health sciences and occupations, education and training, law enforcement, and culinary arts and hospitality.
Arts and Humanities – includes courses directly related to political science, world languages, cultural studies, English literature, history, and fine arts. (A student pursuing an Arts and Humanities endorsement can, with written parental permission, substitute an advanced course related to the fourth science credit for the fourth science credit.)
Multidisciplinary Studies – allows a student to select courses from the curriculum of each endorsement area described above and earn credits in a variety of advanced courses from multiple content areas sufficient to complete the Distinguished Level of Achievement under the Foundation program.

Provisions Relating to Endorsements

  • The SBOE must develop curriculum requirements for each endorsement with the direct participation of educators and business, labor, and industry representatives.
  • Each school district must make available the courses for at least one endorsement.
  • If a school district offers only one endorsement, it must be the Multidisciplinary Studies endorsement.
  • Each school district must report to the Texas Education Agency the categories of endorsements for which the district offers all of the curriculum requirements.
  • Students must be permitted to enroll in courses in more than one endorsement before their junior year.

Performance Acknowledgement

Students can earn a performance acknowledgement on their diploma and transcript for outstanding performance in a dual-credit course, bilingualism and biliteracy, on a college advanced placement test or IB exam, or on the PSAT, ACT-Plan, SAT, ACT, or for earning a nationally or internationally recognized business or industry certification or license.

College Admissions

To qualify for Top 10 Percent admission, a student must have successfully completed the Distinguished Level of Achievement under the Foundation program.
See also:

House Bill 5's changes to testing, accountability and graduation requirements

Final Foundation High School Program Requirements