The State Board of Education held a public hearing Sept. 17, 2013, to obtain input as it begins to restructure Texas high school graduation requirements in response to HB 5, passed in the 2013 session.

Under the new state law, Texas will move to a 22-credit Foundation High School Program, with the opportunity for students to take additional coursework to earn endorsements in specific areas of study. Students graduating with an endorsement will have earned 26 credits. The SBOE is charged with making related policy decisions, such as selecting the courses that will count as advanced mathematics, English and science credits, and determining the requirements for each endorsement area.

TCTA director among educators providing testimony

TCTA District 16 Director Mellessa Denny, a speech and debate teacher at Amarillo High School who serves as the vice president-elect of the Texas Speech Communication Association, was among about 50 people who testified at the hearing. She talked about the impact speech communication instruction can have in students’ everyday lives, noting that such skills are needed for job interviews and other aspects of students’ future careers. Denny advocated that the statewide requirement that all students take a speech communication course be kept under the new graduation program.

Other input included:

  • A representative from the National Math and Science Initiative testified in support of requiring statistics, chemistry, Algebra II and physics to “give meaning to STEM.”
  • Arlington ISD superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos asked that the SBOE grant meaningful flexibility – without complicating existing processes – to districts to work with higher education and with business and industry.
  • A former computer science advisor from Georgetown ISD advised against allowing computer programming courses to be counted as foreign language credits, stressing that these courses are focused on math and science, not language.
  • Several people testifying emphasized the need for flexibility in the new graduation program with many course options acceptable for districts with limited resources.

Input to go into proposed rule

With the input received at the hearing, TEA staff will craft a proposed rule dealing with graduation requirements. If the rule receives preliminary approval at the SBOE’s Nov. 20-22 meeting, there will be a 30-day public comment period. Comments during this time may be submitted to rules@tea.state.tx.us. A final vote on the changes is expected during the SBOE’s Jan. 29-31, 2014, meeting.