After a public comment period and two public hearings, the State Board of Education finalized the rules for the Foundation High School Program graduation requirements and endorsements on Jan. 31, 2014.

Just as in November 2013, when the SBOE first reviewed and revised the draft rules, the majority of testimony and discussion at the January meeting centered around whether to require Algebra II for all the program's endorsements and whether the board would retain the requirement that students take a speech course to graduate.

Proponents of the Algebra II requirement argued that the course is necessary to teach critical thinking skills and prepare all students for college. Others, including House Public Education Committee Chair Jimmie Don Aycock and Senate Education Committee Chair Dan Patrick, the authors of the legislation that created the Foundation High School Program, testified in November that districts and students need flexibility in choosing the appropriate graduation pathway. 

Algebra II required only for STEM endorsement

Ultimately, the SBOE retained the Algebra II requirement solely for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) endorsement. All students who graduate under the Foundation High School Program must take Algebra I and Geometry, as well as a third credit to be chosen from a list of approved courses that includes Algebra II.

The SBOE also approved the development of two new advanced math courses: Algebraic Reasoning, and Statistics and Risk Management. These courses are expected to be available for districts to offer in the 2015-16 school year.

Speech TEKS must be taught, but course not required

The speech requirement has always been a graduation requirement set forth by the SBOE rather than one set forth in law by the Texas Legislature. After passionate testimony on the importance of the skills learned in a communication applications course, board member Thomas Ratliff introduced an amendment to the rules that requires students to learn all of the communications applications TEKS, but left it up to each district to determine where and how those TEKS are taught.
 
The final graduation requirement rules passed 14-1 with only SBOE member Martha Dominguez voting against them. The rules will take effect 20 days from passage (Feb. 20, 2014).
 
The board also took the opportunity to remind districts that they must offer the courses required for the current minimum, recommended, and distinguished graduation plans for at least three years until the 2013-14 freshman class graduates.

Learn more about the new graduation requirements from the TEA press release.