A few weeks ago, I wrote about a possible change to the accountability system and the potential for fewer state assessments to be administered to students. Superintendents working with Educational Service Center 4, Tom Paulkin of the Texas Workforce Commission, and the parent group, Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessments (TAMSA), have worked together to design a flexible graduation plan for high school students and a meaningful assessment plan for all students.
This plan has been reviewed by educators around the state and presented to several legislators. In fact, over the past three weeks several bills have been filed by House and Senate legislators representing parts and in some cases almost the entire plan.
The idea behind the plan is to provide more opportunities for students and at the same time reduce some of the bureaucratic expectations that have become requirements for graduation. First, there will be one diploma, the Standard Diploma which is aligned to our current Recommended Diploma; this eliminates the Minimum Diploma which by name alone is degrading to a student that has attended school for 2012-13 years and met graduation requirements.
The Standard Diploma requires 16.5 Foundation Credits that are a prerequisite to Endorsements that provide for specializations in specific areas. The Foundation Credits include 4 years of English, 3 years of Math, 2 years of Science, 3 years of Social Studies, a year of Fine Arts, and one and a half years of Wellness/Physical Education. Total credits required for graduation are 26, and the Endorsements are flexible enough that students are not required to be locked into one area; in fact, they can earn Endorsements in more than one category.
The Endorsements fall into five categories: Humanities (Political Science, World Languages, Cultural Studies, English Literature, History and Fine Arts), Business/Industry (Data Base Management, Information Technology, Communication, Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Graphic Design, Architecture, Construction, Welding, HVAC, Electrician, Automotive Technology, etc.), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), Human Services (Health Sciences and Occupations, Education and Law, Culinary Arts and Hospitality and Agri-Science) and Interdisciplinary (General Studies).
The required assessments for graduation would only include 3-5 tests in ELA (Reading and Writing), Algebra I, Biology, and U. S. History. The bills that support this concept are Senate Bill 225, SB 240 and companion bill House Bill 640, SB 3, House Bill 5, and most recently HB 1056. There are major differences in each of the bills, but there is momentum to make historical changes to provide flexibility and meaning to a Texas High School diploma while still demanding high expectations from students. At this time, House Bill 5 combined with SB 240 and HB 640 has the best interest of our students.
You can look these bills up online by going to: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us and clicking on the Bill Lookup tab under Additional Searches. Please contact our legislators and let them know your thoughts on this subject. Dr. Charles Schwertner is our Senator (512-463-0105) and Dr. Marsha Farney is our Representative (512-463-0309); they would love to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org