The landmark legislation not only gives students more flexibility in choosing rigorous and relevant courses and “endorsement” areas of study, but it also places greater emphasis on the connection between coursework and postsecondary plans, whether college or career.
All graduation paths begin with the Foundation High School Program, or the minimum requirements to graduate high school in Texas. Students must complete 22 credits in eight subject areas and pass five required end-of-course exams. Local school districts have discretion to increase requirements above the state minimum. If a student wishes to graduate with the minimum Foundation Program only, the student and parent must submit a form after the student’s sophomore year to allow graduation without an endorsement.
Starting with 8th graders in the 2013-14 school year, students select an “endorsement” (similar to a college major), which will guide them through their coursework in high school, and their college or workforce focus in the years that follow.
To earn an endorsement above and beyond the Foundation Program, a student must specify in writing prior to enrolling in 9th grade what endorsement they intend to earn, and they must complete 26 credits to graduate. Students are permitted to switch endorsements, so no choice is “locked in stone” in the 8th grade. At the same time, students may earn more than one endorsement if they choose.
Not all districts, especially very small ones, are equipped to offer classes in all five endorsement areas, but all districts must at least provide courses to meet the multidisciplinary endorsement area requirements. See the graphic below for details about each endorsement.
In particular, the law casts a spotlight on coursework and career paths for some of the most in-demand jobs in Texas, including healthcare, public services, and technical/industry careers.
The engagement piece of HB 5 is crucial, and students, along with their parents, are now making informed choices about courses relevant to their interests, aspirations, and plans for college or career.