Stakes High for Texas Students

November 19, 2013  


Among the changes in Texas public schools passed by the Texas Legislature as part of HB 5, the reduction in high-stakes end-of-course exams for high school students received the lion’s share of the attention. But the changes that the legislature made to move away from a one-size-fits-all curriculum (known as the “4X4”) may hold more long-term implications for Texas students.

Under HB 5, all students would be required to satisfy basic foundation requirements for graduation, and would then select an additional sequence of courses under one of several “endorsements” that are organized around different areas of interest such as: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); Business and Industry; Public Services; Arts and Humanities; or Multidisciplinary Studies. Students may also pursue a Distinguished designation, which has essentially the same requirements as the former 4X4 curriculum.

The intent behind HB 5 was to increase workforce preparedness by providing students with a variety of graduation plans to explore their interests and develop their talents to support their future goals. Providing students with a variety of advanced-level applied courses of equal rigor and similar substantive content was seen as critical to achieving this goal.

Much of the debate around the implementation of HB 5 has been centered on the issue of whether Algebra II should be a required course for all endorsements. That debate will come to a head this week as the State Board of Education (SBOE) receives testimony and considers the adoption of rules to implement the changes to the graduation plans under HB 5. Under proposed rules issued by the SBOE, Algebra II would be required under all five endorsements for graduation.

Proponents of requiring Algebra II have argued that it is critical to college readiness. Yet there is significant debate among education experts as to whether there is such a correlation.

Key legislators as well as groups representing businesses and educators, including Raise Your Hand Texas, have argued that requiring Algebra II for all courses runs contrary to legislative intent and is effectively a return to the 4X4 curriculum that legislators specifically sought to move away from with the passage of HB 5. Using one course as the sine qua non for college readiness is overly simplistic; it will stifle the creation of advanced applied mathematics courses that allow students to develop these analytics capabilities in ways that are interesting and relevant for them.

Raise Your Hand Texas has been working with other stakeholders to ensure that expert testimony and public input are received by members of the State Board of Education on this critical issue, which has long-term implications for Texas students.

The hearings (full agenda) on this issue will span Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with an initial vote on the proposed rules anticipated on Friday. Final action on the proposed rules will occur in January.

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Categories: School Funding

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