Texas public schools educate 5 million students.
These students are the future of our state and the engine for our economy. But the current one-size-fits-all curriculum provides little room for career and technical courses that could lead to an industry certification or licensure. Support more flexible graduation plans that give students greater motivation now, and a wider range of options after they graduate.
More Flexible, Relevant Course Options Are Needed
Students are required to take 26 credits in order to graduate under the state’s preferred graduation plans, the Recommended High School Program (RHSP) and the Distinguished Achievement Program (DAP). This leaves only a few elective credits available to pursue career and technical education (CTE) courses – even fewer for students participating in athletics or band.
In addition, the State Board of Education has approved only a small number of CTE courses that can be counted towards the fourth credit of math or science credit under existing graduation requirements. Only 11 CTE courses can be used to satisfy the fourth credit of science, all heavily focused in health science fields. Only 3 CTE courses can be substituted for the fourth credit of math.
Dropouts Increase with Lack of Relevant Coursework
While Texas has made progress on reducing dropout rates, dropout rates for Hispanic and African American students in particular remain unacceptably high. Research shows that creating a direct link between coursework and future career opportunities can provide the necessary relevance to keep students interested in school and engaged in learning.
Skilled Workforce Missing for Available High-Paying Jobs
Texas employers report they have high-paying skilled jobs available, but a lack of qualified applicants to fill them. Economic development experts indicate that our ability as a state to prepare and graduate a skilled workforce is one of the greatest potential obstacles to our continued success in attracting business and investment.
Here’s what the Texas legislature can do to keep public schools strong:
- Create greater flexibility in graduation plans for Texas high school students with courses of comparable rigor.
- Increase the number of approved CTE courses that satisfy the math and/or science requirements for graduation under the Recommended High School Program.
- Direct the State Board of Education to increase the number of approved CTE courses by a date certain.
- Encourage school districts to apply to the State Board of Education for approval of additional career and technical education courses. Require the SBOE to act on these proposals within 180 days or the courses are deemed approved.
- Direct State Board of Education to review available CTE courses from its 2009 study, and expedite revision and approval of these courses to provide additional CTE courses for students that satisfy math and science graduation requirements.