The House Public Education Committee met last Wednesday to hear testimony on various issues related to implementation of House Bill 5, which ushered in changes to high school graduation plans, state assessments and school accountability measures. In addition to greatly reducing high-stakes testing, House Bill 5 created additional ways to obtain a high school diploma. Some of the issues addressed include:
Several witnesses and legislators raised the common theme of whether schools will have enough counselors to adequately inform and guide students through the new graduation endorsements and the new requirements and provisions created by HB 5. The legislators were asked for additional resources to hire more counselors leading up to next school year, when all entering freshmen will have to select a graduation endorsement.
Availability of Endorsements
Houston area legislators voiced concerns that while all districts will be required to provide at least one endorsement not all campuses within districts will be able to provide the same endorsements, potentially leading some students to not have access to endorsements that may lead to college. Staff and other legislators pointed out that the number of students taking endorsements will be tracked and reported following implementation of the new graduation plans, allowing legislators to determine if tracking or similar actions are occurring. According to Texas Education (TEA) staff, practically all districts providing the 4×4 should be able to provide at least three endorsements.
College Readiness and Algebra II
Much of the debate over this new law has revolved around whether students should be required to take Algebra II. All of the plans with an endorsement include four years of math, but the SBOE has authorized two courses that will be considered on par with Algebra 2 so that the four year requirement is met. A great deal of discussion in the hearing centered on college readiness and the role of Algebra II in ensuring readiness. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes emphasized that students should take four years of rigorous math courses if they want to be prepared for college. He noted that Algebra II, in and of itself, should not be the sole focus of college readiness, acknowledging that the advanced math courses being developed by the SBOE may be as or more rigorous.
As far as testing is concerned, TEA said that about 76% of the high school class of 2015 is on track to graduate. 24% have failed at least one of the five tests that are required to graduate. Chairman Aycock, asked to know whether an estimated 20 percent of seniors were in danger of flunking out despite the reductions in testing. The TEA would not speculate on that.
Available on TEA’s website
• PDFs featuring Foundation High School Program FAQs and Endorsement FAQs
• Performance Acknowledgment FAQs and other House Bill 5 FAQs are expected to be posted soon.
• A PowerPoint presentation that provides the details of the Foundation High School Program graduation requirements and endorsements
• A side-by-side comparison of the Foundation High School Program with the current minimum, recommended, and distinguished graduation plans
• Download all these resources from the TEA website.
Students who are in grade 9, 10 or 11 in the 2013-14 school year must be given the choice to graduate under the current minimum, recommended, or distinguished plan, or the Foundation High School Program, which will replace the current plans beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
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