Texas House Bill 5 changes graduation requirements for high school.
By Neven Jones
With the passing of HB5, every high school in Texas will be required to partner with at least one institution of higher learning and offer college preparatory courses either at the high school or online, a retired administrator from Northside Independent School District, told faculty during Employee Development Day Oct. 30.
The target audience for these college preparatory courses is 12th grade students who are not college-ready, Dr. Sarah McAndrew said.
Completion of the courses means college entrance with no remediation at the college level, McAndrew said.
The statute mandates that K-12 work with higher education, but nobody seems to know anything about it, McAndrew said.
A key concern of people who work in higher education is high school students graduating without all of the tools they need, McAndrew said.
HB5 was passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Perry June 10.
The State Board of Education will hold a final vote on the new requirements for high school graduation Jan 31.
“I believe that if implemented correctly, thoughtfully and by design that this legislation could actually be transformative in the way that it helps students,” she said.
The current diploma plans for high school students would be replaced under HB5 with a new graduation program called the Foundation High School Program.
The new program would require high school students to take core courses and declare a major by choosing an endorsement, McAndrew said.
Parents would need to accompany students as they choose their endorsement.
Students can change majors, but they must pick one when they enter their freshman year, McAndrew said.
Endorsements the students can choose include science technology engineering and math; business and industry; public service; arts and humanities; and multidisciplinary studies, McAndrew said.
The core requires students to take four credits in English, three credits in math, three in social studies, three in science, one in physical education and one in fine arts, two credits in a foreign language and five credits in electives.
It would be a challenge to come up with a way to make these requirements fair to the smaller districts because they have fewer resources, McAndrew said.
Every school must offer the courses required for students to complete one endorsement. If the school could only offer one, it must be the multidisciplinary endorsement.
Students could also earn a nationally or internationally recognized business, industry certification or license, McAndrew said.
The certification makes it possible for high school students to graduate, find a job and go to college without taking out student loans, McAndrew said.
With school board approval, a district would be able to offer credit for an apprenticeship or other training without State Board of Education approval if the district develops the program in partnership with an institution of higher education, McAndrew said.
“There is no course that we teach right now in Texas public schools that has not been approved by the State Board of Education,” she said. “Don’t you think they are going to have courses on Eagle Ford shale and fracking? Of course, they will.”
It does not make sense for these courses to be dual credit because the high school students taking them are not college-ready, McAndrew said.
A high school student taking college prep courses must meet the Texas Success Initiative college readiness benchmarks on an exam given by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board upon completion of the college prep course to meet the end-of-course requirements, McAndrew said.
The bill would impact everyone since it changes the criteria to graduate high school, President Robert Zeigler said.
“It has some opportunities for us to seal relationships, create more alignment and really work more closely to get students through the pipeline starting early, which we all know is important,” he said.
This would cut into enrollment in developmental classes and departments would not be offering as many sections at this college, English Chair Mike Burton, said.
“It looks like the high schools will be taking over a big chunk of our responsibility for developmental education,” Burton said.
English Professor Ernest Tsacalis said, “This will potentially have us outsource college prep, the developmental program, to the high schools who were already graduating many students who came to us unprepared.”
English Professor Alexander Bernal said he is concerned the humanities may be considered dispensable so students can graduate sooner.