The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is currently deliberating on the restructuring of the Texas high school curriculum. House Bill 5, adopted by the Texas Legislature in the 2013 session, provides multiple pathways to a Texas high school diploma that include routes to industry certification leading to meaningful 21st century jobs in addition to college readiness.
We want our students to have options, but the options must include a curriculum that meets the rigor and standard of postsecondary (college and career) readiness, including the “applied” courses that might substitute for Algebra II in some of the diploma pathways. Unfortunately, many groups of educators and other advocates would establish curriculum standards that undermine this objective. Here is the position we should urge upon the SBOE in its deliberation on Texas high school curriculum and graduation pathways:
The SBOE should continue to expect that high school graduates be exposed to the academic content that research clearly says is necessary for postsecondary (college and career) readiness. This should include:
*Each graduation endorsement pathway should include Algebra II or its applied equivalent.
*Each endorsement should include chemistry and physics or their applied equivalent.
*The curriculum for English III and English IV should have a rigorous writing component, either business or technical.
As has been the case for more than two decades, a minimum or foundation course of study will remain in effect.
For the last decade, Texas has placed all incoming high school students on a course of study which has required them to be exposed to chemistry, physics and algebra II. At least 80% (231,000 graduates) of the Class of 2011 completed these courses. Students could opt out of this course of study with parent permission; 20% (or 57,000 students) did so.
Very few students make final career choices in high school. It makes sense to encourage flexibility and give students opportunities to have exposure to courses that interest them. It is not wise, however, to close doors for students, especially disadvantaged students, who would be hurt if we fail to expose them to content that future employers and/or higher education will later require or reward.
The endorsements available under the new law are designed both to give students exposure to courses of interest as well as to assure parents and students they are graduating above and beyond the requirements of the foundation, properly and broadly prepared for further study, training, and/or good jobs. And the SBOE is working diligently to develop the alternative courses to meet the necessary standards to qualify as “applied” substitutes of equal rigor.
Irrespective of the outcome, the advantaged children will generally take these rigorous courses and research makes clear that so many of the better opportunities in life either require them or reward students for taking them. But the concern is that, unless the proposed rule is enhanced, disadvantaged students will over time not find them available. Students will have plenty of flexibility to take a wide array of courses even if they take chemistry, physics, and algebra II. But it will be an inadequate offering for most of them if they don’t. We do a disservice to our children if we deny them this expectation of success.
The SBOE will take up the proposed rule for a final vote on January 28. The SBOE should be encouraged to add chemistry, physics, and algebra II to the course requirements for all endorsement pathways to a high school diploma and ensure that a writing component is included in advanced English courses.
The following link has the contact information for the SBOE members: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index4.aspx?id=2147506719. Please encourage them to do the right thing for our kids.