Changing requirements at Texas high schools is a hot topic at the Capitol. The House has passed its version. Next week, it’s the Senate’s turn.
Both the House and Senate bills would increase flexibility for public high school students in the state. This week, lawmakers passed Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s House Bill 5. Aycock, R-Killeen, heads the House Public Education Committee. His bill addresses course requirements and drops the number of STAAR exams from 15 to five, among other changes.
Holly Eaton, director of professional development and advocacy with the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, says Aycock’s method to put all the changes in one bill can be risky.
“If you put it all in one bill, you put all your eggs in one basket,” Eaton said. “Anytime you have three major issues like that, the more issues you combine in one bill, the more likely you are to draw detractors.”
Lawmakers are trying to change what students must study in order to graduate as a way to address the state’s high dropout rates, Eaton says.
“I think the impetus behind this sort of introducing more flexibility into high school graduation program is to address the issue of dropout rates and to try to keep kids enrolled and engaged and completing high school, and yet at the same time have them rigorously prepared for college or the work force,” she said.
HB 5 and SB 3 both would offer a diploma in a “foundation program” for students who don’t intend to get a four-year college degree. Students can choose to focus on business and industry, arts and humanities, science and technology, or distinguished achievement under the Senate bill.
The House bill has those same options, but adds a public service focus, so that students can take courses like law enforcement, hospitality and agricultural science.
However, the Senate bill gives this decision on course requirements to the State Board of Education, whereas House Bill 5 lets the Legislature decide. The Senate may take up SB 3 next week.