Lawmakers were at the Texas Capitol Wednesday talking about the implementation of House Bill 5, the bill that changes graduation requirements and reduces the number of end of course exams for high school students The meeting gave lawmakers an opportunity to express concerns with the new standards, while teachers, superintendents and education officials gave a status update on implementation.
State education officials explained how and why they made certain decisions as they work through the new law. The State Board of Education was tasked with choosing required courses for the various graduation paths. The board decided not to require speech or Algebra II for all high school students. Cargill says the board kept the standards high, while providing variety.
“There [are] so many different options where the local districts are making the ultimate decisions," Cargill said.
Next year, high school freshmen will choose one of five paths to graduation depending on their interests and post high school goals, whether that be college or a career.
Some lawmakers, like State Representative Alma Allen (D-Houston), are concerned the choices are too complicated for some parents, teachers and students.
"Think about students who don't have a parent, who are homeless," Allen said. "Think about students who live in foster care."
Other lawmakers expressed concern that districts aren’t required to offer the same courses on every campus. But H..D Chambers, superintendent for Alief ISD outside Houston, says that’s how it has always been.
“We don’t offer every plan of study at a single high school," Chambers said." We just have to provide modes of transportation for students who are interested."
Meanwhile, other lawmakers said they’re concerned counselors don't have enough training and information about the new paths to adequately help students decide which graduation path to choose. They're also concerned school districts don't know how to implement their own accountability standards, which is allowed in the new law.
The committee is expected to meet periodically as the bill is implemented for the upcoming school year. The class of 2018 will be the first to have to choose their path to graduation.