The State Board of Education (SBOE) voted 14-1 on Friday, January 31, to formally adopt new high school graduation requirements for Texas independent school districts and state charter schools. Member Martha Dominguez (D-El Paso) was the one dissenting vote. The requirements will go into effect twenty days from adoption.
This year’s current 8th graders will be the first class to begin high school with the new requirements adopted today. The SBOE finalized the provisions of the five endorsements specified in the authorizing legislation, HB 5: science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); business and industry; public services; arts and humanities; and multidisciplinary studies.
Since its original work session on HB 5 in August 2013, the SBOE has heard from many constituents and engaged in an ongoing and lively policy debate about the specific credit requirements for graduation under both the Foundation Plan and with the five endorsements. A significant issue throughout the rules development process was which math courses would be required in each plan, with the specific focus on Algebra 2. With the final approval today, students in the STEM endorsement must earn an Algebra 2 credit to complete the graduation requirements.  While Algebra 2 remains as a viable option for students who pursue each of the other endorsements, the SBOE approved two new advanced math courses, Algebraic Reasoning and Statistics, which will be equivalent to Algebra 2.
Members also voted to allow students to fulfill a speech requirement by demonstrating communication skills in a variety of classes and activities as determined by local school district policies.
The SBOE began reviewing and amending proposed rules on Wednesday and approved almost seventy amendments during deliberations this week. As a result the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has said it may take several weeks to post the final documents on the agency’s website.
The SBOE also approved changes to the credit by exam requirements and changes to the TAC Chapter 66 rules regarding the state adoption of instructional materials. These new rules will go into effect twenty days after adoption.