Plano Star-courier > News
State Senate addresses high school graduation requirements
A bill altering high school graduation requirements was approved by a state Senate committee Tuesday and will now be heard by the whole body at a future date.
Rep. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) authored S.B. 3, which would increase the minimum number of credits required for graduation, but does not address assessment tests, which are expected to be addressed later in the legislative session.
"There has been a question from some about [whether] we [are] stepping back on rigor and accountability," Patrick said during a Feb. 12 committee meeting. "Absolutely not; we are stepping up. We are asking more of our students. We are asking our students to be competitive."
State law requires students get at least 22 credits under the minimum graduation plan, although some school districts require more and others don't offer the plan at all. The other two existing graduation plans, recommended and distinguished, require at least 26 credits for graduation, although some districts, such as Celina ISD (28), require more. Patrick's bill would eliminate all three in favor of a single diploma option -- dubbed the foundation diploma -- which would require 26 credits.
In addition, students would be able to receive endorsements in either business or industry, academic achievement in arts and humanities or science and math, or distinguished. These endorsements would allow students more input in the classes they take, said Sen. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney).
"For years we have been hearing concerns about the need for more options in high school curriculum to ensure that graduates are equipped with the skills necessary to meet the changing demands of today's workplace, particularly in the areas of business, science, technology, engineering and vocational trades," Paxton said via email. "And we have heard from parents and students about the need for more flexibility in school curriculum requirements so that they can tailor coursework to better meet their long-term academic and career objectives. The Legislature is working to respond to those needs."
In addition to requiring four additional credits for graduation, the bill would also require two credits in foreign language, up from zero under the current minimum graduation plan. A third science class will also be required, up from two.
The minimum graduation plan, as currently designed, requires parental approval since students who graduate under the plan are not eligible to attend a four-year college or university. That would not be the case under the foundation diploma, something Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) spoke about at Tuesday's committee meeting.
"In North Central Texas 80 percent of the kids [receive at least] the recommended, while 20 percent of the kids get the minimum diploma right now," he said, adding that the basic foundation diploma is very similar to the current recommended diploma. "I want to make sure as we move down this path that that doesn't happen. When you look at the 20 percent that have the minimum diploma, [a lot of them] are ethnic minorities who don't have the basic requirements to be college-ready."
The bill passed out of committee with a 7-0 vote, with Sens. West and Leticia Van de Putte abstaining. Both senators said they supported the bill but wanted to wait and see how the standardized testing issue is resolved before casting votes.
Plano ISD requires 24 credits in its minimum graduation plan, while Frisco ISD requires 25 and Celina ISD requires 26. McKinney ISD and Allen ISD do not offer a minimum plan, instead only offering the recommended and distinguished achievement plans.