Texas may cut tests, graduation reqs

Texas leads the nation in test-based accountability for public schools, but now legislators may ease rigorous graduation requirements, reports the New York Times. Currently, high school students must take four years of English, math, social studies and science, unless their parents sign an opt-out form, and pass 15 end-of-course exams. A bill that’s already passed the Texas House would let students earn a diploma by passing five exams and taking only three years of math and science.

Not all students want to pursue a bachelor’s degree, argue the bill’s proponents.

Representative Jimmie Don Aycock, the Republican from Killeen who sponsored the House bill (which passed 147 to 2), said the revised curriculum would give students more options, including community colleges or technical schools. “I don’t want them to have to choose up or choose down,” Mr. Aycock said, “but choose what’s right for them.”

Critics say low-income and minority students will be tracked into lower-level classes.

“What we all know is when you leave it up to kids and schools, the poor kids and kids of color will be disproportionately not in the curriculum that could make the most difference for them,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit group that advocates for racial minorities and low-income children.

Texas’ graduation requirements are the toughest in the nation, especially when it comes to exit exams. Since the requirements went into effect in 2007, the graduation rate has risen from 63 percent to 72 percent. More low-income students are taking at least one Advanced Placement exam.

Lowering expectations means a “return to mediocrity” in Texas, argues Checker Finn on Education Gadfly.

The bill establishes a “foundation diploma” with 13 required courses and cuts exit exams in “almost all the tougher courses,” Finn writes. Standards will vary widely: Without state end-of-course exams, schools and districts will be apt to “put rigorous-sounding labels on easy courses.”

. . .  since district superintendents will be tempted to offer only the courses that the state mandates, lots of young Texans—most of them likely poor or minority—will be left with no access to classes that would do the most to propel them to success in higher education and beyond.

Texans are debating whether every high school student needs to pass “advanced algebra” to earn a diploma, Finn writes.

. . . the nationwide “college for everybody” push has gone too far, particularly if what’s meant is a classic four-year liberal-arts degree. But in today’s economy, even young people headed for industry need plenty of serious math. It’s irresponsible not to give all of them such career options—and irresponsible also to suppose that sixteen-year-olds are in the best position to make lifetime decisions that they may later regret.

I understand the risks of letting students choose an easier path to a diploma. But I think many students need a choice between real college prep (you’ll have a good shot at earning a bachelor’s degree) and real career prep (you’ll have a good shot at earning a vocational certificate or associate degree).

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Comments

  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    Yes, yes and yes to this:

    “But I think many students need a choice between real college prep (you’ll have a good shot at earning a bachelor’s degree) and real career prep (you’ll have a good shot at earning a vocational certificate or associate degree).”

    If they were smart they’d take a look at placement testing at community colleges. If they based their minimum standards on the goal of making sure all graduates could take and pass cc placement tests over the remedial level, they’d be doing a huge service to those students.

    Our local ccs use the Accuplacer exam and test only math and English. To place into a 100 level course they must master at 80% basic math and intermediate algebra. The English exam focuses on decent written grammar, sentence structure and basic essay construction. For students who are probably not 4-year college bound, why not devote their core junior and senior year high school academics to making sure those basic skills are in place? Taking that basic skills path wouldn’t necessarily preclude those kids from later – maybe after earning an associates degree – from moving on to a 4-year degree.

    • Gee, an idea which actually makes sense.

      Stacy, I’m in full agreement here, but as another article stated the other day, some 80% of New York state high school graduates needed remedial education in the state’s community colleges.

      I’d be in favor of jacking up the rates for coursework which is defined as remedial in nature in all colleges by a factor of 2x.

      A remedial course which is 3 credit hours at $60/per hour would become $120/per hour, and perhaps this would stop turning college campuses into grades 13-16.

      Sigh

      • Mark Roulo says:

        “…some 80% of New York state high school graduates needed remedial education in the state’s community colleges.”

        No, no, no! 🙂

         

        80% of the kids who go to the New York City community colleges need remediation. NOT: 80% of New York City high school graduates need remediation.

        • I’m betting they’re BOTH true…

        • Sorry, but the individual commenting below MIGHT just be correct.

          If 80% of the students going to community colleges in NY State remediation, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that most of those persons are under the age of 25. The number of students who are older than say 35-40 needing that much remediation is very small, as a general rule.

          • Mark Roulo says:

            I was basing my correction on the idea that some students in NYC (and probably, on average, the better ones) would skip community college and go straight to a four year institution.
            The remediation rates at the community colleges would then be higher than for the graduating high school class as a whole.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            Lots of high school graduates don’t go on to community college or four-year college. Presumably, more than 80% of these people would require remediation if they did desire to continue with school.

            Depending of the relative sizes of graduates not going on, going to cc, and going to 4-year, and the remediation rates of those three groups, the remediation rate for graduating high school seniors could be greater than, less than, or equal to 80%.

      • Not as long as the students can get the government to pay for the extra tuition…at least temporarily.

  2. “What we all know is when you leave it up to kids and schools…”
    Heaven forbid we leave it up to the students, their parents (not sure how they got left out of the quote), and the experts who deal with them on a daily business.