Apparently, despite what happened in the last Legislature, it’s still an open question.
The State Board of Education has proposed toughening high school graduation requirements despite the Legislature’s clear intent last spring to provide more flexibility.
The board’s draft plan – up for debate and a preliminary vote this week – would require most students to pass an Algebra 2 class to graduate. The proposed rule has set off a renewed battle over the value of mandating the advanced math course.
Proponents argue Algebra 2 is tied to college and career success. Colleges often require the course for admission. But other educators and business leaders contend some students need options that may be more relevant to their interests and job plans.
State lawmakers this year unanimously passed a law to overhaul graduation standards, promoting more flexibility for students, but they left decisions about some courses to the education board.
The sponsors of House Bill 5, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, repeatedly emphasized that local school districts should get to select the classes they deem appropriate.
Another sticking point is whether students should have to take a speech class – a mandate left out of the law but included in the education board’s draft rules.
“These questions were addressed through the Legislature. They were pretty clear what their intent was,” said H.D. Chambers, superintendent of the Alief Independent School District and a leading voice favoring the bill. “It’s déjà vu.”
Chambers and others said a compromise is possible. For example, the board may end up requiring Algebra 2 only for some graduation plans.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize the SBOE had this role to play. They expect to make a decision in January after soliciting feedback from the public. School groups tend to oppose making Algebra 2 mandatory, while business groups tend to favor it. I expect the same arguments we had this spring to be made all over again. If you have a strong opinion on this, you should contact your SBOE member or sign up to testify at one of their meetings. We’ll see what happens.