WHEN TEXAS TOOK the nation’s lead a decade ago in putting new rigor into high school graduation requirements, some worried it would cause more students to drop out or increase the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. The opposite has proved true: Graduation rates have increased, with the greatest growth occurring among low-income and minority students. Given such success, it’s bewildering that the state would roll back, as is now under serious consideration, these high standards.
Working their way through the Texas Legislature are bills that would rewrite high school graduation requirements to reduce the number of end-of-course exams required for a diploma and loosen the required courses for graduation. Under the state’s current recommended course load, high school students (barring those who opt out with written consent from a parent and school counselor) must complete four years of coursework in English, mathematics, science and social studies. Under the revised requirements, a new “foundation” diploma would allow students to take more electives with lightened course requirements. No longer would Algebra II or advanced science courses be required.