Fresh off the press from the Tribune. The Senate Education Committee has voted 7-2 (Y: Dan Patrick (R-Houston), Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) and Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood); N: Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and Royce West (D-Dallas)) to advance the Curriculum reforming bill. Now, the bill just needs to pass the whole Senate before it is sent to Perry’s desk (the Tribune article insinuated this is an identical bill to the House; If it is not, there will be a conference committee requirement).
The bill, which recently passed the house, essentially does two things. First, it lowers the number of standardized tests from 15 to 5 (Biology, U.S. History, Algebra I and a pair of English exams) that are required in order to graduate. That is probably a good thing, as those pesky little tests got a little overwhelming, when you are literally sacrificing valuable teaching time to prepare kids for the dreaded TAKS test. However, second, the bill lowers the standards needed in order to earn a diploma. Instead of four years of most core concepts, the requirements are lowered to three, and certain benchmark classes, most notably Algebra II, are nixed from the requirements. The new diploma would be from a much more remedial track, whereas the old track (the college preparatory one) would be considered “honors.”
In order to qualify for the coveted top 10% program at UT or A&M, one would need the honors diploma. I would imagine it would be a biggie for most colleges’ admissions, too. I have two big problems with this legislation: the whole idea of a remedial diploma plan in general, as well as, more specifically, the idea of nixing Algebra II.
First, I fear that, especially since this remedial track seems like it would be the default, many poorer students will be tricked into completing this track in order to more easily graduate from high school. Little will they probably know, however, that the “fast track” diploma is not the ticket to college the regular, vanilla diploma of the past was. Second, I actually do think that Algebra II is a valuable skill that our future workforce should be equipped with.
For the record, I loathed math class while I was in High School, and I sure as heck am not using any complex math currently in my life (it never really goes beyond calculating gratuity when going dutch), but I can see that Algebra II was a good investment of my time. Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry was probably lost on me, but Algebra II was good. And besides, it isn’t like it is that advanced of a subject for High School. Most public school students take it their Junior, and not their Senior, years. I went to a Private School, so I took it in the 10th grade (my brother went to St. John’s, so he took it int he 9th grade), as does anyone in the AP/IB programs in HISD.
Watering down our school’s graduation requirements has never been a good idea. I was happy to see from legitimate Democratic opposition to this measure in the upper chamber.