New York, Texas Mull Shift in Graduation Requirements

By Catherine Gewertz — March 17, 2015 2 min read
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Two of the country’s larger states are considering moves that make it easier for students to demonstrate that they’re ready to graduate from high school.

In Texas, the Senate is expected to debate a bill that would allow students to get their diplomas even if they failed one or two of the five required end-of-course tests.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Kel Seliger, Senate Bill 149 was unanimously approved by the Senate education committee, and is expected to come before the full chamber soon, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The bill would allow seniors who fail two or fewer of the five required end-of-course exams to graduate as long as they meet the other high school graduation requirements, including passing required courses. Each student’s case would be considered by a committee made up of a parent, teacher, counselor, and principal. The committee would evaluate whether the student has shown mastery of course content by various other means, such as grade-point average or passing other tests, such as those for Advanced Placement courses.

If Texas enacts that law, it would mirror the practices already in place in the lower grades. Students in 5th and 8th grades are required to pass tests to be promoted to the next grade, but exemptions allow 90 percent of those who fail the tests to be promoted anyway, according to state figures quoted in the Morning News story.

Bill Hammond, a former state lawmaker who is now the president of the Texas Association of Business, said he feared that Sen. Seliger’s bill would water down expectations for high school students.

“We are disappointed the Senate is going to effectively eliminate any substantive requirement for juniors and seniors to prove they are college- or career-ready when they graduate,” Hammond told the Morning News. “The creation of these review committees will effectively reinstate social promotion. It also reduces the value of the diploma for all those who worked hard in school and proved their skills on these tests.”

The bill would affect only a small portion of this year’s graduating class: About 28,000 seniors—about 10 percent of the class—have not passed all five end-of-course tests required for graduation. Seliger amended his bill so that it would allow only some of those students—those who failed two or fewer of the exams—to graduate. Originally, it applied to students who failed any or all of the exams.

In New York, the Board of Regents is starting debate on whether to allow students to graduate by completing projects or advanced coursework instead of taking the Regents exams, according to Chalkbeat New York.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.