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HB 5 changes graduation requirements

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

By signing House Bill 5 into law last week, Governor Rick Perry changed the testing requirements for graduation from Texas public schools.

According to a press release from Bandera ISD, "high school students are now required to pass five State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course exams to meet the new graduation requirements.

"The five assessments under HB 5 include Algebra I, English I (combined reading/writing), English II (combined reading/writing), biology, and US history.

"Reading and writing are currently assessed separately in English I and English II, and will continue to have separate reading and writing tests for the July 2013 test administration and the December 2013 test administration. Assessments in Algebra II, geometry, English III, chemistry, physics, world geography, and world history have been eliminated from the testing requirements."

The new requirements reduce the total number of end-of-course exams from 15 to 5. The bill also changes the courses needed to earn a diploma.

The bill came out of both houses with unanimous support, following months of committee hearings and lively negotiations.

Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, who opposed an earlier version of the bill, said the legislation would help move Texas toward becoming a national leader in career and technology education.

According to an article in the San Antonio Express News, "starting with the 2014-15 school year, high school students will take a foundation curriculum of four English credits; three credits each in science, social studies and math; two foreign language credits; one fine arts and one physical education credit; and five elective credits. Students would add a fourth science and math credit when they select one of five diploma "endorsements" in areas including science and technology, business and industry, and the humanities.

"The current standards, which have been in place since 2006, require four years each science, English, social studies and math for all students."

HB 5 was in part a response to a growing concern that students were spending more and more time learning to take tests and less time learning fundamentals, along with stiffening opposition to using test results to determine funding, teacher raises and schools' rankings.