Even though the 2013 Texas legislative session is over, State Senator Dan Patrick (candidate for Texas Lieutenant Governor) has continued to push for better education standards in Texas. I have previously written about Patrick because he has been a leader in standing for conservative education reform. Patrick helped fight back against the liberal CSCOPE curriculum (which has still survived behind the scenes). Patrick fought for school choice and pushed for expanding the number of charter schools in Texas. Also, during previous sessions he has been one of the few legislators fighting to stop the 20% tuition tax on college students.
So what was voted on recently? Well, Texas is trying to reform Texas Graduation Standards in order to better equip Texas students for graduation and for getting a job after graduating. These reforms include 5 different graduation paths that students can choose to go down in order to graduate. Texas students have different minds and different talents. These different paths will allow students to graduate with more focus on the skills and trades that better suit them, while still getting a well rounded foundation. Not all Texas students go on to college and these customized plans will better prepare Texas Students for working in the real world once they graduate. Not all of these graduation paths require all advanced fields like Algebra 2.
Dan Patrick pushed to keep these different graduation paths intact and the Texas State Board of Education voted to keep them intact as well.
The following is an op-ed form Dan Patrick from late November regarding this issue:
Looking Beyond Algebra II
By Senator Dan Patrick and Hector Rivero
Graduation plans, curriculum, and testing in our state's education has been the source of hotly contested debates throughout Austin and across Texas. For years, students have followed an education system to prepare them for a four-year university track. We have seen progress in this area and increased the rate of students going on to universities. The problem has been that we have neglected the hundreds of thousands of students who have no desire to attend college and drop out of school as a result. What's more, we have neglected the hundreds of thousands of businesses that desperately need new skilled trade workers entering the workforce.
Jobs for Texas, a coalition of 21 industry trade organizations representing over 300,000 Texas employers was organized in response to this growing shortage of skilled laborers. Superintendents, teachers, and parents joined this effort to expand graduation options and reduce testing. Legislators in the Senate and the House heard the call loud and clear and took action to pass HB 5, which establishes a foundation graduation plan and five endorsements that students can choose. These new pathways will enable to students to work with their parents and counselors to design a graduation path that focuses on their skills and talents and better prepare them for college and careers.
The collaboration and unified effort behind this legislation was unprecedented. Unfortunately, much of the focus on this groundbreaking legislation has revolved around a single course: Algebra II. Since the beginning of this discussion, we have been accused of "dumbing down" education, and "reducing rigor," largely because the legislation does not require every student to take Algebra II.
No one in the Legislature or in the education and business communities has ever sought to "dumb down" our education system. Instead, we have always sought expanding options for students. The Legislature directed the SBOE to adopt additional rigorous math courses as options for students to take based upon their individual goals and talents, particularly in career and technology courses. More rigorous course options will provide opportunities for all 5 million public school students and prepare students for both college and career.
Research backs this up. State and national data shows students who take a sequence of career and technology courses are far less likely to drop out of school and are more likely to go into college. Other national math experts show the importance of students learning Algebra I and Geometry in depth, and then building on that foundation with additional math courses. Algebra II is simply not necessary for every student to advance in their education.
We all have the same goals, to provide rigor and relevance for all 5 million students in our public schools. If we provide all students the opportunity for rigor and relevance in school, and give them multiple graduation pathways, we will lower the dropout rate, have the workers needed for the future, and give more students an opportunity to live the American Dream.