Texas Lawmakers Grapple with Education Reform Measures

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A drive to reform the Texas education system proceeds apace, with bills working their way through the legislature addressing high school graduation requirements, the expansion of charter schools, and testing.

Texas high school graduation requirements

According to the Dallas Morning News, a bill has been voted out of the Texas Senate Education Committee, sponsored by its chairman, Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, that revamps graduation requirements for Texas high school students. If the bill passes, Texas students would have to pass 26 credits in order to graduate. Students would have to take two years of a foreign language, three years of science, and one year of fine arts. There would be four possible tracks to graduation, one basic, one focusing on business and industry, one on science and math, and the fourth on arts and humanities.

Expanding charter schools

In the meantime, according to the Texas Tribune, Patrick has filed a bill expanding the number of charter schools. A new state board would be created to oversee the creation and certification of charter schools in Texas. School districts could become what are called "home rule districts" and could convert to a charter school system. In effect, the bill would allow for the unlimited creation of charter schools in Texas.

Testing reform

The Texas Tribune also reports that Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has introduced a bill, now under discussion in the Education Committee, that would revamp the way students are tested in Texas. Reforms passed under then-Gov. George W. Bush imposed a series of tests that high school students must pass in order to graduate. The system has been criticized by parents and teachers alike. The reform bill would reduce the number of tests that students must pass from 15 to five, focusing on reading, writing, biology, Algebra I, and American history. The bill would also leave the question whether the tests count for anything besides graduation up to local school boards. Like the graduation bill that was reported out of committee, the Seliger bill would require 26 course credits for graduation, but would include four in English, three in math, three in social studies, two in science, two in foreign languages, one in fine arts and one in physical education, plus 10 electives. The Seliger bill would allow for diploma "endorsements" by completing certain courses in humanities, science, engineering, technology and math, or business and industry.

Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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