• by Rogelio López del Bosque, Ed.D. • IDRA Newsletter • November – December 2012 •
The new Texas graduation guidelines went into effect with incoming ninth grade students in the 2010-11 school year with major implications that parents, educators, students and community members need to be aware of. The three tracks are the minimum high school program, the recommended high school program and the distinguished achievement program. Although there are only three programs, parents should be made aware that a fourth path, “Career and Technology,” is interwoven within the recommended program. Educators need to be ready to answer questions for parents as to whether or not the Career and Technology path will prepare students at their high school for college.
House Bill 3 defines college readiness as the level of preparation a student must attain in English language arts and mathematics courses to enroll and succeed, without remediation, in an entry-level general education course for credit in that same content area for a baccalaureate degree or associate degree program. What does this really mean? And do parents know which tracks will prepare their children for college? What about the students? Do they know?
How many credits are required for each track?
Through our work in parent engagement, IDRA has been providing information related to the new graduation guidelines and college readiness, and we have heard many questions parents are asking. We encourage parents to carefully review and critically analyze each track. IDRA has always taken the stand that every child should be given an opportunity to go to college, and be able to graduate from college. Our guidance to parents and schools reflects this stand in all of our work. Based on the questions parents are asking about the new guidelines, here are some quick facts for educators to convey for their students’ families.
Twenty two credits are required for the minimum program (not a college track), and 26 credits are required for recommended and distinguished programs.
The minimum track only requires 22 credits, but my district is requiring 26 credits for the minimum track. What additional courses will be offered in this track?
Each school district determines which, if any, additional courses it will require. They could be other courses in science and math.
How do I know if my child has been placed in the right track?
Parents must be pro-active and inquire at the beginning of each school year or term. Schools have an obligation to give parents the information they need to make the right decision for their children’s education and future. But when that information is not as thorough or clear as is needed, parents will have to let school officials know and make sure they are getting what they need to support their children.
For example, parents and students must know that the minimum high school plan ensures that a student will not be on a college track. Students with a minimum diploma also are not eligible to apply for some financial aid programs, grants or scholarships. This should be of concern when schools encourage this track for special populations of students who are minority, low-income or English language learners. The minimum high school program will definitely increase graduation rates for schools but will do little for students who may later wish to go to college.
How will I know if my child is placed in the minimum track?
Schools have an obligation to inform parents, and they must do so in the language parents understand. Schools also must have parents’ written permission to place their children in the minimum track – given that it will take their children off the college track – and certain conditions must be met beforehand.
Who is available to help me discuss and plan the appropriate path for my child?
Each school should designate a grade level counselor or other administrator. This should be someone who knows the curriculum and has access to student information, such as scores, conduct and attendance. This person also should be one who recognizes the positive traits of the student and insists that your child is not placed in the minimum high school plan.
Will the school provide me with any paperwork for any plan?
Each school should provide a graduation plan for each student that outlines the courses required for each program. The graduation plan should ensure all students are following the correct sequence of courses so that they graduate college ready. However, in some schools, paperwork is only provided for students who are being placed in the minimum track.
Is it possible that my child will be changed from one track to another during the year, and will there be enough time to do so?
The school must provide parents with information regarding any changes made in a designated plan.
Who is the person we must contact for this process or to make any changes?
In most instances, notify the grade level counselor or principal.
What if we do not agree with the track being recommended?
Parents have recourse to the principal, area office or district office. You can get phone numbers on the school and district websites. Start with the principal and then go to the district office if needed. If all else fails, do not be afraid to contact the superintendent. Note that the law requires all students entering the ninth grade to be placed in the recommended track. Then students can be moved to the distinguished track and students who were moved to the minimum track have the right to re-enroll into the recommended track at any time.
If we select the recommended or distinguished diploma track, will my child be moved to another track if he or she has problems with a course, or will the school provide resources to help my child succeed?
The school can move a student to another track. However, students who are having difficulty with a course and are enrolled in the distinguished plan should first be provided with the necessary resources, such as tutorials and additional assistance from the teachers, so that they may succeed in the course and program.
Will my child be prepared for college?
Not necessarily. Only the recommended and distinguished plans can lead to college readiness, with the distinguished plan providing the strongest preparation.
Schools must provide the proper information and strong guidance for students and parents in the selection of graduation plans. It is our mutual responsibility to ensure that parents, educators and students are familiar with the new guidelines and aware of the different programs and consequences related to each.
Building college readiness in students is the school’s responsibility. It is an investment in the future of all our children so they can have better opportunities for college and graduation. Even the career and technology track can be modified to meet college readiness standards.
We cannot undervalue the impact that parents and the community can have to transform a school. This connection is most valuable, but parents cannot become engaged in their children’s education if they are not properly informed and given an opportunity to create a shared vision for success.
Graphical flier on the New Texas Graduation Programs in English and Spanish (pdf) (sharable web graphic, png) (sharable web graphic in Spanish, png)
Bilingual PowerPoint presentation: Texas High School Graduation Requirements Tejas Requisitos de Graduación
Rogelio López del Bosque, Ed.D., is a senior educate associate in IDRA Field Services. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at email@example.com.
[©2012, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November-December 2012 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]