New legislation affects students’ future

Students+work+toward+credit+recovery+to+meet+graduation+requirements+with+the+new+after+school+program+Twilight.+It+is+held+every+Monday+through+Thursday+in+the+library+lab.

Savannah Garza

Students work toward credit recovery to meet graduation requirements with the new after school program Twilight. It is held every Monday through Thursday in the library lab.

Savannah Garza , Editor-in-Chief

After years of complaints from students, parents and educators about excessive state testing, Texas legislators passed a reform bill this summer that will provide relief and changes to graduation requirements.
The major changes the law has introduced involve fewer required state tests, new graduation plans, and increased flexibility in the types of classes students are required to take.
“It really changes our graduation plan from what it used to be when we had a minimum plan, recommended plan, and distinguished plan,” principal Daniel Girard said.
The most significant changes include doing away with the requirement that students take four years of math, science, English and social studies. The new requirement is that students earn four English credits and three credits each in science, social studies and math.
While many students will still take a fourth credit of math, science and social studies they will also have the option to take other courses that will lead to an “endorsement” in one of five areas: science and technology, business and industry, public services, humanities or a multidisciplinary option.
Although the minimum plan will only require 22 credits, both the endorsement and distinguished plan require 26. The minimum plan will only be available to students on a limited basis for students with special circumstances. Schools are penalized by the state if too many students are on this type of a graduation plan.
As for standardized tests, the new bill reduces the number of STAAR exams required to graduate from 15 to five. Students will be required to pass algebra I, English I, English II, biology, and U.S. history.
The law also permanently eliminates a controversial requirement that forced schools to count STAAR exam scores as 15 percent of a student’s overall grade for a course. The Texas Education Agency had issued waivers on this policy that allowed schools to be exempted from this rule so it was rarely followed since it initially went into effect.
“People celebrated that there was less standardized testing,” Girard said. “There was a lot of time taken from real instruction and that was troubling. I’m not necessarily opposed to testing, but I was opposed to how much testing we would do.”
Another important change is that for students to be eligible to be automatically admitted to a state university of their choice if they are ranked in the top 10 percent of their class, they must graduate with the distinguished plan.
“They can apply to the schools but they won’t be guaranteed a seat,” Girard said. “I think it limits options for kids and I believe that the school should not limit options for the student. I believe it should be up to the child.”
Although for some the new top 10 percent rule is not favorable, others believe it benefits student’s who have prepared for college all throughout their academic career.
“The top 10 percent of any class is typically those that have worked hard towards preparing for college,” New Tech counselor Christine Kesling said. “You have to have that balance there because you can’t have somebody in the 10 percent perhaps that hasn’t taken any courses to get them ready for college. There’s the reward to be able to get in to universities working so hard and taking those advanced classes.”
Administrators believe that Akins is ahead of the curve when it comes to the new endorsement graduation plan.
“With the new endorsement plan kids have to complete not only their core classes but also a major,” Girard said. “Akins is unique and I’m not sure people necessarily realize that. We have kids complete majors at our school and that’s something that other schools don’t necessarily do.”
In addition to Akins students having the advantage of being familiar with a plan similar to the endorsement plan, they are already given several career opportunities and internships.
“(The new law) gives more career pathways and Akins is set up for that,” Kesling said. “We already have students getting EMT certificates and nursing assistant certificates. Our school being an academy school and giving career pathways is set up probably the best out of all the schools in AISD.”