Monday, December 13, 2010

Texas: One model for tiered diploma systems

Back to state concerns about raising high school graduation requirements. Some observers worry that creating "college-ready-for-all" graduation requirements will induce the weakest students to drop out, while others fear that creating a tiered diploma system will lead well-intentioned adults to counsel students (particularly low-income and minority students) into selecting the lowest-level tier, despite grades and test scores suggesting that these students would succeed in more challenging courses.

Texas has created a tiered diploma system, but has also implemented two data-driven policies to limit the number of capable students steered into the "minimum" high school curriculum. The first policy requires the creation of "parent and educator reports", which must indicate for the child's campus the percentage of high school graduates who complete the minimum, recommended and advanced high school programs, and the number of students who complete the minimum high school program, disaggregated by student subgroup (see starting page 137 of 2009 H.B. 3).

The other policy directs the commissioner of education to call for a special accreditation investigation of a district when excessive numbers of students graduate under the minimum high school program, or when excessive numbers of students eligible to enroll fail to complete Algebra II or any other course that students in the recommended program would take but students in the minimum program would not take (see pages 86-87 of 2009 H.B. 3).

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