ATPE testifies before state board on requiring Algebra II for high school graduation

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) met today in Austin and heard public testimony—including testimony from ATPE—on rules intended to implement House Bill (HB) 5’s graduation requirements. HB 5 was passed during the recent 83rd legislative session. Testimony focused primarily on proposals to require Algebra II for practically all students by placing it in all five endorsements, as well as whether to continue to requiring a half-credit in speech.

ATPE’s testimony: Students should be college- and career-ready

ATPE lobbyist Monty Exter offered testimony regarding our belief that students should be college- and career-ready, not college- or career-ready, at the completion of high school.  Although we support giving Texas students more choices and making high school relevant, our concern is that if we don’t expose all students to the concepts required on college entrance exams, we are taking an important choice away from students.

Our testimony stated that we had always understood that the endorsement tracks would have parallel courses to teach math and other concepts in alternative ways that fit the endorsement track and that those courses, whether career, technical or humanities courses, would be as rigorous as the traditional core academic courses that teach the same concepts. We suggest that the state board approve alternative courses to be developed that cover all of the minimum entrance requirements and fit within the endorsements. In addition, our goal will be to convince the next Legislature to re-examine course requirements and realign the TEKS so that all college entrance test concepts are provided to all students by the end of 10th grade, thus leaving the last two years of high school open for students to customize their educational experiences.

Our members also strongly support requiring speech as a course at this time and, in the future, incorporating presentation and speech concepts in multiple disciplines. Presentation and critical thinking skills are essential job requirements in the global economy, and all students deserve some intensive training in these skills in some form.

Split perspectives from business interests

Business interests were split on the subject of requiring Algebra II. Most manufacturing interests testified that local school districts should decide which courses to offer beyond those required by HB 5 and claimed that Algebra II is not needed for the many jobs that their industries are desperately trying to fill. But other business groups and chambers of commerce—along with civil rights groups—testified for requiring Algebra II, arguing that Algebra II is a requirement for college entrance in many universities and that the concepts are a part of college entrance exams. Their position is that all students should get an equal chance at the choice of higher education.

Several professors, including Dr. Michael Marder of the University of Texas’ UTeach program, offered data showing the link between higher education and the careers of the future. Marder’s comments centered on the word “career”—defined as the ability to move up in a field or profession or to become a manager or supervisor—as opposed to “job.” Marder’s research shows clearly that the reasoning and critical thinking skills learned in higher-level math courses are preferred, if not required, to move upward in the current labor force and will only become more so in the future. (Read Marder’s testimony at https://bit.ly/MarderHB5.)

ATPE’s press release on the proposed rules

This press release from ATPE State President Ginger Franks was released in advance of the meeting.

Statement from ATPE State President Ginger Franks on proposed SBOE rules

AUSTIN, Texas – This week, the State Board of Education (SBOE) will debate—along with other graduation requirements—whether Texas high school students should have to master Algebra II in order to graduate.

The president of the state’s largest educator association, special education teacher Ginger Franks, issued a statement on the proposed SBOE rules on behalf of ATPE’s more than 100,000 members:

“This is the most significant change in high school graduation requirements in 20 years, and when you make sweeping changes like these, it often takes time to iron out the kinks and determine exactly what students will need in the future,” Franks said. “As a state, we must be careful not to return to the era of tracking, when teachers and counselors steered minorities and others deemed ‘not college material’ away from difficult courses that could open doors to rewarding career opportunities.

“Regardless of what the SBOE adopts, ATPE’s hope is that in 2015 the Legislature will continue to work on retooling efforts begun by House Bill 5 so all students 1) are exposed to the concepts that higher education admissions require and 2) still have two years to customize their high school experiences in meaningful ways.”

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3 thoughts on “ATPE testifies before state board on requiring Algebra II for high school graduation

  1. Pingback: KVUE interviews ATPE’s Monty Exter on requiring Algebra II for graduation | Teach the Vote

  2. Genie Rolfe

    Although many colleges require Algebra 2 for entrance, there are pathways within the endorsements that might have better options for Advanced Math courses. Students whose focus is Fine Arts or Humanities may not need Algebra 2 to gain entrance or graduate from their chosen school.
    The intent of HB 5 is to give students more choice. With Algebra 2 as a requirement for all endorsements, the intent of the bill is subverted by traditional thinking. Other courses which meet the needs of students might be developed to take the place of Algebra 2.

    Reply
    1. Brock Gregg

      Genie:
      You make a very good argument and demonstrate why the testimony went into the night last night at the SBOE. You hit the nail on the head. Somehow we have to find a pathway for every student to find their own success. At the same time, we have to acknowledge the type of research that Dr. Marder from UTeach (in the post above) is showing us about the workforce skills that the global economy rewards with advancement. It is clear that higher level math and the critical reasoning skills it teaches are preferred to advance in the workforce. It is a difficult balancing act, but there is a way to make sure all students, regardless of background get an equal chance at higher education while still having time to tailor their careers, we just have to find it. Alternative math courses that fit the endorsements and also provide what higher education deems sufficient for entrance are a great answer, another is to find a way to make sure students are exposed to the right content and skills at college entrance levels before the end of 10th grade so that the endorsements come after receiving that content. A point that was made by many testifiers yesterday is that the TEKS themselves should be reviewed and strengthened to ensure depth of learning as opposed to the breadth of concepts we cover now. One professor testified that his research showed that truly mastering the Algebra 1 course and Geometry was more important than just taking Alg. 2. Many agreed that how the course is taught is extremely important because different students comprehend math concepts differently (which lends itself toward alternative courses). One thing that educators from K-12 are beginning to realize is that life without mandatory standardized testing means that teaching and the teacher-student relationship, once again becomes the most important part of the educational experience. Texas teachers will be in the spotlight like never before and my prediction is that just like with all of the testing regimes we have mastered over the years, we will exceed expectations. In the meantime, remember that monumental changes like HB 5 graduation requirements take time to balance out. We may find through our collaborations with other entities involved in this debate that there is actually a better way to get students where they need to be, and that the experiences created by working to find the right balance together now will show us the way. Thank you for your comments, Brock Gregg, ATPE GR Director.

      Reply

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