Texas Board Of Education Grapples With 'Advanced' Courses For High School

Earlier this year, Texas lawmakers changed what classes students need in order to graduate from high school. Now the state Board of Education is trying to figure out the details — which will impact on students and schools here in Houston.

For months, state education leaders have been grappling with some big decisions.

They have to fill in some of the blanks on what courses count under the new basic graduation requirements for Texas high school students.

Donna Bahorich represents Greater Houston on the State Board of Education.

“We have to decide what is an advanced English course that will qualify. In mathematics for the three credits that they need to earn, we will need to decide after algebra I and geometry, an advanced mathematics course.”

It goes for science as well: What will count as an advanced science class after biology?

Bahorich says it’s a tough decision because they have to figure out what advanced means and they don’t want to mislead students.

So now they’re looking for help.

“We’ve asked both Chairman Aycock and Chairman Patrick”

State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock and Houston’s state Sen. Dan Patrick wrote the legislation that created the new graduation plans. They’re both Republicans.

“We sent a letter saying, ‘You know, could we get a little more of a definition for what is advanced is?’ because in the legislation, as you know, it really doesn’t define advanced.”

Both lawmakers are in touch with the state board to clarify what they mean.

But others think the state board is making matters too complicated.

“I think they’re making the conversation around advanced courses much more difficult than it is.”

That’s Duncan Klussmann. He’s the superintendent in Spring Branch.

He considers advanced classes in high school like upper division courses in college.

“Your upper division courses as you work towards your major are much more — you have a lot of leeway, a lot of flexibility.”

It all sounds a bit theoretical.

But in practice, it has a big impact on what courses students actually take and for school districts to prepare to offer them.

For example, does that last advanced math credit have to be algebra two or can it be something else like accounting or statistics?

In Alief, Superintendent HD Chambers wants to see more of those alternative courses on the final list.  He says the idea of an advanced course used to mean one thing.

“These are the courses every kid should know and should take and anything above these courses is considered advanced.”

But he says that’s changing.

“We need to look at as advanced as what are some courses that help students advance towards graduation, or advance towards post-secondary readiness or advance towards college and career readiness.”

The State Board of Education will take up the issue at its meeting this week in Austin and make their final decision later in January.

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Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...