All students entering high school must enroll in the courses necessary to graduate under the Foundation Program and the courses necessary to earn at least one endorsement. Though the State Board of Education rules no longer require students to earn a speech communications credit, they do require that, to receive a high school diploma, each student must demonstrate proficiency in the major components of speech, including delivering clear verbal messages and applying valid critical thinking and problem-solving processes. Additionally, a new law requires the SBOE to require the teaching of informed patriotism and, when adopting TEKS for the foundation curriculum, adopt TEKS that develop each student’s civic knowledge.
English — four credits: English I and English II are required. The third credit must be English III, a comparable AP English course that is not counting toward another credit, or a comparable IB course. The fourth credit may be chosen from a list of approved courses.
Math — three credits: Algebra I and Geometry are required. The third credit may be chosen from a list of approved courses that includes Algebra II, Statistics and many CTE courses.
Science — three credits: Biology, AP Biology or IB Biology is required. The other two credits may be selected from an approved list that includes Chemistry, Physics and many CTE courses; one credit must be earned from a lab-based course.
Social studies — three credits: U.S. History Since 1877 (one credit), U.S. Government (one-half credit), and either Economics (one-half credit) or Personal Financial Literacy and Economics (one-half credit) are required. The third credit may be chosen from World History or World Geography, or a comparable AP or IB course.
Languages other than English — two credits: These credits may be earned in any two levels of the same language or two credits in computer programming languages, including computer coding, to be selected from a list of courses adopted by SBOE, including Computer Science I, II and III. Upon completion of the first credit, if the student demonstrates an unlikelihood of completing the second credit, the student may substitute Special Topics on Language and Culture, World History or World Geography if there is no local district requirement for their completion; computer programming languages; or another credit listed for languages other than English. A student who successfully completes a course in American Sign Language in elementary school may satisfy one credit of this requirement.
Physical education — one credit: Students may earn credit by participating in a private or commercially sponsored physical activity program offered on or off a school campus and outside of the regular school day, if approved by the commissioner of education. PE credit also may be earned through participation in athletics, JROTC, drill team, marching band or cheerleading. Students unable to participate in physical activity due to a disability or illness may substitute an academic elective credit or a course or activity offered by a school district that is developed with an institute of higher education and local business that will allow students to enter a career or technology training program in the region, an institute of higher learning without remediation, an apprenticeship training program, or an internship required as part of accreditation toward an industry-recognized certificate.
Fine arts — one credit: The credit may be earned in a traditional fine arts course, in a course such as Digital Art and Animation or 3D Modeling and Animation, or other approved courses.
Electives — five credits: These credits must be selected from an SBOE-approved list, a state-approved innovative course, JROTC, or driver’s education.
Entering ninth-graders must choose and specify in writing which endorsement they intend to earn. A student may graduate under the Foundation Program without earning an endorsement only if, after the student’s sophomore year, the school counselor has informed the student and the student’s parent of the benefits of graduating with an endorsement and the parent then gives the counselor written permission (on a form adopted by TEA) for the student to graduate without earning one.
To earn an endorsement, a student must earn at least 26 credits. School districts may define advanced courses and a coherent sequence of courses for an endorsement area. All endorsements require students to earn a fourth credit in both math and science. That fourth credit may be a college preparatory math course developed and offered pursuant to Texas Education Code Sec. 28.014. A student may not earn science credit in both Physics and Principles of Technology. A student must earn two additional elective credits to earn an endorsement. Each endorsement also has specific requirements.
School districts are not required to offer all of the endorsements. If districts choose to offer only one, it must be the multidisciplinary studies endorsement.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is the only endorsement that requires Algebra II, Chemistry and Physics. A student pursuing a STEM endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either:
A student earning a business and industry endorsement must complete all graduation requirements and either:
A student earning a public services endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either:
A student earning an arts and humanities endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either:
A student earning a multidisciplinary studies endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either:
In addition to endorsements, student can earn performance acknowledgments in several areas including:
The acknowledgment will be noted on the student’s transcript. The requirements for the distinguished level of achievement are the same requirements to be eligible for admission to a public Texas university under the automatic top 10% law. A student must successfully complete four credits in math, including Algebra II; four credits in science; and the remaining graduation requirements; and earn at least one more endorsement.
Legislation passed in 2015 provides juniors and seniors who have failed up to two end-of-course exams with an alternate route to graduation. A school district or open-enrollment charter must form an individual graduation committee for each student that this legislation applies to, though a student cannot graduate under the law before the 12th grade. The committee includes the principal (or designee); the teacher of the course whose exam the student failed; the department chair or lead teacher for the teacher of the course; and the student’s parent, or a designated advocate, or the student if the student is at least 18 or an emancipated minor. In determining if the student is qualified to graduate, the committee must consider many factors, including the recommendation of the student’s teacher, the student’s grade in the courses of the exams failed, the actual score on the exams the student failed, attendance, and performance on such tests as the SAT, ACT, IB, TELPAS or TSI.
To earn a diploma, the student must successfully complete all of the curriculum requirements for graduation. The committee must recommend additional requirements that must be completed for the student to graduate. These include additional remediation, completion of a project related to the subject area of the end-of-course exam the student failed, or a portfolio of work samples in the subject area of the course. The vote of the committee must be unanimous for the student to graduate, and the committee’s decision is final and not appealable. Lawmakers recently removed the expiration date for this alternative graduation pathway, and also authorized the commissioner of education to conduct a special investigation if 10% or more of a school’s students during a particular year are awarded a diploma through use of an IGC.