Graduation requirements | TCTA
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Graduation requirements

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Alternate graduation path

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 qualify to graduate under the law before the 12th grade. The committee is made up of 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 he failed, the actual score on the exams the student failed, attendance, and performance on such tests as the SAT, ACT, IB, TELPAS or TSI.

In order for a student to be eligible to graduate and earn a diploma, the student must successfully complete all of the curriculum requirements for graduation. The student’s individual graduation committee must recommend additional requirements that must be completed in order 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 individual graduation committee must be unanimous in order for the student to graduate, and the decision of the committee is final and not appealable. The legislature extended this provision to Sept. 1, 2023.

Foundation Program requirements

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.

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 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 3-D 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.

Endorsements

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 math and science credit. The fourth math or science credit may be a college preparatory math course developed and offered pursuant to TEC §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 its own specific requirements.

School districts are not required to offer all of the endorsements outlined below. If districts choose to offer only one endorsement it must be the multidisciplinary studies endorsement.

STEM 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 coherent sequence of four or more CTE credits that consists of at least two courses in the same career cluster and at least one advanced CTE course; or
  • Courses required to complete a TEA-designated program of study related to STEM; or
  • Three credits in math by completing Algebra II and two additional credits for which Algebra II is a prerequisite; or
  • Four credits in science by completing Chemistry, Physics and two additional science courses; or
  • Algebra II, Chemistry, Physics and a coherent sequence of three additional credits from no more than two disciplines represented by the options listed above.

Business and industry endorsement

A student earning a business and industry endorsement must complete all graduation requirements and either:

  • A coherent sequence of courses for four or more CTE credits that includes at least two courses in the same career cluster, and an advanced CTE course. The courses may be selected from a list of career development or CTE innovative courses approved by the commissioner of education, but the final course in the sequence must be obtained from one of the career clusters relating to: Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources; Architecture and Construction; Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications; Business Management and Administration; Finance; Hospitality and Tourism; Information Technology; Manufacturing; Marketing; Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics; Energy; or Career Prep I or II and Problems and Solutions if the course addresses a career from a field listed above; or
  • Courses required to complete a TEA-designated program of study related to business and industry; or
  • Four English elective credits to include three levels in public speaking, debate, advanced broadcast journalism, advanced newspaper journalism, or advanced yearbook journalism; or
  • A coherent sequence of four credits from the above options.

Public services endorsement

A student earning a public services endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either:

  • A coherent sequence of four or more credits in CTE with at least two credits from the same career cluster, and at least one advanced CTE course, which includes any course that is the third or higher course in a sequence. The final course must be obtained from a CTE career cluster relating to Education and Training; Government and Public Administration; Health Science; Human Services; Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security; or Career Prep I or II and Problems and Solutions if the course addresses a career from a field listed above; or
  • Courses required to complete a TEA-designated program of study related to public services; or
  • Four courses in JROTC.

Arts and humanities endorsement

A student earning an arts and humanities endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either:

  • Five social studies courses; or
  • Four levels of the same language other than English; or
  • Two levels of the same language other than English and two levels of a different language other than English; or
  • Four levels of American Sign Language; or
  • A coherent sequence of four credits, selecting courses from one or two categories or disciplines in fine arts or innovative courses approved by the commissioner; or
  • Four English elective credits from an approved list.

Multidisciplinary studies endorsement

A student earning a multidisciplinary studies endorsement must complete all other graduation requirements and either:

  • Four advanced courses that prepare a student to successfully enter the workforce or postsecondary education without remediation from within one endorsement area or among multiple endorsement areas that are not in a coherent sequence; or
  • Four credits in each of the four foundation subject areas to include English IV and Chemistry and/or Physics; or
  • Four credits in AP, IB, or dual credit selected from English, math, science, social studies, economics, languages other than English, or fine arts.

Performance acknowledgments and Distinguished Level of Achievement

A student can earn performance acknowledgments in several areas including:

  • outstanding performance in a dual-credit course
  • outstanding performance in bilingualism and biliteracy
  • outstanding performance on an AP test or IB exam
  • outstanding performance on the PSAT, ACT Aspire, the SAT, or the ACT; or
  • earning a state-recognized or nationally or internationally recognized business or industry certification or license.

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.