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Richardson Schools Going Beyond New State Graduation Requirements


The State Board of Education approved new high school graduation requirements last month. Among the changes – students don’t need Algebra II or a fourth year of social studies to graduate. Here’s how one district – Richardson – is pushing its students beyond the state requirements.

Lori Shaw, who oversees counseling for Richardson students says coming up with a graduation plan for high schoolers hasn’t been easy.

“We just have to be really careful as counselors work with students, looking at the future and maybe where they might possibly want to go so that they have all those courses on their transcript so that they can have a chance to be accepted,” Shaw said.

Last spring, legislators set the table for the new graduation changes by adopting major changes to the state’s high school curriculum. The idea behind House Bill 5 was to give students more flexibility, especially those who aren’t headed to college and want to focus on a career training track. Under the new rules, high school graduates need to complete 22 credits. That’s called the foundation program.

“If a student graduates under a foundation high school program they can apply to a four year university, but that does not mean that they necessarily will meet the requirements for that university,” Shaw said.

That’s why districts have the option to beef up the minimum plan. Richardson is adding Algebra II and a fourth year of social studies to the requirements. That means students don’t have to choose between World Geography and World History. In sciences, students will have to take biology, chemistry and physics. Also added to the required list – a half credit each of technology and health, something the state doesn’t mandate.

“We didn’t want to take a step backward. We wanted to maintain those expectations,” said Superintendent Kay Waggoner. “We’ve had a lot of conversation, a lot of debate about what is best and ultimately, we are making recommendations that are in the best interest of the students.”

Read more about the Richardson school district's plan on our Class of 17 education blog, and share your thoughts about what you think of the state's new requirements.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.