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SAISD to vote on new graduation guidelines

Texas House Bill 5 changed requirements

If approved by the San Antonio Independent School District board of trustees Monday evening, starting in the new school year, eighth-grade students will be the first to fall under new graduation guidelines created by Texas House Bill 5.

The legislation, which also reduced the number of high school standardized tests, was adopted to create more flexibility in choosing courses, and opportunities for vocational- and career-training for non-college bound students.

Leslie Price, the district's spokeswoman, said the board will vote whether to adopt the plan, known as the Distinguished Level of Achievement, which requires algebra 2 for graduation.

"It's really what we'd like to recommend for all our high school students," Price said. "It offers them opportunities for scholarships and admissions they may not have under the other plans."

Ivalis Meza Gonzalez, founder of PRESENTE, a nonprofit promoting educational opportunities and parental empowerment, said she agrees.

"We think it's the best plan for all students," Gonzalez said to ensure they are career and college-ready.

Gonzalez said Aalgebra 2 is tested on SAT and ACT college entrance exams. She also said it is required under the "Top 10" rule, for those in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes enrolling at Texas public colleges and universities.

But she said it is also required for Level 2 workforce certification programs, such as those for emergency medical technicians and security guards.        

Price said with parental permission under state law, students instead can choose the Foundation plus Endorsement Plan that still requires an advanced math course.

Price said the new Achievement plan being recommended also requires students choose an "endorsement, which is really a career interest area."

She said by selecting one or more endorsements, students can tailor or modify their graduation plan as they go along.

Price said endorsements include STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- business and industry, public service, the arts and humanities or multidisciplinary courses.

Gonzalez said otherwise, PRESENTE and others  are asking school districts to "stay the course" by still requiring advanced knowledge of math.

She said PRESENTE, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Intercultural Development Association will be meeting with Mayor Julian Castro.

Gonzalez said she believes the new graduation guidelines are in line with Castro's educational priorities.