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Eagle Ford: ECISD discusses graduation requirements
EAST CENTRAL -- When the East Central Independent School District board of trustees met Sept. 17, there were several issues to discuss. Among the varied topics of the night was an overview of House Bill 5 from Superintendent Gary Patterson.
In June, Gov. Rick Perry signed the bill, making a number of changes to the public school system. The new guidelines are set to begin with the 2014-15 academic school year, and are required of students who are part of the class of 2018.
The portion of the bill that has garnered the most attention is the provision that reduces the number of end-of-course exams (STAAR program) from 15 to five. It also eliminates the requirement that these exams constitute 15 percent of the final grade.
Another key provision of the bill is that a student can only obtain course credit and a final grade in all grades K-12 by maintaining at least 90 percent attendance. This provision will help prevent, or at least reduce, the time that students are pulled out of elective classes for the purpose of tutoring or preparing for end-of-course exams.
The new law also calls for a Personal Graduation Plan to be determined for all high school students. The goal is to give flexibility by allowing students to either pursue a more traditional education and path to college, or to better prepare themselves to transition directly into the work force. Students interested in the trades will also benefit from a provision that allows locally developed courses, such as an internship or apprenticeship, to be implemented and offered without State Board of Education approval.
Accountability by the school district will also change under the new law. The old system whereby schools were labeled “Exemplary,” “Recognized,” or “Academically Acceptable” or “Unacceptable” will be replaced with a standard A, B, C, D, or F system.
For the new plans for high school students, the new bill allows for three graduation options. Students can graduate with the “foundation program,” which requires 22 total credits. The “foundation program with endorsement” requires 26 hours and that “endorsement” requirements be met. The third graduation option is the “distinguished level of achievement.” This requires 26 credits, plus an endorsement and Algebra II among four math credits, and an additional advanced science credit. Students will need to declare an endorsement choice in writing when they enter the ninth grade, but may change it later. They may also earn more than one endorsement. Endorsements will be noted on the student’s diploma and transcript, and include areas of focus such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; business and industry; public services; arts and humanities; and multidisciplinary studies.
Patterson said that while the new accountability guidelines aren’t all he had hoped for, he views them as a positive change. He said the new graduation requirements will be good for the kids.
In other business, several construction projects were discussed, including some remodeling work at Salado Intermediate School, and a new parking lot and additional paving work at East Central High School. The board approved a motion to obtain bids for each project.
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