Texas Should Keep Algebra II Requirements for High-Schoolers
Texas State Board of Education members are set to begin debate tomorrow on the courses that high school students will be required to take under the state’s sweeping new education law, known as House Bill 5. This bill upended the state’s long-standing college- and career-ready course of study, under which high school graduation rates and college and career readiness rates increased for all students, regardless of race, income, or background. In its place are multiple theme-based diploma tracks, known as “endorsements,” that districts choose to offer.
There are very well-founded concerns among advocates for low-income students and students of color that these multiple diploma options will take Texas back to a time when only some students are given the classes needed to pursue their chosen path after high school, be it going to college or going directly into the workforce. And long experience tells us that those “some” are likely to be primarily affluent, white students.
Fortunately, the state board has proposed rules that would mitigate some of these concerns by requiring that students in these “endorsements” complete Algebra II. This proposal has support from Latino advocates and educators from across the state, who argue that Algebra II is a gateway to success in both college and the workplace and, as such, all students need — and deserve — access to it. It’s also backed by the business community, which needs skilled workers to fill the high-demand jobs of today and to meet the evolving demands of tomorrow.
To be sure, Algebra II is just one piece of the much bigger college-and-career-ready puzzle. But it’s a strong signal that the Lone Star State remains committed to at least a baseline level of mathematics preparation for all high school students. As such, board members should hold firm during their debates this week. Anything less would be a retreat that Texan students, communities, and the economy cannot afford.