Students in the south can rejoice knowing that Texas has dropped algebra II as a graduation requirement. At first, the state started the trend by making high school students take on algebra II but they are now abandoning that policy in a move praised by school districts for affording more flexibility. This move makes some policy makers nervous because 20 states have followed Texas’ lead in requiring the rigorous course.
Supporters say fewer course mandates give students more time to focus on vocational training for high-paying jobs that don’t necessarily require a college degree, such as at Toyota’s factory in San Antonio or oil and giant BASF’s facilities on the Gulf Coast per Christian Science Monitor.
But critics say Texas is lowering its standards. They noted that test scores and graduation rates have risen since the tougher curriculum was adopted in 2006.
“Algebra II is a really, really powerful predictive value on whether kids go to college, but it goes on and on after that: more likely to have a full-time job, have a job with benefits, be healthier,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center for Public Education, a policy group affiliated with the National School Board Association.
“It’s not just for the college bound.”
Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia now require students take algebra II for most students, with Minnesota and Connecticut jumping on the bandwagon soon. But Texas will join Florida – which so happen to be two of the country’s most populous states – in dropping the requirement when its Board of Education gives final approval to a curriculum overhaul next week.
This move is prompting some education groups to keep close tabs on other states as Texas’ classroom policy can have national impact. The state’s relies heavy on tougher standardized testing under then Gov. George W. Bush became the ideal for the federal No Child Left Behind law.