EL PASO, Texas - Starting next school year, high school seniors could graduate high school with an associates degree. By the time they reach their senior year, these same students could go for a vocational certification and be working in their field before stepping on a college campus.
"For students to be able to go to high school and work toward an endorsement and certifications in a field, that's really what the legislation intended for that bill to do," said EPISD Asst. Superintendent of research Dr. Jim Steinhauser.
House bill 5 passed nearly unanimously. Instead of earning four credits in math, English, science and social studies. Students will still take four years of English, but only three credits for science, math, and social studies.
The fourth credit will be filled with new elective requirements, or "endorsements.' These include STEM, science, tech, engineering and math; business and industry; public service; arts and humanities; and a multidisciplinary endorsement, encompassing all four fields.
Each endorsement will offer classes that have real-world applicability. For example, Instead of that last year of math, the STEM endorsed student could take computer science. In the business and industry endorsement path, the student could choose finance, automotive technology or agriculture.
"It matches quite well with what we see in college," said SISD Interim Associate Superintendent of Secondary Education Troy Byrne. "So when we went to get our bachelors, the first two years getting our bachelors degree, we had to take some basics. But then our junior and senior years in college, that's where we actually able to take the classes that we loved, that we were passionate about. And so, looking now at what they get in high school, we still have this foundation piece as a freshman and sophomore in high school. But then when they takes classes their junior and senior year, those are the classes that really focus on what the endorsement is all about."
Beginning in 8th grade, the student, parents and a counselor will pick which endorsement path the student wants. For 9th grader Edmundo Venegas, the aspiring neurologist, he's thinking about taking on the stem endorsement, which means his junior and senior year, he would take classes focused solely on science.
"You're getting more buy-in to the courses you'll be taking, they're selecting core courses as well as electives based on their interest," Carla Gonzales said, principal Chapin High "And so our hope would be that they're going to put a lot more interest, energy and excitement into what they're studying. "
Students will also have more time to study. HB5 slices the number of required STARR tests from 15 to 5 something EPISD is looking forward to.
"What the research tells us is why test 15 times when 5 tests will tell you what you need to know and let the teachers teach and students learn. And not worry so much about the testing," Steinhauser said.