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Board makes step in right direction

We believe the State Board of Education’s recent adoption of new high school graduation requirements is a step in the right direction — we need to encourage a more practical approach to education.

The board voted 14-1 to alter the current “four-by-four” plan that requires students to take four courses each of English, math, science and social studies. The new requirements will eliminate algebra II and speech as requirements for most students.

Under the new plan, known as the Foundation High School Program, students can select one of five endorsements or graduation paths. Endorsements include science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM; business and industry; public services; arts and humanities; and multidisciplinary studies.

Students could also graduate under a basic plan with just 22 credits and no endorsements, with special approval.

The new standards will affect this year’s eighth-graders, who are entering high school in the fall, but current high school students will have the option of graduating under the new requirements.

Denton school district Superintendent Jamie Wilson said the new requirements will give students flexibility in selecting courses in their field of study.

Krum Superintendent Cody Carroll said the new requirements will give districts more local control and will give students the ability to select a more specific path to graduation and more classes that interest them.

“It’s going to give students more freedom,” he said. “I’m a fan. I feel it’s going to be beneficial for students.”

Students who intend to earn a STEM endorsement would still need to take algebra II, and students who plan to attend college under the state’s automatic admission program must also take the class or prove proficiency.

Another course no longer required to graduate is speech, although school districts will be required to ensure that students learn key communication skills such as delivering clear verbal messages and choosing effective nonverbal behaviors, according to a Texas Education Agency press release.

We believe the new requirements could encourage some students to stay in school by giving them more flexibility. Instead of taking an assigned list of courses in which they have no interest, students should now be able to begin charting their own paths through high school and preparing for a career.

Our goal should be to make high school more practical, with increased opportunities for hands-on work experience. Perhaps this would open the door to a wider range of mentoring opportunities by encouraging more local business owners and managers to share their knowledge and skills with young people.

Preparing students for college should be only one facet of a high school’s curriculum — what about students who have no interest in pursuing higher education? We don’t want to leave them out of the equation.