Mathematics and English classes for students who are at risk of not graduating from high school will be part of a new focus as the Rio Grande Valley school districts create joint curriculum with higher education institutions. An agreement has been signed to move forward on designing the curriculum, and is being lauded as a regional achievement that is unprecedented across Texas.
Following the mandated partnerships between high schools and at least one higher education campus mandated by House Bill 5, the agreement reaches beyond the mandate to develop new math and English courses.
The new education requirements that are launched this school year require a foundation of English, science, social studies, and math, along with foreign language, fine arts and physical education. The standards were signed by Gov. Rick Perry last year. The old standards mandated four years of science, English, social studies and math.
“Let’s get them in, out and into a job,” said Luzelma Canales, executive director of RGV Focus, a branch of Educate Texas, a non-profit education foundation. “It wasn’t about what each college wanted or each school district, it’s about what’s in the best interest for the students.”
The law drops the number of end-of-course exams required from 15 to five. As many as 30 percent of sophomores across Texas in 2012 were at risk of not graduating under the old curriculum.
Proponents have said the new mandates will provide a more diverse education for students. Critics worry that educational quality may drop with eased standards.
The local agreement signed Friday will target students who need extra help in math and English. The Universities of Texas-Pan American and Brownsville, as well as South Texas College adopted the agreement with local school districts.
As for the English course developed, organizers said the goal was to include peer and self-assessments and more feedback for students as they hone writing skills.