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Push to Relax High School Standards Raises Worry Over Tracking

The idea of relaxing high school graduation requirements in Texas to allow for more career training is triggering concern over tracking African-American and Latino students into career pathways rather than college.

A bill recently introduced in the Texas legislature would rework the state education code, reducing the number of standardized tests and giving students more flexibility to take career courses. The idea, in part, was a response to business leaders who complain they can't find enough skilled workers right out of high school and want to encourage career-program enrollment.

In 2007, Texas adopted a 4x4 graduation plan that all students had to complete four years of math, English, social studies, and science. Schools continued to offer career and technical education, but interest fell as just 10 percent of career courses count toward the core requirements needed for a diploma.

An article in the Austin American-Statesman quotes minority leaders who are worried that any change in academic requirements could result in disproportionately steering low-income and minority students into career tech over college.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, a Democrat, says he will be suspicious of any bill that doesn't openly acknowledge that tracking of low-income and minority students has happened in the past and should not happen again, according to the article.

Other lawmakers are proposing changes to the legislation that will make schools report demographic data on which students are pursuing the graduation pathways with fewer academic requirements than the graduation plans for college-bound students.

Supporters of the bill say it is designed to give students more options for college and career pathways and not meant to create any sort of track that limits students.

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