Earning Your Texas High School Diploma!

High school students in Texas have various graduation requirements they can meet to graduate. The three options vary in length, but many of the same subjects need to be covered. This article explains the distinct differences of earning a high school diploma in Texas.

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Texas Secondary Education

Because Texas is a large state, its school system is broken down into regional districts. Students typically attend high schools in the same districts in which they reside. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) identifies the different districts by their boundaries and includes enrollment and contact information (www.tea.state.tx.us). The agency also offers information on district reports and ratings.

Texas High School Graduation Requirements

The course requirements for earning a Texas high school diploma are divided into three programs. They include the minimum, recommended and distinguished achievement high school programs. All of the programs require students to take courses in the following subjects:

  • English language arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social studies
  • Economics
  • Foreign language
  • Physical education
  • Speech
  • Fine Arts

Electives are also necessary to qualify for graduation. The amount of credits per subject will vary according to the program type.

Recommended Program

The Texas recommended high school program offers the typical diploma path for most students. It requires 26 credits to graduate, including four credits each towards English language arts, mathematics and science. One-half credit is taken in economics, while 3.5 credits are in social studies. Two credits apply towards a language other than English, and students must take one credit each in speech, fine arts and physical education. The remaining 5.5 credits are for electives.

Certain courses must be taken, and they include:

  • English I, II, III and IV
  • Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry
  • Biology, Chemistry and Physics
  • World History Studies, World Geography Studies, United States History Studies Since Reconstruction and United States Government
  • Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits
  • Communication Applications or Professional Communications
  • One credit in either art, dance, music, theater or floral design

Minimum Program

The Texas minimum high school program, which only requires 22 credits, is available for students who are struggling to complete the recommended requirements but would still like the opportunity to earn a diploma rather than a GED credential. Qualifying for this program requires being at least 16 years old, completing two credits in each core subject or failing to move on to tenth grade at least once. Students always have the option to reenroll in the recommended program.

Some credit requirements are the same as the recommended program, like economics, speech, fine arts and physical education. Other credits differ slightly; for example, the fourth English language arts course must emphasize practical or professional writing skills. The rest of the curriculum requires a different amount of credits, as distributed below:

  • Three math credits, including Algebra I, Geometry and student's choice
  • Two science credits, including Biology and Integrative Physics and Chemistry
  • Two and a half social studies credits, including United States History Since Reconstruction, United States Government and student's choice
  • One credit for an academic elective, in either World Geography Studies, World History Studies or an approved science course
  • Six and a half electives from an approved list

Advanced Program

The Texas distinguished achievement, or advanced, high school program allows students to demonstrate outstanding academic achievement. This program is ideal for strong students who hope to get into competitive colleges and universities. Like the recommend program, this curriculum involves 26 credits. All of the requirements are the same except for the following:

  • Fourth math credit must be advanced
  • Fourth science credit must be laboratory-based
  • Three foreign language credits
  • One extra elective credit

In addition to the course requirements, advanced students must complete at least four advanced measures that demonstrate their performance on college or professional levels. One option involves completing advanced technical credit courses or college academic credit courses. Another one requires the student to conduct an original research project supervised by a mentor or reviewed by a committee in the field of interest. Otherwise, students need to receive high scores on such tests as the International Baccalaureate exam, College Board advanced placement exam or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) Exam

In addition to completing the academic requirements for their respective programs, Texas high school students must take the TAKS exit exam before graduation. Successful completion of all four sections of this exam is required to earn a high school diploma. Subject areas include English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.

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High School Diplomas: Summary of Required Diploma Coursework

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