Williams Reaches Out to Higher Education Leaders

Education Commissioner Michael Williams answers an Evan Smith question at TribLive on January 10, 2013.
Education Commissioner Michael Williams answers an Evan Smith question at TribLive on January 10, 2013.

Speaking at the University of Texas System Board of Regents meeting Thursday, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams implored higher education leaders to engage in discussions regarding the state’s high school requirements.

Williams told the regents that a number of bills have been filed in the Legislature that he fears “may erase some of the gains we have made” in Texas public education.  Specifically, he worries about eliminating requirements for the current recommended high school graduation plan known as the "4X4," which requires students to complete four years each in math, science, English and social studies.

Williams offered English as an example, saying that four years in the subject should be required because, he said, “a youngster ought to be able to write something longer than a 140-character tweet.”

But with the mood in the Capitol trending a different way, Williams is seeking more voices to join the discussion. “It would be helpful, I think, for the higher ed community to be engaged in this conversation,” he said.

Many educators believe the 4X4 doesn't give students the flexibility they need to focus on their interests. Several lawmakers have filed legislation modifying the high school graduation requirements, including Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger with Senate Bill 225, House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock with HB 5, and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dan Patrick with Senate Bill 3.

At Thursday's meeting, Gene Powell, the chairman of the UT regents, indicated that he hoped the system and the Texas Education Agency would work more closely and collaboratively in the future, though he did not specify on which issues.

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