Texas High School Graduation Requirements

Texas High School Graduation Requirements, Explained

graduationLater this month and early next month, the class of 2015 will be graduating from high schools all over Texas. They will be one of the last classes to graduate under the existing graduation requirements. Students entering high school in 2014 and following years will graduate under the requirements of House Bill 5, which lays out new guidelines in the form of the Foundation High School Program.

Students graduating in 2015, 2016, and 2017 will have the option to graduate under either system. To help families during this transitional period understand their choices, and to help parents of future high schoolers understand the requirements, we’ve composed this helpful guide.

The Old Requirements

The system which the High School Foundation Program is replacing actually consists of three tracks with different sets of requirements. The Recommended High School Program, which a significant majority of students follow, mandates 26 credit hours in the following breakdown:

  • four credits in English
  • four credits in math
  • four credits in science
  • four credits in social studies
  • two credits in a second language
  • one credit in PE
  • one credit in fine arts
  • one half credit in speech
  • five and one half credits in electives

In addition to taking the requisite classes, students must pass STAAR tests in several required subjects: algebra I, biology, US history, English I, and English II.

The Distinguished Achievement Program, designed for academically gifted students, differs only slightly from the Recommended High School Program in terms of required coursework. The DAP substitutes a third language credits for one of the RHSP’s required language credits. However, the Distinguished Achievement Program also has requirements that go beyond coursework. In order to qualify for a Distinguished Achievement Diploma, a student must meet four of the following criteria or “measures”:

  • an original research project judged by and presented for an audience of professionals
  • a PSAT score which qualifies for the “Commended Scholar” rank
  • a grade of 3.0 or higher in a dual enrollment class
  • a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam
  • a score of 4 or higher on an IB exam

Each separate exam score counts as a distinct measure, so a student who takes several AP or IB exams has good chances of qualifying. A Distinguished Achievement Diploma serves as a tangible certification of a student’s excellence, and being on-track to graduate in this program would be looked upon favorably in the college admissions process.

  • they must be 16 or older
  • OR they must have taken at least two credits in each of the four core subjects
  • OR they must have failed ninth grade at least once

The student and their guardians must opt in to the Minimum High School Program in order for a student to graduate under it. The MHSP is dispreferred for students who could meet the requirements of the other two programs, since it is less effective at promoting college readiness and does not confer eligibility for the Texas Scholars Program.


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