Dallas High School Students Could Graduate in Three Years Under Proposed Plan

For some Dallas ISD students, the senior year of high school is immensely valuable. There are mountains of college credits that can be accumulated free of charged through AP, IB, and dual-credit courses, and the mechanically inclined can enroll in vocational programs like Skyline's aeronautics cluster.

But what of the rest? For them, 12th grade is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to school and learn absolutely nothing.

Thankfully they now have the state's permission to blow it off entirely.

The Texas House last night approved legislation to allow Dallas ISD (and only DISD) to create a three-year pilot program allowing students to graduate high school in three years instead of four. They would still have to satisfy all other existing graduation requirements and follow a yet-to-be-designed graduation plan.

"I think this could be a big deal for DISD," state Representative Eric Johnson wrote on Facebook after the measure passed the Senate.

Johnson was the author of the bill, but its origins can be traced to Dallas ISD Trustee Mike Morath. He brought the idea to lawmakers and has spent the past several weeks lobbying for its passage.

"It's exciting that the legislature has given us the opportunity to try to use our resources locally in a way that helps our high school students be better prepared for the workforce," he tells Unfair Park.

There's another wrinkle: The bill diverts the money DISD would have spent educating high school seniors and invests it in Pre-K, where education spending has been shown to be most effective. The hope, Morath says, is to increase the number of DISD kids who are ready for kindergarten. By one measure -- the Texas Primary Reading Inventory -- that figure is currently around 40 percent.

Despite the legislature's approval, DISD is still several years out from actually implementing three-year graduation. First the district has to sit down with the Dallas County Community College District, UNT, and others to craft the program's requirements. Then the plan will have to be OKed by DISD's board, then by the Texas Education Commissioner.

Best case scenario, the three-year option would be open to 9th (and possibly 10th) graders for the 2014-15 school year, meaning the first kids wouldn't graduate under the program until 2017 or so.

For Morath, that's all the more reason to get started: "Now, the real work begins."

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