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Potential school changes could mean less stress, tests

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AMARILLO - House Bill 5 is a measure that would drastically change the requirements for Texas students to graduate high school and Amarillo Independent School District is already planning for a change.

"I think there's a very good possibility that this will pass," Superintendent Rod Schroder said.

The bill passed with a 145-2 vote Wednesday, March 26 and is now being discussed in Senate committees.

Schroder says he has already met with high school sophomores about the proposed plan, and the students matched his own excitement.

"We're hoping we increase motivation, we let them find their interest and passion, and then tie that in to a college track," Schroder said.

The proposed measure would reduce the amount of math and science course work required to graduate and allow students to complete endorsements in arts and humanities, business and industry, multi-discipline studies, public services, or math and science.

Schroder says each endorsement leads to some kind of education after graduating high school, whether it be technical school, a certification of some sort, or a four-year degree.

Students would have more options for classes under H. B. 5, and a segue into a career field or a college major.
    
More options for students could translate into less pressure and less stress, which is high this time of year when testing takes place.

Doctor John Young's waiting room is full this time of year with school children stressed because of STAAR testing.

"Gastritis, complaints like loose bowels and stool, and tension headaches. Those are the three biggest that I see in terms of how the children physically respond," Young said.

Doctor young says even elementary age children become physically ill over end-of-the-year testing. It's typically children that really strive to please their parents and teachers or feel pressure to do well in school, that get sick.

Young says parents should make sure a child talks about the stress at school, keeps good eating habits, and gets a proper amount of sleep.

"A lot of times the pressure can take a physical toll and the symptoms go under the radar," Young said. "If a child who normally eats breakfast is not eating breakfast or just seems off, you may want to consult your primary care physician."

Right now high schoolers have to pass 15 exams to graduate, but H. B. 5 would eliminate five of those.

Students would only be required to pass five tests, one in each English II, reading and writing, algebra I, U.S. history, and biology.

"I don't want to communicate at all that this isn't going to be a rigorous program. It will be a rigorous program, it will just be more customized and personalized," Schroder said. "Students will have a say in what they get to do and we think some interest and motivation in fulfilling a diploma."

Opponents of the bill say it could hurt minority students who already struggle navigating their path to college, and send the message that it's okay to set the bar lower.

But supporters, including Schroder, say the proposal would keep students more engaged in their coursework and help supply the state workforce.

"I think this will definitely boost the graduation rate, and decrease the dropout rate," Schroder said.

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