Access versus attainment: A closer look at the STEM endorsement in Texas public high schools



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The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 5 (HB5) in 2013 reducing the number of math and science credits needed for high school graduation. The new Foundational High School Program (FHSP) introduced endorsement offerings aimed at allowing students to chose focused courses and electives geared towards their personal interests and potential workforce goals1. Though implementation occurred for students entering 9th grade in 2014 with those already in high school allowed to opt-in1, districts retained autonomy in endorsements offered2. Because individual districts determined which courses could be offered based on resources2, implementation of FHSP endorsements differed around the state. For students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), a STEM endorsement was outlined by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), which requires students to complete Algebra II, Chemistry, and Physics in addition to two advanced STEM electives. In comparison to other endorsement options- Arts and Humanities, Business and Industry, Public Services, and Multidisciplinary- the STEM endorsement arguably better prepares students to attend 4-year colleges and selective universities since the graduation requirements for the STEM endorsement more closely align with admission requirements3. While all endorsements prepare students to attend technical colleges and community colleges, the lack of completing certain advanced math and science courses may limit students’ admission to certain universities. Previous research has shown that many first-year college students lack needed content knowledge to be successful in introductory math and science college courses, which may be exacerbated when students do not take advanced math and science coursework in high school4. Thus, access and pursuit of the STEM endorsement is an important factor to consider for Texas public high school students’ postsecondary opportunities.