I’d say the health teachers of Texas need a new lobbyist.

During the recently completed regular session, Texas legislators approved a bill that changed the course requirements for high school graduation. Students will now need one year of PE instead of 1.5, and they no longer must take a year of technology and a semester of health to graduate. They won’t need a semester of speech instruction either, once the State Board of Education approves that piece of the legislation.

Eliminating the required year of fine arts was in the original bill, but band and choir directors squawked and enlisted their faithful parents in a letter writing campaign that resulted in quick restoration of that requirement.

More, after the jump.

Surprisingly, Texas’ State Education Commissioner made the changes effective immediately, meaning parents and students who’ve already filled out their course cards for next year may need to make changes before classes begin. No word yet from local school administrators, out on vacation, about what provisions they may or may not make to allow widespread changes to class schedules.

So why did the legislature alter the graduation requirements? The changes are largely a result of new “4×4” legislation, requiring four full years of math and science instruction instead of the previous three. English and Social Studies are unchanged at four years each.

The 4×4 change is unpopular with students, parents, and school administrators alike. Math/science types already have plenty of courses to choose from, but the English/history crowd would rather fill that slot with journalism or Shakespeare or European History than Calculus or Anatomy anyday. And principals say finding math and science teachers is already difficult. It will be even more so to hire large numbers of high level instructors when every kid in the building signs up.

But the biggest complaint about 4×4 has been the virtual elimination of elective courses. When all your daily hours are filled with requirements, trying something new or taking elective courses in your favorite subject isn’t possible, especially if you participate in extracurriculars like athletics, choir, band, drill team, or theater. There are only seven hours in a school day.

The dust is likely to settle and folks will learn to deal with the new plan, but many parents wish they’d been told of changes to come. “My three kids just took health in summer school to free up time for extracurriculars,” one mom told me this week. “It cost me almost $500, and now they don’t need it. If this passed in May, why are we just now hearing about it?”

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