Students often take different paths toward a high school diploma.
For Rhianna Davis, it was a long and arduous journey despite meeting all Frisco ISD requirements for graduation.
“It’s a huge relief,” Davis said. “I can go back to school, get a better job.”
Davis was one of four students to accept her diploma at a small ceremony this week at the Frisco ISD Administration Building. Family, friends and educators gathered to celebrate the students, years after they attended Frisco ISD schools and completed all the District’s curriculum requirements.
Prior to the graduating Class of 2015, the state of Texas required students pass exit-level standardized tests in reading/English language arts, math, social studies and science to get their high school diplomas. Several students tried and failed multiple times over the course of years to pass certain sections of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), sometimes falling short by only a few questions.
“I pretty much gave up on myself after three tries,” said San Juana Olvera, who was a member of the Class of 2011 at Centennial High School. “I told myself, ‘This isn’t going to happen.’”
Now, thanks to a state law first passed by the legislature in 2017 and extended through 2023, students in similar situations have an alternate path to receiving their diplomas.
Students who entered ninth grade before the 2011-12 school year can qualify for their diplomas if they meet certain criteria, including performance on the SAT or ACT college entrance exams, passing a state-approved high school equivalency exam, obtaining a post-secondary license or certificate, serving in the military or completing college-level coursework.
For students who don’t meet those criteria, school districts can award diplomas after review by individual graduation committees (IGCs). Frisco ISD required students who met all District requirements for graduation to complete additional online coursework or a real-world project in the subjects where they did not pass the state exams.
“For students who put in the required work and met all the District requirements, the old testing requirement felt fundamentally unfair," said Kenny Chandler, deputy superintendent of schools. "I am extremely pleased that the state has realized that learning can be accurately assessed in a lot of different ways other than just with a cumulative standardized test over a year’s worth of learning."
A total of 14 students were awarded diplomas this fall, with four participating in the graduation ceremony. Several students met with District staff after work in the evenings to complete the additional requirements.
“Frisco ISD was honored to get to work with these students again, helping them achieve their educational goals," Chandler said. "We commend graduates for their perseverance and commitment to earn their high school diploma.”
Students say the rule change is allowing them to take the next steps in their lives.
“I am finally going to be able to move on and go to college,” said Olvera, who has two young sons. “I wanted to do it for my kids. I want them to see that I did it and I want them to feel like they’re going to do it.”
Know Someone Who May Qualify?
Frisco ISD will continue to try to locate and reach out to students who may qualify to receive their high school diploma under the new state requirements. If you believe you or a family member may qualify, please contact the Frisco ISD Guidance and Counseling Department at 469.633.6583 or the high school where the student attended.