What are the requirements to graduate high school in Texas?

Graduating from high school is an important milestone in a student’s life. It signals the completion of their basic education and preparation to either enter the workforce or pursue higher education. Each state sets its own graduation requirements that students must meet in order to earn their high school diploma. This includes passing certain courses, achieving minimum grades, and passing state-mandated standardized tests.

In Texas, the graduation requirements are determined by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the State Board of Education (SBOE). They outline the minimum high school curriculum standards that school districts and charter schools must follow. While districts can add additional local graduation requirements, they must implement the minimum requirements set by the state.

So what exactly does a student need to do to graduate high school in Texas? This article provides a comprehensive overview of the current Texas high school graduation requirements. We’ll cover the standard diploma types, required credits, assessments, and any endorsements or distinguished levels of achievement. Read on to learn what it takes to graduate from a Texas public high school.

Types of High School Diplomas in Texas

Texas offers several types of high school diplomas that students can earn depending on their academic focus and achievements. The main diploma types are:

– Standard High School Diploma – The baseline diploma earned when students meet all the basic graduation requirements.

– Foundation High School Program Diploma – Similar to the standard diploma but involves choosing an endorsement in a focus area. More details later.

– Distinguished Level of Achievement – Acknowledges students who take more advanced coursework beyond the Foundation Program.

– Special Education Diploma – For students who receive special education services and complete their individualized education program (IEP). Specific requirements determined case-by-case.

The majority of Texas students will earn the standard high school diploma. But some will achieve the Foundation Program Diploma or Distinguished Level of Achievement based on their academic interests and performance. The special education diploma is reserved for a smaller subset of students with disabilities.

Standard High School Diploma Requirements

To earn a standard high school diploma in Texas, students must complete the following core requirements:

– **English Language Arts Credits** – 4 credits including English I, II, III and one advanced English course

– **Mathematics Credits** – 3 credits including Algebra I, Geometry, and an advanced math course

– **Science Credits** – 3 credits including Biology, plus advanced courses in physics, chemistry, or other lab-based sciences

– **Social Studies Credits** – 3 credits including World Geography or World History, US History, Government and Economics

– **Physical Education Credits** – 1 credit

– **Language Other Than English Credits** – 2 credits in the same language

– **Fine Arts Credits** – 1 credit

– **Elective Credits** – 5 credits in courses of the student’s choice

In total, 22 credits are required along with passing scores on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course exams. We’ll provide more details on the STAAR tests shortly.

Beyond the core requirements, most school districts mandate 1-2 extra local credits for electives or other district-determined courses. Students will need to complete all local credits to get their diploma.

Foundation High School Program Diploma

The Foundation High School Program diploma has the same 22 credit and STAAR testing requirements as the standard diploma. However, it specifies that students must pursue an endorsement in one of five focus areas:

– Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

– Business and Industry

– Public Services

– Arts and Humanities

– Multidisciplinary Studies

Endorsements provide the opportunity to complete advanced coursework relevant to a student’s college and career interests. To earn an endorsement, students must complete:

– Curriculum requirements for the specific endorsement

– 4 credits in mathematics including Algebra II

– 4 credits in science

– 2 additional elective credits

This diploma gives students more preparation in their desired field while still meeting the well-rounded curriculum expectations. Students can also earn more than one endorsement if they meet all the requirements.

Distinguished Level of Achievement

Students who pursue the distinguished level of achievement diploma must go beyond the Foundation Program by taking:

– 4 credits in mathematics including Algebra II

– 4 credits in science

– Remaining curriculum requirements for at least one endorsement

In addition, students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 to earn this diploma. It recognize students who exceed standard academic expectations and take more advanced coursework. Completing this diploma also makes students eligible for the top 10% automatic admission program at Texas public universities.

Special Education Diploma

For students receiving special education services, graduation requirements are determined individually based on the student’s needs and abilities. A special education diploma is awarded when students complete the modified curriculum outlined in their Individualized Education Program (IEP). This could involve taking alternative courses that align with their post-high school goals.

STAAR End-of-Course Assessments

All students must pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for the following subjects:

– English I
– English II
– Algebra I
– Biology
– U.S. History

The STAAR tests are standardized exams given statewide. They assess proficiency in the core high school curriculum standards.

There are three testing windows each year – spring, summer, and fall. Students have multiple opportunities to retake any STAAR tests they did not pass. Accommodations and alternative assessments are available for eligible students receiving special education services.

Minimum, Recommended, and Advanced/Distinguished Achievement Graduation Programs

Prior to the graduating class of 2018, Texas had three graduation programs that students could complete:

– Minimum High School Program – The basic 22-credit program

– Recommended High School Program – More rigorous program with 26 credits and more advanced coursework

– Advanced/Distinguished Achievement Program – Most challenging program with 26 credits and emphasis on college readiness

However, House Bill 5 enacted in 2013 aligned graduation requirements under the Foundation High School Program. So now all students graduate under the 22-credit Foundation Program, with options to earn endorsements and levels of achievement.

But some students who entered high school before the 2014-15 school year are still eligible to graduate under the previous 3-program system if it is more beneficial given their progress. Ultimately the graduation plan must be agreed upon by the student, parent, and school counselor.

Available High School Endorsements

As outlined previously, the Foundation High School Program involves students earning endorsements in focal areas relevant to their interests and aspirations. Here is an overview of the curriculum requirements for each endorsement area:

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Endorsement

– Math courses must include Algebra II, Chemistry, and Physics
– Additional advanced math and science credits
– Completion of courses related to STEM fields

Business and Industry Endorsement

– 4 credits in Technology Applications
– 3 credits in a coherent sequence of courses related to business and industry fields
– Completion of courses aligned with career interests

Public Services Endorsement

– 4 credits in courses related to health sciences, education, law enforcement, culinary arts, or other public service fields
– Completion of community service or internship experiences

Arts and Humanities Endorsement

– 5 social studies credits
– 4 levels of the same language other than English
– Courses related to political science, world cultures, fine arts, literature etc.

Multidisciplinary Studies Endorsement

– 4 advanced credits in each of the four core subjects including English, math, science, social studies
– 4 credits in AP, IB or dual credit selected from English, math, science, social studies, economics, languages other than English, fine arts

Meeting Local School District Requirements

Beyond the statewide graduation plan, individual school districts in Texas can add their own local credit and course requirements:

– Additional elective credits in subjects of the district’s choosing

– Specific courses such as technology applications, health, communication applications, personal financial literacy

– Higher total credits such as 26 instead of 22

– Grade point average (GPA) minimums

– Demonstrated proficiency in a wider set of courses

Students must complete any additional local graduation requirements on top of the state’s Foundation Program requirements. So it’s important to understand your specific district’s expectations early on.

Graduation Requirements for Transfer Students

Students who transfer into a Texas high school from out-of-state or a private school will have their previous credits evaluated. The school will determine if any coursework can count as equivalent to the Texas graduation requirements.

In some cases, transfer students may be eligible to graduate under the requirements of their previous state or private school. But they still need to meet Texas assessment expectations such as passing the STAAR EOC exams.

There is also an option for transfer students to graduate by meeting Minimum High School Program requirements, if advantageous based on their completed credits.

Overall, guidance counselors work with transfer students to map out a graduation plan that makes the most sense for their situation. There is flexibility to count applicable credits from their prior school while still meeting Texas standards.

Options to Complete Remaining Graduation Requirements

For students who are behind on credits or have not passed the STAAR exams, there are options to complete their remaining graduation requirements:

– **Summer School** – Enroll in courses during the summer to make up needed credits.

– **Online Courses** – Take accredited courses through approved online providers.

– **Credit Recovery Programs** – Special programs to redo coursework previously failed.

– **Credit by Exam** – Take an exam to earn credit for a course without having taken it.

– **Repeating Courses** – Retake courses not passed the first time.

– **STAAR Remediation** – Tutoring and prep courses to retake STAAR exams.

– **Adult High School Diploma Programs** – For students who dropped out, evening and weekend programs to complete high school.

School counselors work closely with students falling behind to get them back on track using these options. The goal is to ensure all students eventually meet the state and local graduation standards, even if it takes them longer than four years.

Graduation Ceremonies and Honors

Texas high schools host graduation ceremonies, typically each May or June, to recognize seniors who have completed their diploma requirements. Some key things to know:

– Students may be barred from walking in the ceremony if they have not passed all required courses and exams.

– Graduation honors such as valedictorian and salutatorian are based on strict GPA criteria.

– Students may wear sashes, cords or medals denoting academic achievements and extracurricular involvement.

– Speeches are made by student speakers elected by their class.

– Seniors often decorate their graduation caps with colorful designs, messages and their future college’s name.

Graduation is a major milestone marking the transition from high school to adulthood. It’s a time for celebration and reflection on memories made. Texas communities come together to congratulate each graduating class.


Earning a high school diploma in Texas involves meeting rigorous academic standards, passing state assessments, and completing endorsements relevant to your interests. While the requirements are comprehensive, a range of resources and options exist to help all students successfully graduate, even those who fall behind. With hard work and perseverance, Texas students can reach this important milestone and embark on a bright future.

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