Texas Readiness Policies


High School and Postsecondary Alignment

SREB’s Challenge to Lead 2020 goals call for states to align middle grades and high school policies with college-readiness standards, to recognize multiple paths to graduation and to provide students with diverse postsecondary options and resources. The following tabs summarize how Texas aligns its policies to promote smooth transitions for students through high school and beyond.  


College and Career Readiness Definitions

College readiness is the level of preparation a student must attain in English language arts and mathematics courses to enroll and succeed, without remediation, in an entry-level general education course for credit in that same content area for a baccalaureate degree or associate degree program. It should be noted, however, that the measurement of college readiness through the Algebra II and English III assessments will be only one piece of information that students, parents, and schools will have in making readiness determinations. Algebra II and English III are courses students typically take in grade 11; after students have taken these assessments and potentially met the college-readiness performance standards, they will continue to take higher-level courses (i.e., calculus and English IV) in grade 12. Students will need to continue to acquire content knowledge and perform at a high level in these courses to fully prepare for postsecondary activities.


College and Career Planning in K-12

Middle grades students who have failed a state test or are not likely to graduate high school on time must complete personal graduation plans. All other students complete such plans beginning in ninth grade. Districts must inform students entering ninth grade during the 2014-2015 school year about the endorsement requirement and about the distinguished level of achievement.

The College for All Texans campaign is a project of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The goal of the campaign is to increase college-going rates of Texas high school graduates. The campaign provides information for parents and for middle and high school students about preparing, applying and paying for college. The project also provides materials to schools and other organizations to help them promote college readiness, financial aid options and postsecondary education to Texas students. Its website is collegeforalltexans.com.

Generation TX is a statewide portal provided by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that offers access to online resources for students and their families to help them plan for college. Its website is GenTX.org.


High School Graduation Requirements

Course and Diploma Requirements for Current Seniors

House Bill 5 (2013) authorized the Texas State Board of Education to adopt rules for the new Foundation High School Diploma program. The Texas commissioner of education developed a transition plan to replace the Recommended, Distinguished, and Minimum Diplomas with the Foundation Program. Students who entered ninth-grade in the 2014-2015 school year were the first group required to graduate under the Foundation High School program.



Foundation High School Diploma



English I

English II

English III

An advanced English course



Algebra I


An advanced math course




IPC* or an advanced science course

Another advanced science course

Social Studies


U.S. History

1/2 Credit U.S. Governement

1/2 Credit Economics

World History or World Geography

Physical Education



Languages Other than English


2 Credits in the same language or two credits from computer science I, II, and III (other substitutions)

Fine Arts





Demonstrated proficiency in speech skills




Total Credits 22  
*IPC is “Integrated Physics and Chemistry,” a one-credit course

Under House Bill 5, students entering ninth-grade after fall 2014 are required to choose an endorsement and complete an additional four credits in one of five areas: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), business & industry, public services, arts & humanities, or multidisciplinary studies. Like current diploma options, students and families may opt out of additional requirements after completion of the sophomore year and after consultation with high school counselors. Students who complete the Foundation Program, with or without an endorsement, are eligible for general admission to a Texas public 4-year institution. However, students who graduate without completing an endorsement and specific coursework may not meet admissions requirements at certain state colleges and universities.

Distinguished Level of Achievement

Graduates can earn the distinguished level of achievement designation by completing 26 credits including four credits in math (including credit in Algebra II), four credits in science, and completion of curriculum requirements for at least one endorsement. Receiving this designation gives students in the top 10% of their graduating class automatic admissions eligibility and priority for the need-based TEXAS grant, if financially qualified. 

Performance Acknowledgments

House Bill 5 requires the development of performance acknowledgments — awards that students may earn by completing certain programs of study or for receiving credit toward future college and career opportunities. Specific acknowledgments include, but are not limited to:

Degrees and Certificates
  • An earned associate degree
  • Business and industry recognized certification or license
Accelerated Learning Options
  • Dual credit (12 hours of credit with a GPA of 3.0 or higher)
  • Passing score on at least one AP or IB exam
  • Bilingualism (minimum GPA of the equivalent of 80 on a scale of a 100 in English language arts and minimum proficiency on Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, AP, or IB exams)
Performance on Standardized Tests
  • SAT scores of at least 410 on the reading section and 520 on the math section
  • ACT composite score of 28 or higher
  • Recognition as a commended scholar or higher by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation

Assessment Requirements

In 2006, Texas became the first state to mandate the use of college and career readiness standards through the Texas Essential Knowledge and Standards (TEKS). The state measures TEKS proficiency through the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course (EOC) assessments. The Texas Education Agency is in the process of developing “measures of student progress,” which will provide an early warning indicator for standards not on track to meet the passing standard on the EOC assessments or who may be unready for postsecondary study.

House Bill 5 requires districts to partner with at least one postsecondary institution to develop and provide college preparatory courses designed for high school seniors whose performance on an EOC assessment, college admissions or placement exam, (e.g., ACT/SAT or Texas Success Initiative Assessment), or coursework does not meet college readiness standards. Students who successfully complete a college preparatory course are eligible to enroll directly, without remediation or further assessment, in college-level coursework in the associated content area at the partnering postsecondary institution.

The STAAR program requires passing scores on five EOC exams to graduate: English I, English II, Algebra I, Biology I, and U.S. history. STAAR English III and Algebra II are now available for districts to administer as optional assessments. House Bill 3 requires scores on the EOCs to count as 15 percent of a student’s final course grade. A student who has failed the EOC assessment graduation requirements for no more than two courses may receive a Texas high school diploma if the student has qualified to graduate by means of an individual graduation committee (IGC) determination.


Accelerated Learning Options in High School

Competency-Based Credit

The Texas Education Code §28.023 allows high school students to receive course credit through the successful completion of Credit-by-Examination assessments which are approved by each local board of trustees. Each local board is required to approve at least four CBEs to include AP and CLEP exams which may be locally developed or purchased.

Career and Technical Education

Texas’ new CTE standards will become effective beginning with the 2017-2018 school year following recent adoption of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards. CTE standards are aligned with the 16 National Career Clusters.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate

The Texas Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Incentive Program (AP/IB) provides testing fee subsidies to students with demonstrated financial need. The Texas Education Agency provides $30 for each AP and IB exam taken, while the U.S. Department of Education contributes an additional $16 and $65 for AP and IB exams respectively. College Board AP/IB courses may be substituted for required courses or qualify as electives.

Dual Enrollment and Dual Credit

Texas Education Code §28.009 requires school districts to implement dual credit programs that allow students to earn the equivalent of 12 semester credit hours of college credit through dual enrollment (credit in both high school and college) or other mechanisms (e.g., AP, IB, advanced technical credit courses, and articulated credit). High schools and postsecondary institutions enter into articulation agreements which govern, among other things, credit transfer agreements and college placement test requirements.

To be eligible, high school students must meet certain minimum requirements. Typically, students may enroll in college courses after the sophomore year of high school. Any student enrolling in a dual credit course must meet a minimum score on one of various standardized tests, including the Act and SAT. Other requirements vary depending on whether the student is enrolling in academic or workforce education courses, and on the postsecondary institution in which the student is enrolling. Students who have scored high enough on certain standardized tests, including the ACT and SAT, are not required to take the state-mandated assessment to qualify for concurrent or dual enrollment. Students may take college-level courses related to the parts of the qualifying assessment(s) that they have passed. The state requires students and their families to pay for dual credit courses, unless the college waives or reduces tuition or the high school pays all or part of the cost.

Concurrent enrollment allows students to enroll in a postsecondary institution while completing high school. Students do not receive high school credit for college courses taken in this instance.

Early College High Schools

Students attending early college high schools (ECHS) may complete their high school diploma through the Recommended High School Program or the Distinguished Achievement Program and up to 60 college credits. In some cases, high school graduates receive a diploma and an associate degree. School districts are required to pay any related tuition, fees and textbook costs beyond those waived by the IHE.

Early High School Graduation

House Bill 3 (2009) created the Early Readiness High School Graduation Option pilot program. Districts partner with research universities to create an alternative route to a high school diploma. Eligible students attend a high school in a district with a partnership agreement and meet proficiency requirements on AP, IB, College Level Examination Program (CLEP), SAT, and ACT tests.


Postsecondary Admission Requirements

Four-Year Institutions

Students who graduated high school in the last two years receive automatic admission to four-year institutions, except for the University of Texas at Austin, if they meet the following criteria:

  • Place in the Top 10% of their graduating class
  • Complete the Foundation Diploma requirements at the Distinguished Level
  • Meet the ACT Benchmarks (i.e., 18 English, 22 Reading, 22 Math, and 23 Science) or score 1500 (out of 2400) on SAT.

Students who do not qualify for automatic admission may apply to four-year institutions if they earn the Foundation Diploma or meet the ACT Benchmarks. The University of Texas at Austin admits students through the Top 10% Plan up to 75 percent of enrollment capacity.

Texas Foundation Diploma Requirements



Course Requirements



English I, II, III and advanced English course



Algebra I, geometry and advanced math course




Integrated Physics and Chemistry or advanced science course

Second advanced science course

Social Studies


American history

World history or geography

Half units of economics and government

Foreign Language


Districts may waive this requirement to expand number of courses in elective focus

Fine Arts



Physical Education





Demonstrated proficiency







To attain the Distinguished level, students must complete 26 units including:

  • four units each in English, math, science, and social studies;
  •  Algebra II;
  • four-unit endorsement in one of five areas — STEM, business and industry, public services, arts & humanities, or multi-disciplinary studies;
  • three levels of the same foreign language; and
  • one half unit in Speech.

Two-Year and/or Technical Colleges

Applicants are eligible to apply to two-year institutions if they are 17 years of age or older and possess a high school diploma or equivalency credential. Those without diplomas or the equivalent must demonstrate that they can benefit from instruction. Texas public community and technical colleges primarily serve their local taxing districts and service areas offering vocational, technical, and academic courses for certification or associate degrees. Continuing education, remedial and compensatory education consistent with open-admission policies, and programs of counseling and guidance are also provided. 


Postsecondary Placement Policies


Students who present minimum qualifying scores on one of six college-readiness assessments may enroll in any entry-level college courses without placement testing. Veterans and active-duty military, transfer students who have satisfied readiness requirements at other institutions, and students enrolled in a short-term certificate program at a public two-year campus also are exempt from placement testing.

Texas College Readiness Benchmarks

Composite 23 1070
English 19 1770 2200 Level 2 score on English III
Reading 500 480 89 85
Math 19 500 530 86 2200 Level 2 score on Algebra II
*New SAT first administered after March 5, 2016
**TAAS is the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. TAKS is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. STAAR is the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

Institutions administer the Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) for students who do not meet the exemption criteria. Students participate in a Pre-Assessment Activity, which includes test preparation and academic counseling. Students who do not meet or exceed TSIA cut scores (Math, 350; Reading, 351; Writing, 350/5 363/4) must work with a counselor to develop an academic success plan for exiting developmental education status. Institutions may offer one or more of the following:

  • Stand-alone, developmental education
  • Co-requisite/mainstreaming models
  • Non-course competency-based options
  • Modular/technology-based options

State Financial Aid for Undergraduates

The state funds four need-based grant programs. Applicants must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine financial need. To retain their award, recipients must complete 75% of credits hours attempted and maintain minimum grade-point averages. 

The TEXAS Grant provides need-based aid to eligible students who enroll at Texas public universities within sixteen months of high school graduation, whose Expected Family Contribution is less than $5,430, and who successfully complete the Foundation, Recommended, or Distinguished Achievement high school diploma. Students who have earned an associate degree and transfer to a four-year institution with at least 24 credit hours and a GPA of 2.5 or higher may also be eligible.

Effective fall 2014, community and technical college students are no longer eligible to award initial year TEXAS Grants.

Students also may qualify for the TEXAS grant through one of the following alternative routes:

  • Earn an associate degree from in-state college and enroll in an eligible institution within 12 months
  • Enlist in the military within 12 months of high school graduation and enroll in an eligible institution within 12 months of honorable discharge
  • Transfer into a public university after earning at least 24 semester credits with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Eligible students must hold the initial Texas Education Opportunity Grant.

Students receive priority consideration for TEXAS Grant awards if they met the basic requirements, apply before the state priority deadline, and satisfy at least two of the following requirements:

  • Advanced Coursework: Earn course credit in math course beyond Algebra II or at least one advanced career and technical course.
  • Advanced Programs: Complete 12 hours of college credit, the Distinguished Achievement Program, or the International Baccalaureate Program.
  • Class Standing: Graduate in top third of high school class or have a B average.
  • Readiness Benchmarks: Demonstrate readiness by meeting the Texas Success Initiative assessment thresholds or qualify for TSI exemption through another qualifying test (e.g., ACT, SAT, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills).

To receive the first renewal TEXAS award, students must meet the institution’s satisfactory academic progress requirements. Subsequent awards require students to maintain the cumulative 2.5 GPA and complete at least 24 credit hours per year.

The Texas Educational Opportunity Grant provides need-based aid to students at two-year institutions who have earned less than 30 college credits and whose Expected Family Contribution is less than $5,430.

Recipients of the Texas Educational Opportunity Grant remain eligible for aid for four years, until they complete 75 semester credits or earn an associate degree, whichever comes first. Award amounts vary by institutional category and credit-hour enrollment.

The award amounts for the TEXAS and Education Opportunity Grants vary by institution type.

Texas will not fund a freshman-year award for Top 10% Plan students for the 2017-18 academic year. However, eligible students may receive an annual renewal award of up to $2,000 if they earn 30 credits per year and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.25.

The Texas Tuition Equalization Grant provides financial aid to students attending nonpublic institutions. Eligible students may receive an annual award of up to $3,364 if they earn 24 credits per year and maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5.


Postsecondary Feedback to High Schools

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board provides high schools with a number of feedback reports. The report High School Graduates Enrolled in Higher Education the Following Fall by High School County, School District, High School provides high schools with information on the numbers of their graduates who enrolled in college the following fall and which institutions they attended. Other reports provide high schools with information on graduates’ college readiness, freshman year performance (i.e., college GPA), and degree completion rates.