An Education Plan in Texas: Mimicking Philippines' DepEd's Approach?

The Philippines' DepEd Order No. 36, s. 2012, issued on May 9, 2012, provides the guidelines for senior high school modeling in secondary schools under the new K to 12 basic education program. The following is a sample class schedule for grades 11 and 12. These are attached to a draft copy of the DepEd order that is posted online:

Section 3.2 of this DepEd order describes the curriculum of the senior high school years:
The Grades 11 and 12 Curriculum or the Senior High School Curriculum is based on two (2) tracks: For the academic track, the curriculum is based on College Readiness Standards given by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). For the technical-vocational track, it is based on the learning outcomes and performance criteria stipulated in the Training Regulations (TR) of TESDA. Other specializations not found in the TR may be offered provided these address the demands of local industry and that the school has the qualified faculty and the facilities required.
Legislators in the state of Texas are currently working on a bill that would redefine basic (K-12) education in the state. This is House Bill 5, authored by House Public Education Committee Chair Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen). The bill tackles the curriculum, assessment and accountability in public high schools in Texas. The specific curriculum components of the bill are the following:

Provides flexibility for students to develop their talents and purse their interests

  • Creates one diploma that affords all students a variety of postsecondary opportunities. Students may earn an additional endorsement in one of four areas: STEM, Business and Industry, Public Services, and Arts and Humanities.
  • Greatly expands course options and allows individual students more flexibility
  • Allows districts to partner with community colleges and industry to develop rigorous courses that address workforce needs, provide technical training and count towards graduation
  • Eliminates the requirement that all students must pass Algebra II and ELA III to receive a high school diploma
  • Grants current ninth and tenth grade students the benefits of the new structure
  • Allows all high school graduates to be eligible for automatic admission to Texas public four year universities because all student graduate under the same diploma

Aside from the provision that gives automatic admission to a public university in Texas to all high school graduates, the spirit of the Texas new curriculum is quite similar to what the Philippines' DepEd envisions in its new K to 12 basic education program. The bill is not facing any strong opposition inside the Texas House, as reported by the Texas Tribune:
The challenge of finding balance between rigor and flexibility in graduation requirements dominated Tuesday’s debate over legislation that would significantly change the courses students need for a high school diploma. The measure tentatively passed the Texas House. 
“Every conversation I’ve had for months has revolved and swirled around this issue,” said House Public Education Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, whose bill cleared the lower chamber 145 to 2.
"145 to 2" - that is quite a remarkable voting result. It is almost unanimous. It is still important, however, to take note of what the objections are. The Texas Tribune also mentions the two lawmakers who voted against the bill:
But the measure has also drawn increasingly vocal opposition amid concerns it could hurt low-income and minority students who lack the parental guidance to navigate multiple options under Aycock's proposal. Critics also view the legislation as a move to lower graduation standards. 
In response to those criticisms, state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, introduced an amendment that would automatically put students on the path to earning a “distinguished” diploma. The "distinguished" plan would add a year of math and science to the foundation program, unless a student chose to take the endorsement option. To be eligible for automatic admission to Texas universities under the state’s top 10 percent rule, a student would have to complete the “distinguished” plan. 
“By ninth grade we are expecting students to make a life-changing decision about what endorsement they want to pursue,” said Strama, who along with Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso, voted against the bill. “This amendment is about not locking kids into a decision they aren't ready to make.”
Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, laments on the passage of the bill, in her article, "Texas Turns Back the Clock" on the Huffington Post:
"...Texans realized early on that for their kids to compete against students from Beijing and Bangalore, let alone California and Florida, they needed to take rigorous classes in high school, the kind that would prepare them for higher education or a job that pays a family-supporting wage. That students who take a tougher course load actually learn more is, of course, a no-brainer. But decades of research substantiate that common-sense thinking. Indeed, the single largest predictor of success in college isn't test scores or high school grades, it is the quality and intensity of a student's high school curriculum. 
Recent research also suggests that those same courses also better prepare students for today's workplace. Electricians, auto technicians, and sheet metal workers, for example, all need the same math and science proficiency that colleges require. And it's not just in STEM fields where our kids need a strong foundation: More than 70 percent of human resources professionals report that entry-level high school graduates are deficient in basic writing skills. Even more complain of their inability to write clear memos, letters, and reports...

...But rather than building on what Texas has accomplished to date, state lawmakers in Austin are on the verge of passing a set of bills that would eviscerate this default course of study in high school. And their timing couldn't be worse for Texas' competitiveness: They are doing this just as other states are ratcheting up their own expectations. 
How very sad for the children of the Lone Star State, especially those who don't have college-educated parents and will assume that they are priming themselves for success by doing what's required to graduate. Only after they are handed a meaningless diploma will the kids we primed for failure by expecting less realize that playing by the rules doesn't mean they are ready for life after high school. And, unlike the legislators in Austin -- who still have a chance to right the wrongs in the bills they are considering -- the students won't get a "do over.""
The votes may be nearly unanimous, but the above points are still worth our attention.