Robbie Owens for CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COMBy Robbie Owens

IRVING (CBS 11 NEWS) – Graduation requirements in Texas could be headed for a major overhaul.

Earlier this week the Texas House pushed through a plan that would eliminate all but five of the required end of course exams required to graduate. Currently students must pass 15 to get their high school diploma.  The Senate is expected to take up their version of the proposal as early as next week.

“We’re ecstatic,” says Dana T. Bedden,Ed.D.  Superintendent of Irving schools. Dr. Bedden says schools aren’t looking to avoid accountability but need to face the reality that not every student will go to college.

“We need electricians, we need plumbers, we need construction workers — which is a big industry with a significant need right now — and all of that doesn’t require having a college degree.”  Still Dr. Bedden stressed that it is realistic to expect students to be career or college ready.

In Irving, school officials have responded to the need to prepare both groups of students by creating what’s called “Signature Studies”,  programs of study designed to engage students with interests in everything from culinary arts to architecture, engineering and computer maintenance, just to name a few.

School leaders say the programs are rigorous – but practical enough to keep students engaged.

“I love what we do in this school,” says Katherine Gonzalez, a Junior at Irving’s Singley Academy.  “I love being in culinary, I just think it’s so much fun.”  Gonzalez says she plans to go to college at some point but wants to work in her chosen career field first.  She and other students say they feel prepared.

Senior Alex Moon-Walker attends Singley as well but has chosen a different path, one that will likely take him to one of the top universities  in the country.

“I’ve gotten accepted to UT’s Chemical Engineering program… today, I’m actually waiting on the letters from Stanford, Harvard, Yale and Columbia.”

Some business groups have opposed the effort to eliminate many of the end of course graduation requirements saying Texas needs to be raising school standards and pushing more students toward college.

Economist Bernard Weinstein from SMU’s Cox School of Business says it’s too soon to say whether eliminating some standardized tests will lead to a less educated workforce.

“What we really need are kids coming out of high school who are functionally literate,” says Professor Weinstein.  “They don’t all need to go to college, but they need to be able to read, write, think and compute if they’ve going to be able to earn a living.”

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