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Early Readiness High School Graduation Option: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Early Readiness High School Graduation Option?

The Early Readiness High School Graduation Option was approved by the Texas Legislature in 2009 and enables institutions of higher education and school districts to recognize those students who demonstrate college readiness in the four core content areas (mathematics, English/Language Arts, science, and social studies) and a language other than English by awarding them a recommended high school program diploma based on proficiency rather than seat time or course requirements.

How do the students demonstrate “college readiness” if they haven’t taken all the required courses or STAAR examinations?

Students who participate in the Early Readiness Graduation Option demonstrate college readiness by achieving minimum required scores on assessments that have been approved by The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University for this purpose, and are used to determine placement and award college credit at the universities. When students register for the program, they complete a form on our website. The form asks them to indicate which assessments they expect to use to demonstrate their readiness in each of the four core areas and a language other than English. During the pilot year, students also must take the ENGAGE diagnostic assessment that is offered by ACT. Costs for this assessment will be assumed by The University of Texas and Texas A&M University. Students need to be sure to request that the applicable testing agency (examples: ACT for ENGAGE, College Board for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate) submit official scores to The University of Texas at Austin. It is the responsibility of The University of Texas at Austin to verify that students’ scores qualify them for the Early Readiness Graduation Option. Notification will be sent both to the student and to the district.

Does the student automatically achieve the Recommended High School Program (RHSP)?

No. Students who qualify will receive a certificate from The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University recognizing their high achievement. This certification enables a participating district to award the student a Texas diploma with the Recommended High School Program seal affixed to it. For the pilot year, we are asking that districts agree to award qualifying students their high school diplomas; however, we recognize that the timing of awarding the diploma may vary depending on individual students’ needs. For example, a student might elect to receive the diploma at the end of the Fall semester and begin college in the Spring.

Are students who are verified as college ready automatically accepted to The University of Texas at Austin and/or Texas A&M University?

No. When students register for the program, they will be asked if they would like to be considered for admission to The University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University. Students will then be provided with a link to the Apply Texas website and the Common Application and will be encouraged to apply to both institutions. Students may also apply for Spring admission to The University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University.

What sort of recognition will districts and students receive for participating in this option?

High achieving students will receive their high school diploma up to a year before they might in ordinary circumstances. This enables them to apply to any college or university nationwide, not just The University of Texas at Austin or Texas A&M University. For districts, the recognition is twofold. First, only districts that have a reputation for providing students highly challenging academic opportunities are being invited to participate in the pilot. Second, The University of Texas at Austin will provide a press release for districts to use with their local newspapers. It will explain the program and that the district is working in partnership with the two research universities to pilot the Early Readiness Graduation Option. At the conclusion of the pilot, the principals of participating high schools will be invited to discuss modifications and improvements to the program.

What responsibilities does the district have? The students?

Participating School Districts shall

  • Sign the Early Readiness High School Graduation Option Agreement
  • Assign a counselor to serve as the Early Readiness Graduation Option liaison
  • Publicize the opportunity to participate in the program to students who are juniors or seniors
  • Obtain permission from families/guardians for students to participate in program
  • Award the high school diploma to students whose college readiness is validated by The University of Texas at Austin and who request an early diploma

Students who participate in the Early Readiness Graduation Option shall

  • Complete the online student profile on the Early Readiness Graduation Option website by the appropriate deadline
  • Sign up with ACT to take the ENGAGE assessment and have results sent to The University of Texas at Austin
  • Inform the appropriate testing centers (College Board, International Baccalaureate, ACT, etc.) to send test scores to the testing center at The University of Texas at Austin for validation
  • Respond to emails from Early Readiness Graduation Option staff
  • Keep staff at the district informed of correspondence from the Early Readiness Graduation Option

What are the responsibilities of the counselor who is the Early Readiness Graduation Option liaison?

  • Participate in a webinar offered by The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University
  • Hold an information meeting for parents and students in their district about the Early Readiness Graduation Option
  • Provide support for students who wish to participate in the Early Readiness Graduation Option
  • Inform Early Readiness Graduation Option staff of any issues or concerns that arise regarding the program

What do I have to do to indicate our district’s participation in the program?

Contact the Early Readiness High School Graduation Option office at earlyreadiness@austin.utexas.edu to provide your signed agreement and be kept apprised of webinars and other information.

We hope to hear from you soon!