Legislature gives WSD authority to grant high school diplomas, credit

From the Superintendent’s Report to the Windham School Board of Trustees:

The 84th Texas Legislative Session voted to give Windham School District (WSD) the authority to grant Texas high school credit for certain courses offered and the authority to grant a Texas High School Diploma for those offender students who meet State requirements for graduation. This legislation was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott on May 19, 2015.

San Saba Graduation - Diploma

This law will allow WSD to provide course credit for those courses which meet the Texas Education Agency requirements. In Windham, vocational program courses provide instruction at or above these requirement and will allow students 26 years of age and younger to gather credits toward a high school diploma. This also allows Windham to transfer credits earned in public schools for those students near completion and support partnerships with public schools to assist students who wish to complete the diploma with needed credits for graduation.

Windham’s focus continues to be centered on skills to support students gaining meaningful employment upon release. For most students, vocational certification, reading and math skills at a literate level and a General Equivalency Diploma (GED), if possible, are the goals. But for those younger offenders who were near graduation at the time of incarceration, this provides an opportunity many felt was no longer possible. Windham looks forward to taking advantage of this new law to help TDCJ offenders be successful upon release, with credits to return to public school or a Windham High School Diploma for those completing requirements prior to release.

San Saba Graduation - Diploma

WSD will now be able to issue diplomas. A pilot diploma program began a year ago with a local Texas public school district. Sometime after 1985, Windham no longer maintained the authority to grant a high school diploma or credits for the courses that students had been given. A number of offenders in TDCJ have some high school credits and read at a level that makes it practical for them to get a high school diploma. WSD staff predicts the number is small and anticipates between 2,500 and 3,000 would be the maximum number of this offender population. The majority of WSD students read at a fifth grade level, so obtaining a high school diploma would take many years and is not fiscally practical for Windham.

WSD will still focus on the primary needs of students by offering the GED, but this gives an opportunity for those students who were near graduation when they were incarcerated to gather credits and maybe go back to a program offering high school diplomas. They can obtain a high school diploma up to age 26.

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WSD in Images

Students at the Huntsville “Walls” Unit strengthen writing skills during a literacy class.
Texas State Board of Education Chair Barbara Cargill congratulates GED recipients during Spring, 2014, ceremonies. “I am very impressed with the program and with the commitment of the staff and teachers,” she said.
Auto specialization students in a West Texas prison learn auto maintenance skills, preparing themselves for future employment as professional mechanics.
Offenders often experience academic success for the first time in a Windham classroom.
Vocational and academic skills are integrated in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, such as this Small Engine Repair class in Huntsville, Texas.
WSD’s Business and Image Management & Multimedia (BIMM) class offers students the opportunity to learn viable graphic arts and computer skills, helping them prepare for jobs after release.