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March

21, 2013 Dear Members of the Texas Senate, As representatives of business with major installations in Texas, we are very concerned about efforts to lower Texas high-school graduation requirements in math and science. Now is not the time to reverse progress when Texas needs a more skilled workforce to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy. Texans can be proud of our state. We have been a national leader in promoting higher expectations for all students, and our young people have reaped big rewards. We are among the four most improved states in the nation in 8th grade math, and that improvement extends to high school as well. Graduation rates have increased steadily as graduation requirements have grown more rigorous. Rates have risen from just under 80 percent in 2006, when current graduation requirements were adopted, to almost 86 percent in 2011, when the first group of students held to the four-by-four requirements graduated. Currently, though, this longstanding commitment to high expectations is being threatened. Proposed legislation to change the current graduation framework suggests that Texas should back down from high expectations and replace them with weaker requirements. We urge you not to take this course. The number of Texas jobs requiring post-secondary education will have grown 20 percent between 2008 and 2018, and jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will have grown by 22 percentfaster than in most other states. More than 90 percent of those jobs will require post-secondary education. The need for highly-skilled workers is nationwide, and the states that succeed in creating a 21st-century workforce will be the magnets for new investment and innovative industries. Rigorous graduation requirements in Texas are critical to helping more students enter and succeed in postsecondary education, which is increasingly becoming a prerequisite for 21st-century jobs, and for maintaining Texass position as a bastion of investment and innovation. In 2009, before students graduating under the new curriculum entered college, math remediation in community colleges cost Texas more than $80 million a year. Estimates put the annual costs of lost productivity and wages in the billions. Challenging coursework in high school is the best predictor of success at two- and four-year colleges. Fewer than 20 percent of students whose highest-level math course was geometry earn a bachelors degree. The number jumps to 60 percent for students whose most challenging course was trigonometry. And we are not just concerned about bachelors degrees. Jobs that require a two-year degree or technical training program also benefit from reducing high remediation costs. Low- income students who take calculus or pre-calculus in addition to just Algebra I or 1

geometry boost their chances of persisting in community college by a stunning 44 percentage points. Some may argue that young people still have the choice to take more challenging courses under the proposed plan, even if requirements become easier. That is unlikely. National studies show that many students do not understand what courses they need to succeed in college. Surveys show that about four in 10 students who graduated in 2010 wish they had taken more or more challenging math. If only they had known. Lowering graduation requirements would send the wrong message to our students, create fewer pathways to additional education and threaten Texas competitively. The four by four graduation standard is improving workplace readiness. We ask for your support in maintaining this vital pipeline to a brighter future for all Texans. AMD Applied Materials Austin Chamber of Commerce ExxonMobil Fujitsu Network Communications, Inc. Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce IBM Corporation Intel Lockheed Martin Corporation Metroplex Technology Business Council Qualcomm, Inc. State Farm TechAmerica Texas Association of Business Texas Business Leadership Council Texas Instruments