Division of Advanced Academic Services

Contact Information
Texas Education Agency
Division of Advanced Academic Services
1701 N. Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701
Phone: (512) 463-9455
FAX: (512) 305-8920

Questions and Answers on the

Distinguished Achievement Program

1. What is the difference between the old Distinguished Achievement Program and the new one passed by the State Board of Education in April 1996?

Although the old and the new Distinguished Achievement Program both require 24 credits, there are minor differences in how those credits are allocated. In the new program, students must have one-half credit of speech and two and one-half credits of one of the three options that are part of the plan. In the old program, there was no speech requirement and students took three credits of the options. Despite these differences, the Distinguished Achievement Program requires high performance beyond that expected of students in high school, and it includes an external evaluation component. In addition to specific course requirements, the new Distinguished Achievement Program requires that all students successfully complete any combination of four advanced measures that meet the standards included in 19 TAC §74.13(a)(3)(A) and (B). Those standards are that the measures:

  • require student performance that is equivalent to college or professional level work, and
  • are judged by external sources of evaluation.
  • The Distinguished Achievement Program will take the place of both the current advanced program and the advanced program with honors in school year 1999-2000. The first group of seniors for whom the Distinguished Achievement Program will be the only advanced program are students who are in the ninth grade in 1996-97.

    2. What are advanced measures?

    Advanced measures are those items that meet the two standards included in 19 TAC §74.13(a)(3)(A) and (B): they reflect student performance at a college or professional level, and the products are assessed by external evaluators. The items adopted by the State Board of Education as meeting those standards are as follows:

    Original research and/or project:

  • judged by a panel of professionals in the field that is the focus of the project; or
  • conducted under the direction of mentor(s) and reported to an appropriate audience;
  • Test data:

    College courses

  • a grade of 3.0 or higher on courses that count for college credit (dual and/or concurrent enrollment), including tech prep programs; 
  • Professional license

  • a license awarded by a professional board or association. This item may count for only one advanced measure regardless of the number of licenses received.
  • Students must earn at least four advanced measures and may do so in any combination. For example, one student might receive a score of three on four Advanced Placement examinations. Another may have a score of three on two Advanced Placement examinations and also complete two projects in a mentorship program. A third student could take two college courses for high school credit, produce a portfolio of exemplary work in a specific field, and assist in primary research under the direction of a mentor at a local university. A fourth student could receive a professional license, score a three on an Advanced Placement examination, receive a 3.0 on a college course, and complete a project in a mentorship program.

    3. Does a district have to offer students all of the options included as the advanced measures?

    No. The list adopted by the State Board of Education reflects all of the possible advanced measures that may be used. Individual districts have the option of determining whether they will offer the Distinguished Achievement Program and which of the advanced measures they will offer students. As examples, in some districts, only College Board Advanced Placement courses will be provided. Some districts will offer students the options of Advanced Placement courses, the opportunity to take college courses and receive high school credit and/or college credit, and mentorships. In other districts, all of the advanced measures might be available.

    4. In some cases, it is specified that an option may only be used once as an advanced measure. May a district require that certain measures are used or limit the number of times a student can count other measures?

    By local board policy, a district may limit the number of times an option can be used as an advanced measure. For example, a district might develop policies that permit only two college courses. By the same token, a district can require that at least one advanced measure be an Advanced Placement examination score of three or above. Regardless of their policy, however, districts are encouraged to take into consideration the needs of transfer students who were granted credit for other advanced measures in another district.

    5. Why must students demonstrate that they have completed college level or professional level work? Shouldn't the standard for the Distinguished Achievement Program be that students are prepared for college level work?

    All students who successfully complete the recommended high school program are prepared for college level work. The purpose of the Distinguished Achievement Program is to recognize students who have performed at a level clearly beyond that expected of high school students.

    6. Which college courses are eligible to be counted as advanced measures for the Distinguished Achievement Program?

    The courses must be included in the Community College General Academic Course Guide Manual that is distributed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (Note: This document is available on the internet at http://www/homepage/ commcoll/ip/ip.htm). These courses meet the requirements of lower-division, for-credit academic and tech prep courses at four year public institutions of higher education in Texas. Each school district may, of course, select which disciplines or courses will be available to its students. None of the courses may be remedial in nature; in fact, all courses taken for dual credit, both high school and college credit, must extend the essential elements normally taught in the Chapter 75 course.

    7. In what areas can students complete products of professional quality?

    This decision will be up to the school district. Products can be developed in any academic area, in the field of career and technology, or in the area of community service. It is suggested that local boards of trustees adopt policies that both clearly define what areas will be acceptable and state that prior approval be required for the project before work is initiated by the student.

    8. Please explain "Original research/project conducted under the direction of mentor(s) and reported to an appropriate audience."

    This measure permits students to begin researching projects in an area of interest and under the direction of an expert in the field. In some cases, this project might be a joint one in which both the mentor and the student work together. In other cases, the student might select a project that requires oversight and advice from a professional in the field. This measure is very similar to the one relating to "products of professional quality that are reviewed by a panel of professionals." However, the product of professional quality might be completed through an independent study and not be under the direction of a mentor. The new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) includes courses that students can take to fulfill these options.

    9. Does "external sources of evaluation" mean external to the school district?

    Not necessarily. For example, a teacher who is not the teacher of record for the student may serve on a panel that reviews products or may be a mentor for a student.

    10. Will districts need to retain samples of products of professional quality or original research projects for accreditation visits, or will district policy and guidelines be sufficient?

    Written evaluations of panel members should be retained.

    11. If a student takes a College Board Advanced Placement course, makes an A or B in the course and scores a three or better on the examination, will that count for two measures since AP courses are college level classes?

    No, even though Advanced Placement courses are considered college level classes, a student may count only the score on the exam as a single measure.

    12. How and when can new measures be added to the list?

    According to Chapter 74.13(a)(3), advanced measures must be reviewed by the State Board of Education at least once each biennium and meet the standards set in the rule.

    13. Can credit for these measures be earned in middle school?

    Yes, credit for advanced measures should be treated the same as credit earned in middle school for completion of high school courses. This may be noted in the appropriate section of the academic achievement record.

    14. What other courses are required for the Distinguished Achievement Program?

    The courses required for the Distinguished Achievement Program are included in this program.

    15. Why won't there be an advanced program with honors?

    There are two major reasons. For the past decade, districts have been required to submit their honors courses for approval by the Texas Education Agency. No review of the implementation of honors courses was ever made, and while the quality of honors courses in some districts was very high, in others, the quality was far less rigorous. One advantage of the Distinguished Achievement Program is that it will truly be a statewide program, with some consistency from one district to the next. The other reason for doing away with the state-approved honors courses is that the emphasis of the new program is not on what students take, but on their level of performance. It is important to remember that districts are still encouraged to develop honors courses that meet the needs of their students, but these courses will not have to be sent to the agency for approval, thus reducing paperwork for the district.

    16. When can a school district implement the Distinguished Achievement Program, and in what year can a student first graduate under the Distinguished Achievement Program?

    A school district may implement the Distinguished Achievement Program as soon as it is ready and chooses to do so. Some districts may already be offering all courses required in the Distinguished Achievement Program and have enough measures in place to allow students to graduate under this plan in the 1996-97 school year. The important consideration is that students not be penalized for starting under a particular advanced program. Every effort should be made to allow students to complete the program they began.

    Districts may allow some students to graduate under the Distinguished Achievement Program and others the Advanced High School Program or the Advanced High School Program with Honors through school year 1998-99.

    Caveat: This document was created by the Texas Education Agency. In case of doubt, please consult the TEA. The TEA website is at http://www.tea.state.tx.us.

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