Boston, MA (March 26, 2012) — A school district near the Texas-Mexico border is making college a reality for every young person, from top students to former dropouts. Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, with 32,000 students, is transforming its schools to enable all students to graduate from high school with at least 12 college credits and the skills to progress to a degree or credential.
A report issued today by Jobs for the Future and Educate Texas, Launching Early College Districtwide, tells the story of how Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Daniel King, is transforming this low-income, Hispanic community where most students are the first in their families to attend college. The district has become a national model for dropout recovery, having graduated nearly 900 former dropouts and off-track students—and connected them to college—since 2007. It raised its four-year graduation rates from 62 percent to 87 percent in three years. And between 2007 and 2009, the district doubled its number of students enrolling in college after graduation.
As part of a $2 million college readiness grant from the Texas Education Agency, Educate Texas and Jobs for the Future are helping the district to develop a range of early college school designs that connect every student to college.
“Pharr-San Juan-Alamo is broadening the early college vision to reach every young person in the district,” said the report’s author, Cecilia Le, a documentation specialist at Jobs for the Future. “This district has launched college course-taking for all kids, rigorous instruction to help them succeed in those courses, and support for graduates to persist in college – all aligned toward the goal of every student earning a postsecondary credential that leads to a good career.”
The district’s approach to supporting all students to and through postsecondary centers on several major strategies:
- College course-taking for all students exposes students to the rigor and expectations of college.
- Career and technical pathways lead to high-growth, high-wage careers aligned to the local economy’s needs.
- District-sponsored counseling located on college campuses supports recent graduates in making the difficult transition from high school to college.
- Rigorous, college-ready instruction for all students, including off-track youth and dropouts, prepares students to succeed in college coursework.
“The work taking place in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District is already changing the lives of students and transforming a key region of Texas,” said Educate Texas Executive Director John Fitzpatrick. “The positive results can be directly attributed to the effective leadership of Dr. Daniel King, coupled with strong support from partners such as the Texas Education Agency, Jobs For the Future, Communities Foundation of Texas and Educate Texas.”
The release of Launching Early College Districtwide is part of Early College High School Week, a national event celebrating the accomplishments of early college high schools. More than 75,000 students attend 270 early college high schools in 28 states.
About Jobs for the Future
Jobs for the Future identifies, develops, and promotes new education and workforce strategies that help communities, states, and the nation compete in a global economy. In over 200 communities in 43 states, JFF improves the pathways leading from high school to college to family-sustaining careers.
About the Early College High School Initiative
Early college high school is a bold approach, based on the principle that academic rigor, combined with the opportunity to save time and money, is a powerful motivator for students to work hard and meet serious intellectual challenges. Early college high schools blend high school and college in a rigorous yet supportive program, compressing the time it takes to complete a high school diploma and the first two years of college.
Educate Texas (formerly the Texas High School Project) is a public-private alliance dedicated to significantly improving the postsecondary readiness of low-income students, with a focus on students in low-performing schools. A public-private initiative of Communities Foundation of Texas, its partners include: the Texas Education Agency; Office of the Governor; Texas Legislature; Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Michael & Susan Dell Foundation; National Instruments; Greater Texas Foundation; and The Meadows Foundation.
About Jobs for the Future
Jobs for the Future works with our partners to design and drive adoption of education and career pathways leading from college readiness to career advancement for those struggling to succeed in today’s economy.