News Column

Hispanic School District Proves College for All Is Possible

Sept. 24, 2012
College grads throwing caps in the air

The Hidalgo Independent School District in Texas has raised the bar on what it means for a school district system to focus on college readiness.

College Success for All, a new Jobs for the Future (JFF) report by Thad Nodine, tells the story of how Hidalgo Independent School District, located in one of the most economically depressed metropolitan areas with one of the lowest number of college- educated adults, is preparing all of its students to earn college credits while in high school.

Hidalgo ISD serves a student body that is 99.5 percent Hispanic, 90 percent economically disadvantaged, and 53 percent limited English proficient.

Preliminary data shows enviable results: This past June, more than 95 percent of the Class of 2010 graduated with college credits. Two-thirds of the graduating seniors had earned at least a full semester of credit for a college degree.

"Hidalgo offers a valuable lesson for school districts across the country. Hidalgo proves that with the right instruction, partnerships, supports, and structures, school districts and their comprehensive high schools can prepare more students to succeed in college," said Joel Vargas, vice president at JFF.

College Success for All begins with the creation of the Hidalgo Early College High School in 2005 in partnership with University of Texas-Pan American, the University of Texas System, the Communities Foundation of Texas/Texas High School Project, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The early college design is a vehicle for providing traditionally underserved students with an opportunity to earn a substantial number of college credits along with a high school diploma.

While early college schools typically serve less than 400 students, Hidalgo ISD was committed to serving all of its 900+ high schoolers.

The superintendent of Hidalgo ISD at the time, Dr. Daniel P. King, reflects, "I can't see taking half of the kids and leaving the other half out. Why not do it for all the kids?"

College Success for All describes how Hidalgo ISD took the early college concept and adopted it as a districtwide strategy: By embedding a college and career culture and focus in everyday activities, from elementary school through middle school and into high school, the school system now motivates and prepares all of its students for success in higher education.

This strategy, combined with the establishment of additional strong postsecondary partnerships with South Texas College and Texas State Technical College, more rigorous course sequencing, and high- quality career pathways, has been a recipe for success.

Though preliminary, Hidalgo's results are inspiring. However, Hidalgo is not done yet.

"The starting line is right behind our heels," says Edward Blaha, the current superintendent of schools.

"There's miles to go, but we know we've stepped onto the right track, because this is good for kids."

John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Texas High School Project, notes that "Hidalgo Independent School District shows that obstacles impeding high school and postsecondary success can be overcome".

"The success of early college high schools is being replicated in districts throughout Texas, Fitzpatrick, said.

"We need to create more Hidalgos in our country, more districts where the lessons of early college are spread to all students."

Source: (C) 2012 Chicago Daily Herald. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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