Fort Bend ISD staff reported Monday strong academic performance based on student performance on standardized tests and increasing enrollment numbers in dual credit programs, advanced placement courses and career and technical education programs.

However, the district has also observed lower college enrollment numbers within the past decade, said Troy Byrne, executive director of Transformational Learning.

“One thing that’s consistent in the data is that FBISD outperforms both Texas and the nation on PSAT, SAT and ACT [exams],” Byrne said. “We see an incredible growth in advanced placement course enrollment and dual credit enrollment.”

Future district goals include further increasing enrollment numbers in advanced placement and dual credit programs, helping students achieve career and technical certifications and closing student performance gaps among different demographic groups, Byrne said.

“We know from research that just being in an advanced course prepares them better for college, and they persist more throughout college,” he said.

To address the performance gaps, FBISD aims to increase enrollment in its college readiness program, Advancement Via Individual Determination, he said.

“In AVID we teach students writing strategies, inquiry strategies, collaboration, organization, reading strategies [and] college readiness strategies,” Byrne said.

Students learn how to take ownership of their education this way, he said. The district also wants every student to have a plan of action in place after they graduate.

“We have the new CTE center opening up in 2019,” Byrne said. “On top of that, we’re building opportunities with employers in our community to start internships and externships, but also, we want to build the dual credit enrollment, so we’re looking at dual credit possibilities within CTE.”

Byrne also reported to the school board student outcomes after graduation for the class of 2010.

“We can say that 53.3 percent [of students] achieved either a two-year or a four-year degree,” he said. “We still have some students that are persisting, that are still in college. Then we have a large 24 percent that did not persist in college, and we want to address that piece of data right there.”

The district also has 10 percent of students unaccounted—students who may have enlisted in with the military or entered directly into the work force, Byrne said.

“We see college enrollment trend for FBISD has had a downward turn,” he said. “We were at 75 percent in 2009, and now we’re below the average at 69 percent.”

Staff has not yet identified the reasoning behind this issue, he said. It may be a conscious decision or it may be attributed to rising cost of higher education.

“We’re aligning to Texas’ 60 by 30 plan,” Byrne said. “Texas wants, by the year 2030, 60 percent of 24-35 year olds to have either a two-year [degree], a four-year [degree] or a certification. That’s to enrich Texas financially. If they have these accreditations or credentials, we know that they’ll be higher earning down the road.”

Staff also discussed a new memorandum of understanding with Houston Community College to bolster college enrollment of FBISD graduates by implementing a streamlined automatic application process.

Chief Academic Officer Diana Sayavedra said the venture with HCC would target students who are traditionally underrepresented in college and do not meet the Texas Success Initiative benchmark, which assesses college readiness in reading, mathematics and writing.

“This partnership with HCC would allow us to have counselors and advisors from HCC that would come to work with that specific student population, help them get TSI ready so that they would be well positioned for success with HCC,” Sayavedra said.

Byrne said the school district is also reaching out to different college systems such as Lone Star College and the University of Texas at Austin to expand its dual credit programs.

Executive Director of Special Education Deena Hill said the district is also working to ensure students with special needs have the accommodations and support to succeed after graduation.

FBISD trustee Addie Heyliger said the district should also focus on programs to support students who wish to continue their education after a hiatus.

“We’re going to be developing an adult education program in the district where we offer a variety of classes for community education,” Superintendent Charles Dupre said.

Sayavedra said FBISD is also expanding programs to generate interests in growing industries such as information technology and computer science.

“I would say a big systemic push is to begin to embed those pieces in the curriculum, beginning with kindergarten so that we’re not waiting until they get to middle school [and to ensure] that messaging and those opportunities are being solidified as early as kindergarten,” she said.