Early college programs get greenlight from Fort Bend ISD board of trustees

Ninth-graders headed to Hightower, Marshall and Willowridge high schools for the 2019-20 school year will now have an additional program choice.

Following approval from the Fort Bend ISD board of trustees on Jan. 22, the school district will implement an Early College High School program at Marshall and Pathways in Technology programs at Hightower and Willowridge.

Students in those programs will have an opportunity to earn college credit toward an associate degree, a two-year postsecondary certificate or industry certification while also earning their high school diploma.

The district expects to begin the programs with 300 students across the three schools with 70 percent coming from the school hosting the program, and 30 percent from the 10 other high schools across the district.

Chief of Schools Joe Rodriguez said one of the unique aspects to the Early College High School is the flexibility for students to earn college credits even if they change their mind on a career path over the course of the program.

During the board discussion, Trustee Kristin Tassin said the programs should also consider adding strong career counselors who can stick with the children as they go through the program, bringing in business partners and creating a bridge program for new students.

In addition to the programs, Rodriguez and Assistant Superintendent of School Improvement Anthony Indelicato will spearhead focus groups for Marshall and Willowridge feeder patterns, respectively, to discuss innovative programming and what that looks like.

Rodriguez said the early college programs were the first phase, and the second phase would be additional programming for all. Innovative programming opportunities will also be explored at the elementary and middle school levels so students develop readiness and excitement about the programming.

Meanwhile, the board also approved the spending of $240,000 over three years with Elevate Learning LLC for Elevate K-12, an online instruction program to help close the achievement gap for students needing to master the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and have success on State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests. The district piloted Elevate K-12 at Willowridge High School last fall.

The district will provide this program two to three times per week to 60 of the most at-risk students from both Willowridge and Hunters Glen Elementary School, as well as small group supplemental instruction with a teacher.
By Christine Hall
Christine Hall joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2018, and covers Missouri City and Fort Bend ISD. She previously reported on health care innovation for the Texas Medical Center, was a freelancer, and held various news roles at the Houston Business Journal.