Fort Bend ISD board examines proposed early college programs

Three new programs aimed at providing postsecondary opportunities for Fort Bend ISD high school students were reviewed by the ISD’s board of trustees at its called meeting Jan. 14.

The district is in the planning stages of implementing an early college high school program at Marshall High School and pathways in technology programs at Hightower and Willowridge high schools to begin at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

If approved, ninth-graders entering the program 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.

Each program is initially aimed at a cohort of 100 students. In the case of Marshall’s program, 70 would be chosen from the school's zone and 30 from the 10 other high schools across the district, according to documents presented at the meeting.

During the discussion of the programs, several board members asked the district how they chose the schools.

“One of the things we considered is students who are underrepresented in higher education,” FBISD Chief Academic Officer Diana Sayavedra said. “We want to … prepare them and provide them with an opportunity to earn up to 60 credit hours and cost savings in some cases of up to $40,000 for families.”

In addition, board members discussed providing more engagement with school stakeholders who reached out to the board with questions and concerns as well as how the district would find teachers for the programs.

Trustee David Rosenthal said moving forward the discussion should also be about what is best for the students.

“We are doing a great favor for kids if we can help them focus and get that much farther than just a normal high school graduation,” he said.

Meanwhile, trustee Kristin Tassin said there is more work to be done.

“This is not going to address utilization or enrollment, and those were some of the goals we had, in addition to expanding opportunities for our kids,” she said. “Those are what I am going to be looking for going forward.”

While the district awaits approval of the programs—expected at the board’s Jan. 22 meeting—the district is hosting community meetings to give the community a chance to learn more and provide input. Meetings took place Jan. 9 at Hightower High School and Jan. 15 at Marshall High School, and a final meeting will be Jan. 23 at McAuliffe Middle School, 16650 S. Post Oak, Houston.

If the programs are approved, the district said it will begin the application process in February and launch the programs this summer.

What is the early college high school model?
The ECHS model is a blend of high school and college coursework that gives students the opportunity to earn up to 60 hours, or two years, of tuition-free college credit while earning a high school diploma. The ECHS model increases college readiness, providing rigorous instruction and coursework as well as academic and social support. The program aims to:

  • engage first-generation college students;

  • provide dual credit at no cost to students;

  • offer courses that mirror a college setting, with academic counseling to help students develop skills needed for post-high school success;

  • increase college enrollment and success rates for all students; and

  • strengthen connections between middle schools, high schools and higher education institutions to promote a culture of college readiness.

What is the pathways in technology model?
The P-TECH model is an open-enrollment program designed to ensure that high school curriculum focuses on workforce needs and partnerships that support students in obtaining credentials, degrees and certificates. With the support of Educate Texas and the Texas Education Agency, participating schools target thriving industries in their region to address key workforce pathways in high-demand fields. The P-TECH Model course of study gives students an opportunity to:

  • earn an associate degree while earning their high school diploma;

  • earn a two-year postsecondary certificate or industry certification;

  • complete work-based training within six years; and

  • gain work experience through internships, apprenticeships or other job training programs.
    Source: Fort Bend ISD

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.


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