A high-poverty, nearly all-minority district near the Texas-Mexico border, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo had a high dropout rate. Now dropouts and high-risk students are finishing high school while they start career training. All students can take rigorous “early college” courses and the college-going rate doubled in three years, according to a new report from Jobs for the Future.
Superintendent Daniel King came to PSJA from nearby Hidalgo, where he’d pioneered early college and career pathways for all students. “The dropout rate was horrendous,” King said. In partnership with South Texas College, the district created the College, Career, and Technology Academy to help former dropouts complete high school and “seamlessly transition into college courses” when ready. The dropout recovery campaign’s slogan: “You didn’t graduate from high school? Start college today!” Now students who lack the credits to graduate on time can go to CCTA the summer or fall after their four-year graduation rate, instead of returning to high school for a fifth year or dropping out.
PSJA then opened an early college high school with a STEM focus, again partnering with South Texas College. PSJA will become an Early College High School District, writes King on the JFF blog. Eventually, the college-going culture will start at the elementary level.
We have increased expectations for all students. Our goal is not just to hand out high school diplomas, but to see that our students have the skills they need to move onto college, obtain a college degree and have a prosperous life and career.
Through Early College coursework, students can graduate from high school with at least 12 college hours, a technical certificate, or even an Associate’s degree that prepares them for high-wage employment.
Virtually all PSJA students are Hispanic and 90 percent come from low-income families. Most parents are not well-educated.