On Wednesday the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on “Research and Best Practices on Successful School Turnaround” which looked at ways to turn around the lowest performing schools which produce the highest numbers of dropouts. In his opening remarks, Chairman George Miller (CA) stated that one of the biggest problems to be addressed in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is dropouts. He was critical of the interventions available in No Child Left Behind as well as the Administration’s four proposed turnaround models. He said that the three things that schools and districts need are data, extended learning time and community support.
In his testimony, Dr. Daniel King, Superintendent of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA), spoke about the CTE-based strategies he has used to reduce the dropout rate from almost double the state average to less than half the state average in just two years. The district was able to use grant money to open a T-STEM Early College High School where students can earn up to 60 college credit hours (the equivalent of an Associate degree) while still in high school.
Some of the lessons learned by PSJA include:
- Connecting students to college while still in high school provides flexibility and a seamless transition to college
- College and career pathways provide rigor and relevance
- Career and technical education is a viable career pathway if it is based on industry standards, includes college credit and leads to an AA, BA or certification
- Partnerships – with colleges, workforce and economic development agencies, and philanthropic foundations – accelerate transformation
The district was recently declared a state model for district turnarounds by Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott and was awarded $2,000,000 grant to scale up their efforts.