Public school leaders suggest elementary students learn college readiness.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
Four board members and district employees hosted a special meeting and dinner to discuss pathway and endorsement alignment with independent school districts in the Alamo Colleges service areas Aug. 23 in the Sutton Learning Center at St. Philip’s College.
Dr. Veronica Garcia, president of Northeast Lakeview College, said 48 percent of high school students who graduated in May 2016 were
enrolled in a Texas public or private college, meaning that 52 percent of graduates did not enter college, left the state or joined the military.
Dr. Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, said the purpose of “pathways” is to ensure students take the correct courses, saying no student goes to college just to go to college.
According to the Alamo Colleges’ website, pathways are the specified career pathways within the six broad Alamo Institutes.
Several tables were filled with board members and superintendents of independent school districts in the Alamo Colleges’ service region, including Harlandale, Lytle, Edgewood, Fort Sam Houston, Seguin, Lackland, Schertz, North East, Northside and Southwest Early College High School.
Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the district’s biggest issue with pathways is that students don’t know why they’re going to college but enroll because their parents say they need to or their friends are going.
Leslie said the complexity in course alignment makes choosing a pathway important, saying the district needs to prevent students from taking unnecessary courses.
As an example, he said a student who wants to attend Texas State University for a bachelor’s degree in nursing should not study health sciences at an Alamo College.
Leslie said the course sequencing is important, and math and English courses should be taken in the first semester.
He said the importance of course sequencing is evidenced by a student who wants to be an engineer but fails math in the sophomore year. He said this means that student is not going to be an engineer.
The district is working to align curriculum to ensure students take math and English courses in the first semester, but the district cannot arrange the sequence of courses for students who do not declare a major or pathway before enrollment, Leslie said.
He said the challenge Alamo Colleges has is determining what information the district needs to provide students before they enroll to help them declare a major.
He said the excuse of thinking high school graduates are too young to decide is not accurate because European education systems have students declare a career choice at 16.
Leslie said it is important that students are graduating with degrees in fields that are of high demand in this city. He said employers do not care how many people the district graduates if they aren’t graduating with degrees in their field.
Fabianke said the district needs more employer involvement to ensure students enter high-demand, skilled workforces.
Leslie said he wants counseling and advising programs of the school districts and Alamo Colleges to align to better serve students as they transition from high school to college.
Fabianke said she wants the Alamo Colleges and the school districts to work together to align the grade-school endorsements with the Alamo Colleges pathways.
She said she wants students to be better prepared for college in the eighth grade and start determining if they want to enter a workforce program or pursue an academic degree.
Mary Helen Martinez, district director of college and career readiness, said college preparatory classes are for high school seniors and train them to be prepared to take the Texas Success Initiative Assessment.
Fabianke said the district is working with all independent school districts in the Alamo Colleges’ service region to enter a memorandum of understanding and urged any school districts that have not started offering college preparatory courses to do so.
Fabianke recognized that the school districts have the option of offering advanced placement courses or dual credit and urged them to opt for dual credit because students are enticed by the idea of earning college credit.
Dr. Adelina Silva, vice chancellor for student success, said there are 77 high schools in the Alamo Colleges’ service region. Of the 23,353 seniors in the region in the 2015-16 academic year, 11,830 applied at an Alamo College but only 4,176 enrolled, Silva said.
Board Chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee, asked representatives at each table to discuss what could be done to better align the Alamo Colleges with the school districts in the service region.
Dr. Nereida “Nellie” Cantu, assistant superintendent of Judson Independent School District, suggested Alamo Colleges and other school districts offer college nights, where students and parents can be informed about pathways.
Cantu also suggested college readiness be taught at the elementary school level. She said most parents are more involved before middle school.
Samantha Gallegos, assistant superintendent of curriculum at Harlandale Independent School District, said students should have the opportunity to visit the businesses that need employees to see what opportunities are there.
Sean Maika, assistant superintendent of North East Independent School District, said using tools like social media in unique ways could help engage students and educate them about opportunities and connections.
He said millennials don’t want to speak to their administrators, but they want to interact in a different way.
Dr. Annelise Vela, district coordinator for dual credit at San Antonio Independent School District, said districts should try to reach parents while their children are in elementary school because that is when parents are coming to the schools.
She said her school district will have 25 advisers to help high school seniors prepare for college.
President Robert Vela said empowering parents and making them part of the process gets students informed.
He said parent liaisons lead to power and infiltration of the neighborhoods, which the district needs because district employees cannot call every neighborhood and inform them about the Alamo Colleges.
Dr. Veronica Garcia, president of Northeast Lakeview College, said 20 percent of the 61,000 duplicated number of students are dual credit.
Garcia said 76 of those students earned certificates from endorsements of House Bill 5, allowing them to seek employment.
Garcia said there are 16 early college high schools, and two more will be built in the next year. One is planned to open at Fox Tech High School and another with Palo Alto College.