On Friday, May 21, PSJA North High School’s Principal Narciso Garcia received word from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that his campus was awarded the provisional designation to become an Early College High School.

PSJA North HS had applied to become an official Early College HS earlier in the school year. With this designation, PSJA North is now in a planning and design phase required by TEA to better implement their Early College HS core principles.

According to TEA, the provisional designation is awarded to campuses for a period of one year, during which time the campus may operate as an Early College HS.

The purposes of provisional designation are to provide additional time for schools to make required changes to Early College HS design elements, to demonstrate whether the Early College HS plan can be fully appropriately implemented in keeping with the core principles of Early College HS, and to allow schools that have not been in operation for two full years an opportunity to report student enrollment and testing data.

In a letter sent to Dr. Daniel King, Superintendent of Schools, regarding this designation, Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott thanked PSJA North HS for their effort to design and build an Early College High School (ECHS).

WHAT IT MEANS

FOR PSJA NORTH STUDENTS

According to Principal Garcia, this designation means endless opportunities for dual enrollment and advanced coursework for all PSJA North students.

“PSJA North HS will be able to help parents and our entire community by assisting our students with the completion of an Associate’s Degree before they even leave high school,” Garcia said. “We owe it to our parents and our community to better prepare our students for life in the 21st Century and beyond.”

With this designation by the State, PSJA North students will be given the opportunity to succeed in college level coursework before they even leave high school.

According to information provided by TEA, this innovative high school model was first developed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to target first-generation college goers, low-income students, minority students and English language learners. It allows students to earn a high school diploma and two years of college credit free of charge while still in high school.

Texas quickly embraced the concept and has emerged as a national leader in this reform effort. In Spring 2008, TEA developed a designation process for ECHS. The designation process ensures that districts operating ECHS’s maintain the integrity of the model.

The ECHS model is unique because higher education partners must provide high school students with access to college facilities and resources, including up to 60 college credit hours by the time they graduate from high school.

Early colleges provide rigor with support. They offer students numerous dual credit and Advanced Placement courses and provide counseling, mentoring, and tutoring assistance in order to help students succeed.

Both levels of recognition indicate that the ECHS has been developed through a close partnership between a school district and an institution of higher education, in this case South Texas College.

In recognition of the level of work and commitment that is required to develop an ECHS, the designation provides the two partners with a series of benefits including: access to specialized professional development, eligibility for exemption from dual credit restrictions through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and membership in the Texas ECHS Network.

PSJA North HS will be the second school within the PSJA School District, with this designation.

In the 2008-2009 school year, PSJA opened its first Early College HS, the PSJA T-STEM Early College HS, which currently has over 180 students in both 9th and 10th grade. PSJA’s T-STEM ECHS will be graduating its first class in 2012.