South San ISD partners with Palo Alto College as others seek to join trend
By Alyssa De La O/@alyssadelao24
South San Antonio High School is in the process of becoming one of many early college high schools (ECHS) in the southern region of Texas.
Nearby, Harlandale ISD wanted a similar change in 2013. The district is partnering with Palo Alto College to offer a college-ready program to high school students. Currently, the district is awaiting approval from the Texas Education Agency.
The change to an ECHS program for these high schools echoes a trend for the San Antonio and surrounding areas.
Elizabeth Aguilar-Villarreal, ECHS advisor at Palo Alto College, says this is a trend for most schools in San Antonio and other surrounding areas.
ECHS programs were introduced in Texas, specifically, in the Valley and Houston in 2003, she noted during a phone interview.
South San Antonio High School principal Lee Hernandez says the district wants to make this big change to help students who are interested in taking in furthering their education.
“This change is to create options and opportunities for these students,” Hernandez said. “It also prepares the student to further their education.”
A primary goal for early college high school programs, in addition to furthering students’ education, is also to provide a higher education financial advancement.
“It’s a win-win for the students, for the parents, especially on a financial basis,” South San’s Superintendent Dr. Abelardo Saavedra said in the Early College Commencement that took place in October 2014. “When you think about it, it’s not only two years of college, but two free years of college.”
The district wants to team up with the same group as Harlandale ISD with Palo Alto College.
The reasons they are teaming up with the college are both obvious and the result of collaboration: the district and the college are in close proximity, they have created successful experiences and relationships with each other, and the majority of South San Antonio graduates transfer to Palo Alto College.
Eighth grade students transitioning into their freshmen year from 2015-2016 will have the option to go into the program.
If they are interested they have to pass a level test to be accepted into the program. If the student does not pass the test, there are alternative plans for them so that they leave with some credits.
There are three pathways the student can take:
- Associate Degree: the student takes a total amount of 60 hours and will go to South San Antonio and Palo Alto College for courses.
- Core Complete: the student takes a total amount of 42 hours and will be ready to transfer to a college.
- Career Ready: the student receives a certification so that they are able to go into the workforce after they graduate.
Those students who take pathway one will take an equal amount of high school and dual credit classes. Students who are in Advance Placement classes have the option to switch over to dual credit. The student will start off his or her freshman with one dual credit class, and from then on will have 2 to 3 credit classes.
South San Antonio High School junior Emily Rayne Jimenez, who is taking advance placement courses, agrees districts help students become involved with Alamo Colleges. Though she’s optimistic about the districts helping student involvement, Jimenez also expresses disappointment.
“Yes, it is a good college experience for students, but as it is, some students are still behind in learning,” Jimenez said. “The change is unnecessary and not fit for the students as a whole.”
South San promises to have support programs to help those students who do not feel prepared.
Hernandez says that this change does not mean they are leaving kids behind, but instead push them to a high point in their education.
Another big change is the high school will change it’s original name to South San Early College. Hernandez says the reason for this is because this opportunity not only applies to the advance placement students but to the student body as a whole.
“This change has a lot of benefits the low and high performing students at the high school,” Hernandez said.