IMPACT Spring Volume 3 Issue 3 2017 - English

Page 1

IMPACT A magazine for IDEA students, families and supporters. VOLUME 3 ISSUE 3 | SPRING 2017

The Road To And Through College IDEA’s rigorous academy and college preparatory curricula help ensure every student, from Pre-K to 12th grade, is prepared to matriculate to and through college.  Tweet #IMPACTBYIDEA upon receipt!


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

2

I have a confession. When I joined IDEA 5 years ago, I didn’t know much about the organization. While I’m from the Rio Grande Valley, I moved away to college just as IDEA was growing and starting its impact. After I joined IDEA, I remember telling my mom how thankful I was to IDEA for providing a better education for the children who grew up in neighborhoods around mine. That feeling has just grown and grown over time. And, now, having been at IDEA for the better part of my career, and being a mother, there are many, many things that I have come to admire that I can’t wait for you to read about in this issue of #IMPACTbyIDEA. Here are my Top 3:

IDEA BEGINS A RIGOROUS PRE-AP CURRICULUM PROGRAM in 6th grade. By 9th grade, all of our students are taking Advanced Placement Courses and reaping the benefits of college credit and college-readiness. As I think about my children approaching college and the hefty price tag that will soon confront us, I am more grateful than ever for the access IDEA provides its students. Each AP exam that is passed (3 or higher) earns college credit. Actual credits that will eliminate out of pocket costs for our students and families. Can my kids start taking AP exams now? Just kidding. 3

OUR COLLEGE COUNSELING PROGRAM that begins in 6th grade continues once students are in college. As someone who didn’t have the guidance I needed to ensure I chose the college that would be the best “culture fit,” I appreciate this offering more than most. Navigating the college process can be tricky in and of itself; that coupled with many of our students being first generation college goers makes this role of the most critical importance. IDEA IS PREPARING STUDENTS FOR COLLEGE and life and this preparation begins in Pre-K. Enjoy this issue of IMPACT by IDEA where you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at what the Road to and through College looks like for our students and teachers. I promise you’ll be inspired by the magic that happens in our classrooms and it’ll make you want to go back to middle school…despite how awkward we all were…

1

OUR ACADEMIES ensure every single student is reading, writing, and performing math on-level or beyond. Not only that—they teach character skills through the IDEA 55—essentials like what it means to have integrity, stay organized, and how to show respect for all people. As the mother of a six-year-old, I can’t reiterate how important this is in these formative years. The number of times I have to correct a slangish “Yea” to “Yes, ma’am” is more than I’d like to admit, and it’s wonderful that the small things that make a big difference are being emphasized at IDEA.

...just to experience the academic excellence our thousands of students experience every day. Sincerely,

VANESSA BARRY VP of Marketing & Communications

2

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


IMPACT | CONTRIBUTORS

C ONTENTS

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Vanessa Barry EDITOR-AT-LARGE Irma Muñoz COPYWRITERS Matthew Dougherty Tripti Thomas-Travers COPYEDITORS Dolores Gonzalez Sharise Johnson Matthew Dougherty TRANSLATORS Neovilt Castaneda Karina Macotela ART DIRECTOR Phil Chairez PHOTOGRAPHERS Johnny Quiroz Mitch Idol CONTRIBUTORS Thank you to our Pre-K, Personalized Instruction, Special Programs, Academy, Pre-Advanced Placement, Advanced Placement, and College Success Teams for allowing us to learn more about all the work they do to ensure every IDEA scholar is on the road to a college degree. A special thank you to IDEA Alamo, IDEA Allan, IDEA Bluff Springs, IDEA Brownsville, IDEA Carver, IDEA Donna, IDEA Frontier, IDEA Mission, IDEA Quest, IDEA Rundberg, IDEA San Benito, and IDEA South Flores for partnering with us on this issue. ON THE COVER The Road to College. IDEA Public Schools explores the connection between a high-quality education and success on the road to and through college.

2

26

Letter from the Editor

Science Rules

3

28

Contents

The Transition

4

3 4

Letter from our Chief Program Officer

A Reading Growth Spurt

6

3 6

Organizational Update 1 0

Seeing the World Differently Through Advanced Placement

The Importance of a College Degree

42

College-Readiness 1 2

Starting Strong: Pre-K at IDEA

46

College Partnerships

1 6

48

Readers and Mathematicians

Alumni of Excellence 5 0

COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS? Email marketing@ideapublicschools.org IMPACT is produced for IDEA students, families, employees, and supporters by the Marketing and Communications team at IDEA Public Schools. CONTENTS © 2017 BY IDEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

MISSION IDEA Public Schools prepares students from underserved communities for success in college and citizenship.

20

All Grown Up

Same Knowledge, Different Path 24

A Way With Words

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

3


LETTER FROM THE CHIEF PROGRAM OFFICER

I can relate to a lot of our students at IDEA. I feel a huge sense of responsibility to lead the Academic Services Team to provide a robust academic program for our kids, and that’s why, with tremendous pride, I encourage you to read through this issue of IMPACT to get a glimpse into what makes IDEA Public Schools America’s Best Charter School Network: •

Academic success is a marathon. Think about the amount of hours a student spends—childhood through adolescence—preparing for college and a career. Now, think about starting that marathon miles behind the other racers. PLAYING CATCH-UP IS NOT EASY; especially if you have economic, racial, and cultural barriers and obstacles that prohibit you from being the best learner you can be. Unfortunately, this is the stark reality for many of our students at IDEA. This “catch up” that many of our students experience is known as the achievement gap. If it was up to me, I would make sure every school district offered a stellar Pre-K program because it helps eliminates the achievement gap at a very young age. Last year, network-wide, ninety-four percent of IDEA Pre-K scholars ended the year learning within the kindergarten curriculum. That means ninety-four percent of this year’s kindergartners at IDEA started the year ahead of the game in reading, writing, and math. This success in the early years puts children on a path for continued excellence in school. Our academy students continually score higher on STAAR tests than their peers statewide. This past year, our 4th grade readers scored eight percentage points higher, and our 4th grade mathematicians scored nine percentage points higher. In our College Preparatory programs, we are increasing access and improving network-wide performance on Advanced Placements tests. Twenty percent of the IDEA class of 2016 graduated as an AP Scholar, meaning they passed three or more AP exams and earned college credit. Which means we’ll have more students enter college without the need for remediation. The Academic Services Team has made it our number one priority to build a Pre-K through 12th grade curriculum that ensures every student will be college-ready by graduation, no excuses. We’ve built a program here at IDEA that places tremendous emphasis on motivating, guiding, and helping all students in all grade levels. Our teachers, co-teachers, interventionists, and campus leaders, along with every staff member on campuses and HQ, all take responsibility for helping every student reach his or her ultimate goal of graduating from college in 4 years. For the past eleven years, one hundred percent of our scholars have been accepted to college. As a first-generation college graduate,

4

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

Our strategic early education program provides the foundational tools students need to succeed in every year of school. Our Critical Student Intervention (CSI) program provides additional reading and math instructional time through the use of research-based intervention during Blended Learning or Elective time. The CSI program focuses on closing the gaps for our most struggling students in 3rd-7th grade by two grade levels in one school year. Our mission as a Special Programs Department at IDEA Public Schools is to provide high-quality support services that empower our students in special programs to be successful in IDEA’s mission of post-secondary success, and to become valuable members of society based on their individual strengths and abilities. Our blended learning spaces offer additional personalized reading and math instruction in innovative and interactive ways, through the use of state-of-the-art adaptive technology to drive student achievement and ownership of learning. Our Pre-Advanced Placement courses engage every middle school student with challenging and engaging learning experiences to prepare them with the knowledge and skills to succeed in AP-level high school coursework. Our ambitious Advanced Placement For All initiative ensures that every IDEA student is prepared to succeed in college by providing access to rigorous, college preparatory coursework beginning their freshman year in high school with one course and completing 11 AP courses by graduation.

While I am immensely proud of the academic programs IDEA has developed to help ensure all of our scholars receive a high-quality education, it’s these very students, teachers, leaders, and staff who help move the needle forward in our mission for College For All Children at IDEA Public Schools. We hope you enjoy the journey as you read through this issue. Sincerely,

DOLORES GONZALEZ Chief Program Officer

LEARN MORE ABOUT DOLORES’ APPROACH BY READING HER PROFILE IN EDUCATION WEEK. SHE WAS SELECTED AS ONE OF THE 2017 LEADERS TO LEARN FROM!


Every Step Counts On the Road to College: IDEA’S ACADEMIC MODEL

13-16 College: Enter college without the need for remediation and graduate within 4 years

9-12 AP Coursework: Rigorous coursework for 99%+ of students, Minimum of 11 AP/IB courses by graduation

6-8 Pre-AP Coursework: Blended literacy instruction, rigorous coursework, self-directed learning

3-5 Literacy & Math Focus: Authentic literature, writing every day, math

Pre-K-2 Foundational Focus: Learning to read, write and do math.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

5


IDEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Organizational Update Take a look at some of IDEA’s recent highlights!

A+

IDEA Outperforms State on New A-F Accountability Ratings

IDEA Students Thrive in IDEA’s Advanced Placement For All Initiative

IDEA Public Schools learned in January that its network of 51 schools serving nearly 30,000 students has earned three As and one B on the TEA’s new A-F Accountability Ratings System. This makes IDEA one of the highest-performing school districts in the state of Texas, as only 16 districts earned equally high ratings.

IDEA completed its third year of #APForALL. Twenty percent of IDEA’s Class of 2016 graduated as AP scholars, meaning they passed three or more AP exams. The class of 2017 is poised to break that record!

IDEA Public Schools Announces Royal Readers Program

IDEA’s Healthy Kids Here Paying Off for Students

IDEA reimagined its districtwide reading incentive program for students in all grade levels. The goal of Royal Readers is to foster further reading development, growth, and a lifelong love for reading among K-8 students at IDEA Public Schools. This year, so far, we have 1,605 Royal Readers throughout IDEA!

 IDEA’s Youngest Mathematicians Through interactive math technologies DreamBox and Reasoning Mind, 308 IDEA students have achieved Math Masters status, and 76 have become Genie Geniuses!

6

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

As part of IDEA’s #HealthyKidsHere initiative, we set a goal to decrease our students’ Body Mass Index (BMI) by 3% annually. Since October 2016, our scholars have already reduced their BMI by 2%!

 IDEA Sets District Record for Dell Scholars Nine IDEA seniors were named Dell Scholar. These nine individuals will receive the nationally renowned Dell Scholarship, which provides students with financial assistance, resources, and mentoring to ensure they have the support they need to obtain a bachelor’s degree.


IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

7


TA K E

A

J O U R N E Y

on the Road To And Through College

8

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

9


THE IMPORTANCE OF A COLLEGE DEGREE

Investing in education expands job opportunities, boosts America’s competitiveness, and supports the kind of income mobility that is fundamental to a growing economy. American companies and businesses require a highly-skilled workforce to meet the demands of today’s increasingly competitive global economy. If America is to strive for equality, close the opportunity gap, and become a leader in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, access to college for all is a necessity. From the first day students set foot on an IDEA Public Schools school - whether Academy or College Prep - we instill in them the expectation that they can and will go to college. This expectation is woven in the fabric of everything we say and do. From Pre-K to 12th grade, IDEA Public Schools is focused on sending 100% of our kids to college. And, we’re succeeding at this goal. What’s more, 99.6% of our seniors matriculated to college. And, in breaking news, 100% of the Class of 2017 has been accepted to college. IDEA is preparing students for college today and the jobs of tomorrow.

GERALD BOYD, founding Principal at IDEA Mays College Preparatory in San Antonio, Texas, knows firsthand the importance of obtaining a college education. Gerald grew up in Section 8 Housing in Houston, Texas. Despite a school system that struggled to achieve good results for its students, Gerald took his studies very seriously. His senior year of high school, he and nine classmates, all African American, received scholarships to attend the University of Texas at Austin due to good grades and strong applications. In their first semester at UT, seven of these ten students were placed on academic probation, including Gerald. The following semester, seven dropped out. Four years later, only two graduated. Gerald’s high school did not prepare him for the rigors of college. In fact, his high school, middle school, and elementary school were later shut down due to low performance. “When I think of my story,” Gerald said, “And the story of my nine peers who began college with bright eyes and high hopes, I’m shaken by the fact that we were the norm for underprivileged students. In fact, we fared a bit better than the national average— two out of ten, instead of one, graduated with a college degree.” Without a high school diploma, African American males have a 68% chance of going to jail. With a high school diploma, that percentage decreases to 28%, and with a college degree, it decreases to 3%. “Black, white, Hispanic—it doesn’t matter—a good education sets you up to have a better life and more opportunities,” Gerald said. “At IDEA Public Schools, we prepare all of our kids to attend, and graduate from, college. Not only that, we’re setting up our students, many of them from zip codes synonymous with low expectations, to be great citizens of this world.” The importance of graduating from college cannot be overlooked. Like Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’” Read on to learn how IDEA is fostering all students, one grade level at a time, on the road to college.

“BLACK, WHITE, HISPANIC — IT DOESN’T MATTER — A GOOD EDUCATION SETS YOU UP TO HAVE A BETTER LIFE AND MORE OPPORTUNITIES,” GERALD SAID. 10

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


THE IMPORTANCE OF A COLLEGE DEGREE

100% IDEA High School Graduates

Accepted Into College In 2017

11 YEARS IN A ROW 99.6% of our Seniors

Matriculated To College since 2007

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

11


STARTING STRONG IDEA’S PRE-K PROGRAM

It starts with learning your name. Then, how to listen in SLANT—Sit tall, Lean in, Ask questions, Nod, and Track the speaker. Before long, IDEA Pre-K students are on the fast-track to a solid foundation in reading, language, and mathematics. Four-year old Yaime Niño, a Pre-K student at IDEA Academy Alamo, has started strong in school. She has formed a close bond with her teacher, Mrs. Amaya, one of IDEA’s Master Teachers—a title given to educators at IDEA who have achieved tremendous results for the students they educate.

12

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


Yaime Niño and her fellow scholars are learning about numbers, letters, and how to be great students in their Pre-K program at IDEA Alamo.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

13


STARTING STRONG: IDEA’S PRE-K PROGRAM

“My favorite part about Pre-K at IDEA is witnessing students, like Yaime, grow from the beginning to the end of the year.” said Mrs. Amaya. “I love to see the sparkle in their eyes when they have worked very hard at something and finally get it.” Mrs. Amaya’s engaging teaching approach has helped Yaime enjoy her first year at school. “She can’t wait for kindergarten,” said Yaime’s mother, Mrs. Niño. “My daughter is having fun learning. We definitely made the right decision enrolling Yaime at IDEA for Pre-K, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.” Mrs. Niño has been incredibly pleased with the progression of her daughter within IDEA’s Pre-K program. First she was learning the basics: how to spell her name and how to sit properly and listen attentively, before moving on to letter and number sense. IDEA’s philosophy for its youngest learners: the road to college starts in Pre-K. Children excel in high school, college, and beyond if they’re fundamentally-sound readers, writers, mathematicians and thinkers. IDEA’s Pre-K program helps ensure that every student, regardless of their background, is prepared to thrive from Kindergarten onwards and never be left behind. “The Pre-K program is ensuring students are on-level or beyond by the time they enter kinder,” said Mrs. Amaya. “This helps to close the academic achievement gap, especially for our English Language Learners, who learn essential academic language, the foundation for critical skills like citing textual evidence in a story, in Pre-K. Being academically ready in the primary years will set students on the right track later in life.” Yaime Niño is proud to be on the path to college and has a very bright future ahead of her. Mrs. Niño, when asked about her daughter’s success in Pre-K, stressed the emphasis of literacy. Great readers make great learners. Numerous studies have shown that a child who excels in reading will excel in other core subjects in school. If students can’t read, they certainly can’t solve a math word problem or grasp science concepts. Yaime learns the building blocks of literacy through game-andactivity-oriented lessons with a small group of peers—no more than ten students per group. She then tests on each skill, and is then retaught until she reaches mastery. IDEA’s Pre-K scholars are a perfect example of the connection between literacy and learning. In fact, ninety-four percent of IDEA’s youngest learners finished the year beginning kindergarten work! Beyond small-group, fundamental instruction in reading, language, and math, Yaime also partakes in science lessons, field trips, and activities that promote the development of problem-solving and social skills. At IDEA, like her Pre-K peers, she attends school for a half-day. This allows teachers to devote plenty of personalized attention to each student, provides opportunities for re-teaching when needed, and also helps teachers build relationships with each individual student. “Building relationships with my students is very important to me and my fellow educators,” said Mrs. Amaya. “The kids know that I truly care about them and that I am here not only as their teacher but as someone they can trust.” The opportunity to foster trust and comfort with their teachers helps prepare Pre-K scholars, like Yaime and her class, for the relationships they will build in kindergarten with their teachers and peers. Graduating Pre-K students are ready to progress from their half-day program to a full day of instruction in kindergarten.

14

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

WHY IS PRE-K HALF DAY?

At the tender age of four, children are just learning how to be students - how to ask questions, absorb instruction, and cooperate with others. IDEA’s half-day Pre-K program is carefully designed to increase a child’s attention span gradually without getting overwhelmed. Little-by-little, the child develops the tools to engage with the material provided, apply the knowledge acquired, learn to work independently and finally become ready for the demands of a full day of instruction as a Kindergartener. “Yaime really enjoys the program,” said Mrs. Niño, Yaime’s mom. “She’s very happy with how her learning has progressed in the program, and it’s fun. It’s just right for her.” Mrs. Amaya agrees with the structure for IDEA’s youngest learners. “Half day is definitely the best method for a Pre-K program,” she said. “There is only so much a four-year-old can do before they become tired and lose focus. We want our students to enjoy being kids, while receiving the best education they can get that prepares them for a full-day of instruction the following year.”


STARTING STRONG: IDEA’S PRE-K PROGRAM

IDEA’S Pre-K program teaches the foundational skills every student needs - phonic awareness, reading comprehension and fluency, number identification, addition, subtraction and great character skills.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

15


Readers & Mathematicians

Emilio Campos, 2nd grader at IDEA Bluff Springs, is on his way to becoming a Word Master.

16

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


Our IDEA Academy scholars are exceling in their essential core classes. MAYA BENAVIDES, a second grader at IDEA San Benito, is a toplevel reader who has read 190,000 words as of March 2017. That’s the same as reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone almost three times! Half-way through the year, she has already mastered the second grade reading material. She is delighted not to have to wait in place with her adventures in reading - she has eagerly moved on to third grade materials. Maya is not the only one who is happy with her progress. So is Maya’s mother, Ms. Benavides. “I love IDEA because of the academics. Maya is very happy there with her teachers,” she says. For Maya, being at this point is certainly fun, but getting to this point has had its own rewards. When Maya first entered an IDEA classroom, her teachers fostered her reading growth in small group instruction of no more than ten students. Because of the small, leveled reading groups, Maya never had to feel anxious about becoming a great reader. While IDEA’s program challenges students, it’s also motivating to learn together with friendswho constantly support each other, Maya reflected. This is how she learned to read with the confidence she has today. Her favorite book series right now? Dork Diaries, the adventures of a middle schooler. Maya Benavides cannot be slowed down, nor does she have to be in IDEA’s K-2 program because a students’ level and their mastery of it is what’s most important. Just like Maya, first and second graders at IDEA San Benito Academy are a bubbly, playful bunch and like to have fun while they learn. This is why skills in language and math are taught in active, game-oriented settings. One way we do this at IDEA is by integrating cutting-edge education technologies into learning through our iLearning Hotspots and Accelerated Reader (AR) zones.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

17


TAKE IDEA BLUFF SPRINGS ACADEMY in Austin, Texas — hundreds of miles from Maya and her fast-track reading peers, but still building a solid foundation. Second grader and proud IDEA Bluff Springs Bat, Chase Hernandez has literally been racing his way through math. When Chase enters the iLearning Hotspot at school each day, he sits down to a computer and begins a virtual racing game to test his math skills. He pumps his arm when he completes a challenge because he can now move his race car to the next junction on the track and closer to the finish line. Chase has big goals to achieve, but he is one seriously-motivated race car driver. Although it is just midway through the year, he has already met his 2nd grade goals, and very soon, Ms. Lomelli, the iLearning Hotspot Facilitator at IDEA Bluff Springs, will allow him to drive on to 3rd grade materials. FIRST-GRADER JARED KOSSE is another budding mathematician. To become the math-whiz he wants to be, Jared works on Dreambox at home, and wastes no opportunity to use drop-in hours at the iLearning Hotspot Open Lab. Once Jared took charge of his own math learning, it motivated him even more to be the best student he could be. “I am confident, because he is so dedicated, that he will finish the second grade program as well,” says Ms. Lomelli. This self-monitoring progress in both reading and math has spread throughout IDEA Bluff Springs. Brains are quietly humming in the AR Zone. In this special space dedicated to promoting a culture of reading, bookshelves line the walls and you can hear a pin drop as students immerse themselves in books ranging from insects to magical worlds. WHILE STUDENTS BEGIN THEIR JOURNEY in the AR Zone as early as first grade, the space extends all the way to eighth. To sixth-grader Kayla Ruiz, the AR Zone is magical and peaceful, one of her favorite places on campus. “I look forward to my time in the AR Zone every day, spending time reading books and testing on them. Because of the AR Zone, I’ve grown to love reading. Plus, I have so many books to choose from,” she says. Kayla’s words put a smile on everyone’s face at IDEA Public Schools, because we know great readers make great learners. In fact, countless studies show that students who develop a love for reading are more successful in school, college and their careers. ALL THESE PROGRAMS TOGETHER are contributing to outstanding academic success. Every 1st grade student at IDEA Bluff Springs Academy, for instance, achieved ‘Word Master’ status in January 2017! To become a ‘Word Master’ as a first-grader at IDEA Public Schools, you need to read over 10,000 words. That’s quite a feat, usually met by dedicated readers towards the end of the year. Plus, when a student achieves Word Master status, they’re awarded a t-shirt and other fun prizes, so that they can be proud of their accomplishments. WHETHER IT IS IN READING OR MATHEMATICS, OUR STUDENTS WORK WITH PASSIONATE TEACHERS TO SHOOT FOR THE MOON. THEY WORK HARD WHILE HAVING FUN TO BUILD A FOUNDATION OF ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE FOR THEIR FUTURE.

18

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


 Ms. Hite guides her student, Barbara Ingram, as she becomes a better reader.

“I LOOK FORWARD TO MY TIME IN THE AR ZONE EVERY DAY, SPENDING TIME READING BOOKS AND TESTING ON THEM. BECAUSE OF THE AR ZONE, I’VE GROWN TO LOVE READING. PLUS, I HAVE SO MANY BOOKS TO CHOOSE FROM,” KAYLA SAYS.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

19


 Mrs. Benavides provides

encouragement to her student, Damien Serrano.

20

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


Same Knowledge, Different Paths: IDEA’s Special Education Program MARK SERRANO COULD NOT BE HAPPIER WITH THE PROGRESS THAT HIS SON DAMIEN HAS MADE IN HIS FIRST YEAR AT IDEA. “My son has been in public school since he was a five year old. In his previous school, we saw slight improvements, but nothing major. Once we transitioned to IDEA, he blossomed. His education wasn’t stable enough until we got him to IDEA. And then, he blossomed,” said Damien’s father, Mike Serrano. Damien is a 4th grader at IDEA South Flores Academy, and he has autism. Mr. Serrano attributes Damien’s progress to the special education program and team, and to his Life Skills teacher Mrs. Gloria Benavides. “She is amazing, just amazing. There’s no other way to put it. It is the attention that she gives him and the way she is with him. I mean she loves him like he is her child….He has progressed just dramatically.” To this end, IDEA’s special education program provides students with individualized support through targeted, research-based resources so that they can complete the same work and curriculum as their peers. The knowledge imparted is no different. We select and develop excellent teachers who provide additional support through interventions, modifications and accommodations, to enable our special needs students to succeed at school, and on the path to college and beyond. Mrs. Benavides’ students, including Damien, have a wide range of challenges and abilities. However, they have all made significant progress this year. Although five of the six students entered the classroom not knowing how to read, they are now all reading with high fluency. “The reading fluency has skyrocketed for these kids, at a level where they have mastered two grade levels from where they started,” says Mrs. Benavides.

ACADEMY STUDENT Jesus Aldecoa works with Mrs. Benavides.

She points to a few key factors for these gains. To her, the fundamental difference from her days as a student teacher at a traditional school is a culture of high expectations coupled with specific classroom-management principles. “I strongly believe if you hold high expectations for students, and you are very consistent, and you have a very structured classroom in a unit, everything just comes together,” she says. At IDEA, we expect our students with special needs to abide by the 100% Every Day, No Excuses culture of achievement. In her small group, Mrs. Benavides focuses on skills like reading fluency, where she attributes her students’ gains to the instructional techniques used in the special education program - for example, the emphasis on sight words, and the methodical and repetitive form of reading instruction. Taken as a whole, these techniques are working well for Damien. He is now a commended, Level 3 reader, and his parents are seeing marked progress in math and creative areas, as well, in less than a year. They can’t wait to see what else he will accomplish. Reporting on her group of students including Damien, Mrs. Benavides proudly notes that most of them have met their annual IEP goals as of January, just half-way through the year! At an early age these students are being put on a path to success just like their peers. Despite any obstacles, it is high expectations all the way.

KINDERGARTENER NOAH GONZALEZ is happy to be a part of the close-knit group Mrs. Benavidez and her special education team has fostered.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

21


22

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


G R A D E S

3rd-5th In upper academy grades three through five, IDEA students become captains of the classroom.

They learn to take charge of their own learning—engage in a wide array of experiments, group projects, book reports, academic challenges, essay portfolios, and more. Mastery of content is done the right way: practice, practice, practice. Our scholars are guided by expert educators and interventionists who provide support when needed, and a challenge to go the extra mile. In grades three through five, IDEA students take core classes of reading, writing, mathematics, and science, along with the continuation of daily specials of a cutting-edge Physical Education Program and individualized learning from the Accelerated Reader Zone and the iLearning Hotspot. The next two stories are a snapshot of what our students experience in the upper academy levels—specifically in their new core classes of writing in fourth grade, and science in fifth. With a proper foundation, students are ready to rise to even higher levels in their learning as they progress to College Prep and beyond!

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

23


A Way With Words

Find your voice. Not the one you speak with. The one you write with. 24

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

In August of 2016, a new group of IDEA 4th graders entered Mr. Gomez’s writing classroom, talented talkers, abuzz with excitement, plenty of funny, curious, and clever things to say. Letting your personality shine on the written page… well, that’s another story. While students learn the mechanical foundation of writing in the lower grades, it is in 4th grade when IDEA scholars get the opportunity to write extended pieces of non-fiction and personal narrative pieces for a long duration of class time. And while 4th graders have much to say, they often feel stuck at first, pencil-in-hand and the blank page before them, asking the classic question, “What do I write about?” One day, Mr. Gomez’s students stared at a practice writing prompt on the board. It read: “Write an expository essay about your favorite activity, and why it makes you happy.”


Some students blasted off right away, writing a mile a minute about shooting hoops in the driveway or walking their puppy. For those students, Mr. Gomez stressed, it’s all about pre-writing, the outline, and making sure you organize your essay so that it flows and makes sense to the reader. For others, the ones who needed some more support in finding that spark of inspiration, Mr. Gomez knows it’s all about experience. “I recognize that my students may not have a wide range of life experiences,” Mr. Gomez said, and so for this writing prompt, he brought fishing rods, live worms, and even some fish from the local grocery store into the classroom so that his students could actually hold a fishing rod, reel it in, pick up a worm, place it on the hook, touch a fish and sense what it feels and smells like. For a unit on camping, the class set up tents, made s’mores and told ghost stories. These sensory experiences broadened his students’ horizons and made their essays come to life. When students begin to inject their own poetic, clever, and often hilarious descriptions into their writing, they want to share their creations with the world. Well, to start, maybe their classmates, their teacher, and their family. Mr. Gomez admits, while many students jump for joy at the chance to take a seat in the “Author’s Chair,” some are hesitant. “Writing is so personal that so many students don’t want to share,” Mr. Gomez explained. “They don’t know what the reaction is going to be: Is it going to be positive, is it going to be negative?” Over time, however, this sharing builds a sense of togetherness and family, and establishes a safe space. “Once that has been established, the sky’s the limit,” says Mr. Gomez. In this safe space, his budding writers share ideas, work together, read each other’s pieces and portfolios and offer both positive feedback and room for growth on sticky notes. They play grammar games, they master the mechanics, and they incorporate them into their stories and essays so that each student’s collection of work is not only heartfelt, funny, sad, and exhilarating, but also grammatically sound. By the time Mr. Gomez’s 4th graders leave his classroom, he knows they’ll be ready for what’s to come next year, and in high school, and beyond—research papers, college application essays, resumes—because they’ve found their voice. Not their speaking voice, that one they’d already found, but the one that makes each and every sentence they jot down on a piece of paper their very own creation.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

25


Amber Lopez-Vaca ponders scientific principles she’s learning in her fifth-grade science class.

26

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


SCIENCE RULES

 Ms. Guevara’s science class is activity-orientated so that her students can learn from experience.

Science Rules

Fifth-grader Amber Lopez Vaca is a scientist-in-the-making at IDEA Quest Academy.

Her favorite science topics? That’s a tough choice. “Probably the lunar cycle,” she said. “Or precipitation, condensation, and evaporation.” This year, Amber has conducted many interesting experiments in her science class. Her most memorable days in class were when they studied models of volcanic eruptions… well, that or when the class tested the principle of solubility by dissolving sugar cubes in water. “They wanted to show us that it dissolves, but doesn’t disappear. It is still there, but in little tiny pieces,” she reflected. It’s these sort of physical memories and learning methods that foster true mastery for Amber. “I learn by doing,” she said. IDEA’s science curriculum is designed to teach students a variety of critical thinking skills through experiments and hands-on activities. Essential skills will stick with students through experience, so they can use them throughout their secondary and post-secondary studies. Students are introduced to scientific principles early in Academy. Fifth grade is when it all comes together. In fact, Ms. Guevara, 5th grade teacher at IDEA Quest Academy, often utilizes their outdoor garden as a learning ground for her scholars. While her students may have learned about plant life in the early grades, they’re now able to further apply that concept through practice. Students like Amber build their knowledge all the way through College Prep to master a variety of science disciplines, including life science, earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics. “Mathematics and science are very aligned,” Amber noted. “I’m always doing math problems in science, and even some of my reading strategies.” Amber and her peers perform laboratory experiments, read, write, and solve problems. Upon graduation, students not only have a strong grasp of basic science knowledge, but also a core set of investigative and analytical skills they can apply in college and beyond, no matter their major. Amber is confident she’ll find success in her transition to 6th grade, just around the corner. “I’ve been an academy student here for 5 years and I’m ready for the challenge of College Prep,” she states. This kind of confidence will sustain her as she plans for her future. Amber wants to be a lawyer when she grows up, and aims to attend Harvard when she graduates from IDEA. This interconnectivity of subjects and classes will foster Amber to be ready for college, career, and a bright future.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

27


SIXTH GRADE:

The Transition “Sixth grade is a very important year for us,” Ka’Mya Clark, sixth grader at IDEA Carver College Preparatory, noted. “It’s when we transition from Academy to College Preparatory and when we take on even further responsibility as a student.”

Some of the key differences between Academy and College Preparatory, as noted by Ka’Mya and her teacher, Ms. Jodi Garza, are an increase in course load and homework, an expansion in class size to reflect the larger class sizes in college, the expectation that students become advocates for questions and concerns about their own grades and the introduction of college readiness skills such as notetaking with the Cornell note-taking system, a method that combines diligent note-taking with constant questioning of key concepts.

28

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


 Ka’Mya Clark is loving the added responsibility as a College Preparatory student at IDEA Carver.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

29


SIXTH GRADE: THE TRANSITION

“Our sixth graders are learning the skills that will help them be successful in middle school, high school and also in college,” said Ms. Garza. Lincy Leonard, sixth-grader at IDEA Carver recognizes the challenges of transitioning from Academy to College Preparatory in sixth grade. For example, there are more expectations on her and her classmates, as teachers now stress the importance of students taking charge of their own learning. Lincy is keen to prove her smarts and achieve ambitious goals. She also knows why these aspirations are important: “It will get me to a better college, get me a better job,” she says. Although she is just in 6th grade, Lincy already has some ideas about her future. She thinks she’d like to be a veterinarian or an engineer, and both UT San Antonio and Boston University are in her sights. The most significant academic change for Lincy and her fellow sixth graders is that they begin gearing up for the AP for All program that starts in ninth grade. In preparation, all sixth graders take Pre-AP classes in every core subject - reading, mathematics, writing, science and humanities. These rigorous courses advance students’ academic growth and readiness for college through challenging assignments, diverse course content, and college-level expectations. Lincy’s favorite aspect of sixth grade? The deep dive into humanities. Lincy and her sixth grade peers are reading primary documents, conducting research, and writing research essays as they study history, geography and culture around the world. “Learning about continents and cultures has been really exciting,” Lincy noted. It has even stirred a desire to travel when she gets older! Beyond their core classes, sixth graders continue to hone their reading and math skills in the Accelerated Reader Zone and the iLearning Hotspot, and partake in a new and improved Physical Education class, which implements cutting-edge technologies from Adidas®. Students wear wrist heartrate monitors that help track their physical activity during PE. IDEA’s physical education curriculum is centered around students improving their health and wellness. (Check out our last issue of IMPACT for an extended look at IDEA’s new PE program). Through all of this, IDEA sixth graders like Lincy are motivated to succeed by her teachers who stress student responsibility. “In College Prep, it’s harder, but it’s worth 30

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

it,” Lincy said. “The teachers challenge me a lot, but this will get me to a better place.” Another new aspect of sixth grade, Lincy noted, is that she and her fellow classmates are exposed to the ins-and-outs of applying to college: financial aid, scholarships, and writing statements-of-purpose are just a few of the topics covered. Every student also receives support from college counselors who monitor student progress, communicate with parents, and assist with applications for scholarships and grants that provide financial aid for our scholars. Sixth graders at IDEA Carver are also introduced to a robust assortment of extracurricular activities so that they can be well-rounded. IDEA athletic programs include basketball, baseball, cross-country, cheerleading, flag football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, and track and field, among others. “I’m a proud member of IDEA Carver’s cheerleading squad,” said Lincy. As a cheerleader, she has made friends and motivated her fellow scholars during pep rallies and sporting events. In addition to a thriving sports scene, sixth graders at IDEA Carver can also get involved in a variety of clubs, which span many student interests - art, chess, cooking, dance, community service, farm and garden, languages, music, photography, politics, yearbooks, and much more. Many of these clubs have the advantage of realworld applicability. For example, IDEA Carver has a Model UN club, where students prepare to represent country delegations in a UN-style policy debate. There is also a Smile Club where members work on creating a positive and welcoming environment at their school. The goal of IDEA’s college-readiness efforts is for every student to enter their first year of college well-prepared to succeed in college-level courses. In anticipation, from sixth grade onwards, students in College Preparatory work on becoming well-rounded individuals, independent thinkers, resourceful learners who take initiative, and culturally-aware, citizens of the community. They’re ready to take on a rigorous Pre-AP course load, while also participating in extracurricular activities as they become resilient, resourceful collegeready scholars with character and integrity. College field lessons are also an important aspect of student life at the college preparatory at IDEA. While students partake in educational field trips as early as kindergarten, it’s in sixth grade that teachers and staff further emphasizes

college field lessons--taking grade levels to universities across the country so they can experience campus-life for themselves. College field lessons are just one of many ways IDEA strives to create an environment that teaches all students to dream big and understand that they can achieve their dream of attending college. Lincy Leonard can’t wait to make the world a better place when she graduates from college and becomes an engineer or a veterinarian. She knows IDEA Carver College Preparatory will prepare her for the academic rigors at a university as well as the passions she’ll lead outside of the classroom. Sixth grade is a pivotal year for Lincy, Ka’Mya, and all IDEA scholars on the road to and through college.

“Learning about continents and cultures has been really exciting,” Lincy noted. It has even stirred a desire to travel when she gets older! SAMPLE 6TH GRADE SCHEDULE 7:30-8:00 Homeroom and breakfast 8:00-9:30 English 9:30-11:00 Math 11:00-11:30 Lunch 11:30-12:00 Recess 12:00-12:40 Catalyst (intervention) 12:40-2:15 Science or Social studies (semester course) 2:15-3:45 PE, AR, HotSpot


Lincy Leonard has her eyes on a college degree and a bright future.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

31


32

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

33


A Reading Growth Spurt: Critical Student Intervention at IDEA It’s not often that you do two years-worth of growing in five months. But that is just what Ceclila Parra and Fabien Arredondo, students at IDEA Rundberg College Preparatory did this year. Not in height, or weight, but in their reading. Cecilia and Fabian entered their sixth grade classrooms in 2016, only to find that they were two grade levels behind in reading. They were disappointed to say the least. But teachers like Ms. Patricia South on the Critical Student Intervention (CSI) team at IDEA Rundberg were there, ready to help them get back on track - not merely to catch up, but to exit the intervention program and get on to the business of excelling.  Dasia Mitchell, IDEA Rundberg College Preparatory student, is another scholar who has made great strides in her reading abilities with the support from her CSI teachers!

34

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

For Cecilia, a motivated reader, the challenge was getting her reading fluency nailed down. The CSI team helped her through extra support in 1-on-1 reading instruction. Cecilia, for her part, had to bring focus to the table. “I had to concentrate hard. Every time Ms. South asked a question, I would always raise my hand. Sometimes I was so excited that I would shout out the answer,” she says. For Fabien, what worked was the attention that comes from being in a small group. “He was a student who slipped through the cracks at his past school. He is very bright, but had probably managed to fly just under everybody’s radar. Just by being in a small group, having that individual attention, and having someone hold him accountable every day, he was able to make significant progress very quickly,” says Ms. South. Fabian didn’t just stop there though. He took his determination home with him, reading every day after school. Fabian has now read 500,000 words!. These word counts matter because they are a direct indicator of a child’s reading ability and growth. Countless studies have revealed that proficient readers have enormously higher chances to succeed in college and in a career, and have a much higher chance of securing a good job and income. IDEA’s reading reward programs that are based on word counts emphasize literacy outside the classroom. Kids push themselves to become Word Masters, and teachers see a direct correlation between the students who take the rewards seriously and those who perform well. Five months into sixth grade, Cecilia and Fabian had achieved their goal of becoming on-level readers. They are proud of their growth this year and focused on getting ahead. Cecilia is currently reading the Percy Jackson series and loves learning about Greek mythology while immersed in Percy’s half-blood adventures. Fabian’s current favorite book is The Dork Diaries. When they finish reading their assigned books, an even bigger party awaits them. Cecilia and Fabian both know that beyond games and celebrations, what they are doing in 6th grade is going to help them in every aspect of their lives. By working hard on their reading this


 Fabien and Cecilia are excelling in 6th grade, thanks to determination and the support from their interventionists.

year, they have improved their literacy, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and also their speaking and listening skills, all critical for their success in high school and college. Cecilia and Fabien have already made a tremendous leap forward in just a short time, thanks to the support and help of their critical student intervention teachers. At this pace, it is exciting to think about how much more they can grow and achieve in the months and years ahead.

The increase in academic vocabulary through rewards, the semantics and structure of words, being able to add prefixes and suffixes and understand how there are meaningful word parts that change the meanings of words, gives our students an approach to academic vocabulary that they might not have developed otherwise.”

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

35


 Allyson Even, Advanced Placement Humanities Teacher at IDEA Brownsville College Preparatory, enjoys fostering students into life-long learners who take initiative. 36

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


Seeing the World Differently Through Advanced Placement When Fatima Leal first walked into her 9th grade AP class in Human Geography, she had no idea what to expect. The topic, Human Geography, felt new and intimidating. But what she did know was that she felt an instant connection to Ms. Even, the teacher who promised to help Fatima and her classmates “see the world differently” through this college-level, AP course.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

37


SEEING THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY THROUGH ADVANCED PLACEMENT

MS. EVEN WAS NEW TO BROWNSVILLE, having moved from Rhode Island just a year before. Fatima, too, was a relatively recent transplant, having moved to Brownsville from Matamoros, Mexico, when she was in 5th grade. Fatima’s curiosity and sensibilities were awakened by what Ms. Even was teaching. “Every week we read and discussed articles from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, even chapters from A People’s History of the United States,” recalls Fatima. “She constantly brought our viewpoints, our opinions, our lives to the forefront of the lessons. Every day I grew more confident in my ability to read, to write, to express myself on issues of politics, race, and societies across the world…I felt more inspired in Ms. Even’s class as the year went on. I was beginning to see the world differently. I wanted to be an agent of change.” This passion fueled Fatima throughout the year, who had her sights on passing her first AP course and receiving college credit. That often meant study sessions with friends instead of a trip to the movies, calling Ms. Even after hours to get her opinion on a research topic, and more. “AP courses can be very rigorous,” Fatima admitted. “But they are definitely worth it.” Fatima’s interest in Human Geography and her drive to learn more, guided by Ms. Even, resulted in her passing her Human GeographyAP test—receiving college credit! She was one of 44 students at IDEA Brownsville to pass the AP Human Geography test.In fact, Ms. Even set a district record for having the most number of students pass the Human Geography AP test! Offering students the opportunity to achieve college credit as early as 9th grade is something that makes IDEA unique. Our AP for ALL program was designed to specifically support students like Fatima by introducing them to college-level thinking and work early to better prepare them for life after IDEA. With this experience in hand, Fatima looks forward to her future in high school and at college with confidence and determination. “Not only do I write better, read better, understand the word and all of its complexities better, but now I have college credits under my belt. I look forward to taking and passing more Advanced Placement classes in my time at IDEA and starting my college career being able to take classes immediately toward my major,” she says.

“I felt more inspired in Ms. Even’s class as the year went on. I was beginning to see the world differently. I wanted to be an agent of change.”

38

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


 IDEA College Preparatory Brownsville student, Fatima Leal, and her AP Human Geography Teacher, Allyson Even, formed a close bond over the course of the year.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

39


SEEING THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY THROUGH ADVANCED PLACEMENT

THE ADVANTAGES OF AP

AP COURSES AT IDEA ensure that every student enters their year of college prepared to tackle the rigors of their first college courses and can fully participate in college-level academics and discussions. AP OFFERS OTHER BENEFITS AS WELL: • They give students the opportunity to earn college credit during high school. • Earning credits can save students and their families thousands of dollars in college tuition, fees and textbook costs and help more students and families afford the high price of college. • AP credits also allow students to place out of introductory classes in college. With the additional time on their schedules, students can graduate earlier, earn a minor or second major, or pursue other topics of interest. Furthermore, AP coursework helps students stand out in college applications by giving admissions officers a consistent measure of course rigor across high schools, districts, states, and countries. When college admissions officers see “AP” on a student’s transcripts, they know that the student has mastered the most rigorous courses their high school has to offer, and that the student has what it takes to succeed in an undergraduate environment. Currently more than 90 percent of colleges and universities across the country offer college credit, advanced placement, or both, for qualifying AP exam scores. In the increasingly competitive admissions process, taking AP courses is a good way for students to differentiate themselves from other applicants to these colleges.

INCREASED PERFORMANCE AND ACCESS

DID YOU KNOW that as IDEA has expanded AP access to more students, AP passing rates have increased? In 2015, the percentage of IDEA students who passed AP exams with a score of 3 or higher increased by 145 percent, and the total number of AP Scholars at IDEA increased by 73 percent.

 

COLLEGE SAVINGS FROM ADVANCED PLACEMENT According to the College Board, research shows that students can save as much as $19,000 by taking Advanced Placement courses in high school!

INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE AT IDEA IDEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS provides the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme on a number of its campuses so IDEA students can have another option to gain rigorous, college-level experience and college credit. Students attending authorized IB schools have the opportunity to graduate from high school with an IB diploma and earn 24 or more college hours. IB programmes are known for challenging students to excel in their studies, and encourage both personal and academic achievement. They go above and beyond traditional curricula to foster curious, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to excel. Several IDEA campuses, including IDEA Donna, IDEA Frontier,

40

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

IDEA Brownsville, IDEA McAllen, and IDEA South Flores, have received, or are in the process of receiving, authorization from the International Baccalaureate organization to offer Diploma Programmes for students in grades 10-12.


IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

41


College Readiness

Yvette Guzman first met Tanya Reyna when she was a sixth grader at IDEA Quest College Preparatory.

42

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


She watched her develop from a motivated middle-schooler to an Advanced Placement Scholar, and now a senior ready to embark on the next step of her journey - an undergraduate career at Columbia University. WALKING THE HALLS OF IDEA QUEST, working with students of all ages on the road to college, Yvette thinks of the the process, the long nights, the hard work, and celebrations that got Tanya to this point. The road to college may be challenging, but it is not one that IDEA students travel alone. Our college counselors accompany students every step of the way, helping pave and streamline the path as they go, and even helping them get settled at their college campuses. “I just love working with kids and seeing their journey, being part of that journey and being able to own some of it,” says Director of College Counseling at IDEA Quest College Preparatory, Yvette Guzman. At IDEA Public Schools, we aim to prepare our students for the jobs of the 21st century, 65% of which will require college degrees*. A key driver for achieving this vision is our College Success Team. Every IDEA College Preparatory campus is staffed with a Director of College Counseling and two College Counselors who work intensively with students, providing the kind of individualized support needed for each student to be accepted to and matriculate into a college of his or her choice. Being an IDEA College Counselor calls for a deep commitment to the vision of College For All, and, among many other qualities, resourcefulness and resilience to guide a diverse array of students through unique challenges, choices, successes and sometimes, setbacks as well. Yvette’s work with students starts as early as 6th grade, with monthly meetings to illuminate all aspects of college admissions. This approach has a focusing effect, and for new students, it is a refreshing shift. “I was in a traditional public school, until 5th grade, and they never mentioned college or anything like that,” says IDEA Quest senior, Devanhi Abrego. When I got to IDEA, the first thing I heard was ‘college, university’… They really focus on what happens after high school. I had never had that experience.” Middle school coaching is just the beginning of Yvette’s responsibilities. Starting in a student’s freshman year, Yvette and her team initiate individual student counseling and quarterly grade checks to ensure that everyone is on track to graduate. From coordinating the curriculum for the daily Road To and Through College (RTTC) class; to designing field lessons (campus visits) that reflect the broad diversity of student needs; to scheduling test-prep and test-taking so that students have completed all ACT, PSAT and SAT testing by their senior year, Yvette and her team have their work cut out for them. There’s the paperwork, of course, which students are expected to tackle throughout high school. With Yvette’s guidance, her students are drafting their resumes early in their freshman year, working on their essays and personal statements by second semester of junior year, and also compiling their applications to Summer Away programs to get an invaluable, on-site feel for different types of colleges. The counseling team also coordinates teacher recommendation letters in a way that gives high school teachers at every grade level an opportunity to contribute to IDEA Quest’s matriculation goals. High school is a busy time for all, to say the least! “We try to ingrain in the kids that their first three years are the most pivotal. By the time they get to senior year, really all they have to do is put their * Recovery, Georgetown University https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Recovery2020.ES_.Web_.pdf

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

43


application packages together,” says Yvette. When this multi-year effort finally begins to bear fruit and those college admission and scholarship notifications start rolling in, it is an emotional roller coaster for all involved. On any given day during this season, Yvette might find herself turning from rejoicing with one student who has received a coveted admission and scholarship and doing a victory parade through the school, to reassuring another student who is anxiously awaiting good news; from comforting student fears and apprehension about the application process, to developing robust college application strategies for a student to ensure they select colleges that are a good fit.

Yvette is elated for her star students who will matriculate into Tier 1 universities, with both admission and scholarship in hand. But she is just as happy, if not more so, for the student who struggled and persisted through academic challenges, and succeeded in admission to a college of choice. “These kids who would have been forgotten about somewhere else, would have fallen between the cracks somewhere else, who have the drive, in whom we’ve instilled our core values, to whom a 100 percent every day really means a 100 percent every day,” these are the students that are just as responsible for keeping Yvette going. And the students know that Yvette is there for them through thick and thin. Says Tanya Reyna, recently admitted on Early Decision to Columbia University, “She’s helped me so much. I don’t know what I would have done without her. She taught me to dream big, and that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to.” “She was always there,” adds Devanhi Abrego, who struggled with English, but persisted in improving her scores and was just accepted to UT-RGV where she will study Business in the Fall. It’s a wild ride, but it is worth it. “I wouldn’t trade this role for any other,” says Yvette emphatically, reflecting on her work.

44

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

ABOUT THE CLASS OF 2017:

674

Total graduating seniors

100%

College acceptance 11th consecutive year

3261

Combined number of college acceptances

548

Acceptances to selective and HIGHLY selective colleges

9

Acceptances to Ivy League schools

$22,176,979

Total amount of funding acquired through scholarships and grants


IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

45


College Partnerships At IDEA Public Schools, our team and family extends beyond our students, families and employees. WE ALSO STRIVE TO FOSTER quality relationships with institutions of higher education across the nation to help our scholars learn about, visit, and ultimately matriculate and graduate from the country’s top colleges and universities. Identifying colleges and universities that align with IDEA’s own goals of matriculating and graduating 100 percent of its students with a degree from a four-year college, is a very strategic process. The College Partnerships team considers a number of factors: does the college identify as one that changes lives? Is it a Fair Test school-a school that places a higher emphasis on a holistic review of students and a lower emphasis on SAT and ACT scores? Does it have a rate and persistence of graduation that matches IDEA’s aspirations for its students? Does it offer unique programming that would allow IDEA students to benefit, 46

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

thrive and feel welcome on campus? Does it support significant percentages of students who are PELL grant recipients and/or firstgeneration college students? Colleges and universities that fit such criteria become prime prospects for an IDEA relationship. IDEA formalizes the relationship with a partnership agreement. Each agreement legally spells out expectations and obligations on both sides and is different depending upon the specific partner institution. “That is something unique to partnerships at IDEA Public Schools, something that we are really excited about on our college success team,” says Burris. Each agreement opens up new doors. It may allow IDEA students to take advantage of special programming that the college offers. It may allow both IDEA and the college to identify reasons why students may not be matriculating. If finances emerge

as one of the constraining factors, then IDEA may request a number of admission spots where there would be no gaps in funding. Some college partners already commit to meeting the full financial need of students. In these cases, IDEA seeks to establish a point person on campus for ongoing communication, data sharing as the laws allow, and special recruitment efforts to ensure that IDEA students and their families can hear about the advantages of that particular college or university. To date, IDEA has formalized relationships with six great institutions across the country and has plans to sign with 5 additional colleges this year.


Let’s Take A Closer Look At IDEA’s College Partners:

AUSTIN COLLEGE | SHERMAN, TEXAS • Identified on the Barron’s Scale of selectivity as Highly Competitive. 4-year private school with a 74 percent graduation rate and an 86 percent freshman-to-sophomore retention rate. Its most popular programs are Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services, Psychology, Social Sciences, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and Visual and Performing Arts.

JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY | BALTIMORE, MARYLAND • Identified on the Barron’s scale of selectivity as Most Competitive. • Identified as Best Colleges for First Generation College Students • Graduation rate is 93% and its freshman-to-sophomore retention rate is 97% • Most Popular Programs: Health Professions and Related Programs, Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services.

BELOIT COLLEGE | BELOIT, WISCONSIN • Identified on the Barron’s scale of selectivity as Highly Competitive. • Identifies as a fair test school and boasts a 92 percent freshmanto-sophomore retention rate, as well as a 79 percent graduation rate. • Most popular programs: Social Sciences, Psychology, Physical Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts, and Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics.

ST. MARY’S UNIVERSITY | SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS • Identified on the Barron’s Scale of selectivity as Competitive. • Graduation rate is 59 percent and its freshman-to-sophomore retention rate is 77 percent. • Most popular programs are Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support Services, Social Sciences, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Services.

COLBY COLLEGE | WATERVILLE, MAINE • Identified on the Barron’s scale of selectivity as Most Competitive. • Pledges to meet 100 percent of the identified financial needs for its 1,820 undergraduate students, and has a graduation rate of 91 percent (nearly 50 percentage points above the national average). • Most Popular Programs: Social Sciences, Multi/ Interdisciplinary Studies, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, English Language and Literature/Letters

THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-RIO GRANDE VALLEY (UTRGV) | EDINBURG, TEXAS • Most popular programs: Health Professions and Related Programs, Business Management, Marketing and Related Support Services, Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting and Related Protective Services Biological, and Biomedical Sciences.

IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

47


Alumni of Excellence

We caught up with Carlos Grosso and Nidia Cavazos, 2 IDEA Alumni thriving at the university of their choice for some reflections and advice on the road to college.

CAR LO S G ROS SO COLLEGE: UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME EXPECTED GRADUATION: MAY 2019 MAJOR: INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IDEA MISSION ALUMNI, CLASS OF 2015

WHY IS COLLEGE IMPORTANT TO YOU? My college experience is an opportunity to develop connections and skills that will allow me to succeed in the post-college world. Through my classes, I will develop practical skills necessary to succeed in my field of interest. Through various opportunities such as career fairs, or simply through interactions and work with fellow students, I will have a network to reach out to that can help me advance in the professional world. It is especially important that I develop these connections now while it is easiest, where there are many resources and people concentrated in one place. WHAT IMPACT DID ATTENDING IDEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS HAVE ON YOU? Attending an IDEA school has been a valuable experience. Through my time at IDEA, I was part of something greater, a group of students all striving for a common goal: to close the achievement gap and attend college. I was surrounded by teachers who constantly encouraged us all to fulfill this commitment. I had easily accessible college counselors that made every possible effort to guide my classmates and I through the process of applying to colleges and of discerning our choice afterwards. IDEA provided me with an environment in which academic success was the focus, and where the norm was to do everything possible so that students may be prepared to attend college.

48

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OUR COLLEGE BOUND IDEA STUDENTS? Develop a strong sense of work ethic early on. It will serve you well in college. In college, you will ultimately be responsible for yourself - nobody else will do it for you. It is up to you to know your deadlines and commitments, to manage your time, energy, and resources, and to keep yourself in good standing academically and otherwise. With all the extra responsibilities you undertake in the transition from high school to college (especially if you move away from home), you will often find that time will be the number one thing you want more of. So, in college, complete your assignments ahead of deadlines, to always give yourself some amount of spare time later. And when you do have spare time, make the most of it and cherish it - time is one of the few things that cannot be recovered.

Through my time at IDEA, I was part of something greater, a group of students all striving for a common goal: to close the achievement gap and attend college.


N I DI A CAVA ZO S COLLEGE: UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN EXPECTED GRADUATION: MAY 2018 MAJOR: JOURNALISM IDEA DONNA ALUMNA, CLASS OF 2014

WHY IS COLLEGE IMPORTANT TO YOU? I’ve always dreamed of being a news reporter and traveling the world to gather stories. College is important to me because it gives me a shot at this dream by providing opportunities and tools necessary to succeed in the highly competitive reporting realm. Courses provide a challenge that help me discover and develop my strengths, and teaches me how to apply them in my desired field. I have daily access to professors who serve as mentors and guide me through the reporter preparation process and networking art. These are opportunities I would not have gained access to had I not been in college. College allows me to be someone who can provide stories that will inform a uniformed community and be prepared to serve my community. WHAT IMPACT DID ATTENDING IDEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS HAVE ON YOU? Had IDEA not been tuition-free, I probably would have not been able to access a high-quality education in the Rio Grande Valley given the high cost of private schools in South Texas. My education was in this institution’s hands, and it was the kind of teachers I had access to that created an impact. They helped me believe in success and taught me how to work for it. My teachers were the kind who would tell me to dig deeper when analyzing a novel, or the kind who would not tell me how to solve a math problem, but challenged me to figure it out on my own. When it was time to go to college, all I could dream of was leaving the valley for UT Austin. I didn’t know how to get there especially with financial barriers, but my teachers went above their job duties to serve as my mentors. They constantly reminded me of the potential they saw and were always ready to write letters of recommendation or just sit down and walk me through options. IDEA gave me access to teachers who encouraged me to never settle, go for the challenge, and go for the best. I was taught how to work hard for what I wanted. I reflect on how much attention my teachers gave me and I immediately know I am blessed. I had guidance 100 percent of the time and I still count on their support in college as they check up on me. IDEA makes me realize how fortunate I am, but I also realize how opportunities are often scarce in underserved communities. Giving back is a moral IDEA helped me develop, and I do it whenever I have the opportunity, like serving as a career mentor to college freshman, or starting a Hispanic organization for journalists where we can share success tips.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OUR COLLEGE BOUND IDEA STUDENTS? When choosing a major, I would advise students to rely on their interests and instincts. When choosing my career, I was led by my strong interest in the media world. Advice from my parents and closest advisors insisted I should pursue a different and more stable career, one that could guarantee high income. I considered this option, but I knew I did not enjoy math or science and I absolutely did not look forward to calculus classes. Writing had always been my strength in school, and it seemed awfully wrong to not pursue what I love. I’ve come to know that when you are truly interested in something, it will be easier to go above and beyond and passion will begin to direct your actions.

Had IDEA not been tuition-free, I probably would have not been able to access a high-quality education in the Rio Grande Valley given the high cost of private schools in South Texas. IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

49


ALL GROWN UP

“I love, love, love teaching,” says Evelyn Saldivar, an inspired and inspiring 6th and 7th grade sci­ence teacher at IDEA Brownsville. BUT IT WAS NOT LONG AGO that Evelyn herself was an IDEA student, walking the corridors of IDEA Frontier College Preparatory. Evelyn’s path to becoming a motivated educator was not an easy one. Until 8th grade, she struggled as a C student at a traditional public school. She had no connection with her teachers, and hung out with troublemakers. As the oldest of four and with parents who had to work long hours, Evelyn was sister, mother, maid, cook, driver and tutor to her siblings at home. Graduating high school was not on her horizon, let alone contemplating college or career. “I always thought ‘Evelyn you’re not smart, you can’t do it, you stutter, your parents weren’t educated, you don’t have the money to go to college...’” she says. Her focus was on survival, plain and simple. The turning point came when Evelyn shifted to IDEA Frontier in 10th grade. At first, she had difficulty reading and speaking English especially because of the stutter for which she was often teased by other students. Her new classes were intense and there was a lot more homework, which she could not tackle until after household chores were done at 8pm. But through it all she says that she did not feel alone. Her teachers were there for her, and taught her to “sweat the small stuff,” an IDEA core value. “My teachers and counselors at IDEA pushed me to my limits,” Evelyn says with emotion. “They made me believe in myself, that I was capable, that I was smart. I had the greatest support.” Soon she was a C student no longer, she was scoring As and taking AP classes. In 2011, Dr. Alaniz, her academic counselor sat her down to give her some big news: Evelyn was to be class valedictorian at her graduation. “I remember that day,” says Evelyn. “I told her ‘What’s a valedictorian?’ I don’t know what that is!” And she said ‘You’re the number one in your class, that makes you the valedictorian.’ I started crying. I couldn’t believe it, because I remember that entire class was making fun of me, because I had trouble reading.” She also went on to win the Gates Millennium Scholarship, one of just 1000 from among 50,000 applicants nationwide. Evelyn was able to attend the university of her choice, Texas A&M, with a full-ride. She became the first in her family to graduate from high school and go to college. Looking back, Evelyn credits her teachers, counselors and her family. When she was discouraged by the teasing, there was Mr. Serralta who told her “Evelyn, don’t listen. Just be yourself. Work

hard. Just by reading, we’re going to help you improve that little gap that you have.” In 11th grade, there was her math teacher Mr. Lopez. “His strict style kept me on track and focused,” says Evelyn. her counselor, Ms. Alaniz became like a second mother to her and kept firmly her on the path to college. Of Ms. Ramos, her Spanish teacher, Evelyn says “She pushed me to be the best, even when I doubted myself.” And always in the background was her family - her father who challenged and motivated her, and her mother who gave her the advice querer es poder - “will is power.” College was an eye-opening experience. Evelyn was able to study abroad, see the world, and graduate with honors. But home called out to her, tugging her back to the school community that had given her a chance. Inspired by the teachers who had made a difference in her life, she chose to start teaching at IDEA. Today, Evelyn carries that inspiration to work with her. “Every day I see students like myself when I first started at IDEA, and I tell my students that they will go to college, because I did,” she explains. With her students, Evelyn emphasizes a strong work ethic. She is a strong advocate of the IDEA planner, which she has found beneficial through high school, and in college and professional life. She uses many techniques to build the confidence of ELL students who may be struggling as she once did. She pairs English and Spanish speakers to enable mutual learning, and ELL students thrive in her classroom. Evelyn has high expectations of her students just as her teachers had of her. “You’re not always going to be right, but you need to try your best. Because if you don’t try your best, you’re never going to improve,” she tells them. Today, Evelyn is confident in herself and her choices: “There will be people who will doubt you…but ultimately it’s your choice - of being successful, of being competitive, of being determined and getting an education. IDEA was my choice, my education was my choice, and my career is my choice.” When her students leave her classroom, Evelyn is confident that they too are well on the road to being prepared for college and success just as she was when she graduated from IDEA.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EVELYN’S JOURNEY TO AND THROUGH COLLEGE AND HER PATH TO BECOMING A TEACHER AT IDEA VISIT

ideapublicschools.org/stories 50

|

IMPACT SPRING 2017


IMPACT SPRING 2017

|

51


IDEA Team & Family, we want to know what you love most about the road to and through college at IDEA. Share a comment or photo and post them with #IDEARoadToCollege! Follow us @ideaschools     ideapublicschools.org


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.