News: College Access & Success

Roscoe ISD Finds Success with Early College Model in Rural Texas

Wednesday, January 8, 2020  
Posted by: Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation
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It’s okay to admit you haven’t heard of Roscoe, Texas, let alone couldn’t point to it on a map. The small town, population about 1,300, is roughly an hour west of Abilene and 3.5 hours west of Dallas in North Central Texas. The town is one of hundreds of rural communities in the Lone Star State, but it distinguishes itself by being the place Roscoe Collegiate Independent School District calls home. The district is a model â€“ not just for other rural school districts, but for districts everywhere – of how learning opportunities and curriculum can drive and achieve positive postsecondary outcomes for students.

Through the early college model, featuring STEM academies and partnerships with multiple colleges and universities, Roscoe Collegiate ISD has had 90+% of students graduate high school with an associate degree since 2014.         

NCAN first encountered Roscoe ISD through our participation with the Rural Student Success Initiative. That endeavor finds NCAN partnering with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and College Forward to improve postsecondary advising and outcomes for students in 11 rural ISDs across Texas. An ISD with a proven early college model and demonstrated postsecondary outcomes for students might seem like an odd choice for a project aiming to develop districts’ postsecondary capacities, but Roscoe’s role as the gold standard and a role model is valuable, as is its continued striving to improve and provide more for students.

For a district with about 160 students in grades 9-12 during the 2018-19 academic year, Roscoe ISD provides a number of opportunities for students. The district’s STEM Academy just concluded its sixth year. This academy includes hands-on learning opportunities in a number of programs like veterinary medicine; drone construction, maintenance, and programming; welding; fabrication; chiropractic medicine, and more. There is also a focus on college readiness in general, and students in grades 6 through 12 all receive the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) curriculum.

The video below, titled “Small Town, Big Dreams,” highlights a few of these programs and discusses how they fit into community and regional workforce needs.

In general, the video demonstrates the importance of meeting place-based workforce needs, which gives students in Roscoe the ability and reason to make a living where they are rather than needing to emigrate elsewhere for professional opportunity. This coincides with the district’s mission statement:

“The goal of the Roscoe Collegiate P-20 System Model for Student Success is to develop a collaborative, sustainable and replicable model for breaking the generational poverty cycle through higher education (EARLY COLLEGE), while supplying critical agricultural STEM workforce shortage areas that will be critical to meeting the daunting challenge of feeding and clothing 9 billion people on the planet by 2050 (STEM ACADEMY).”

The district’s website notes that it has “evolved away from the 20th Century concept of an Independent School District into more of a System Model approach.” That System Model includes a postsecondary ecosystem that includes not just the K-12 school district but also three postsecondary institutions (Western Texas College, Texas State Technical College, and Angelo State University) as well as supporting partnerships with campuses like Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University and business and philanthropic partners.

Having these stakeholders involved brings in professional resources to which a community of this size otherwise would not have access. Meanwhile, the partner colleges and universities are receiving a steady stream of students from a curriculum with academic rigor who have been exposed to a curriculum specifically designed for college readiness.

It’s hard to argue with the results. The class of 2011 had 52% of its students graduate with an associate degree. For the classes of 2016, 2017, and 2018 those percentages were 92%, 96%, and 100%, respectively.

An article from Insight, the Texas Association of School Administrators Professional Journal, highlights the design principles that achieved these outcomes:

  • Fostering family and community engagement.
  • Leading with a clear vision and shared decision-making.
  • Building effective partnerships.
  • Designing a rigorous, relevant and focused curriculum.
  • Creating an integrated college experience.
  • Creating an integrated workplace experience.
  • Building a strong, collaborative teaching faculty.

All of this has results, as the video above notes, in an environment where, “It’s just what we do. Everybody takes college classes. We pay for it. And they just think that’s the way it is. It’s school.” The goal is ambitious but the achievement of it is evident in this tiny Texas town.