A skyscraper perspective
By Hermann Pereira
As I watch my hometown Houston Rockets play in the Western Conference Finals, I am reminded of one of my favorite memories of growing up in Houston. There is nothing better than to look out at the different views from the downtown buildings. What fascinates me the most is how the perspective changes as you climb to the top. As you go up you see more and more of the surrounding landscape, busy streets, neighborhood parks, and houses. When you get high enough you start to appreciate the view because in Houston you can see for miles.
This perspective change very much aligns with what we do as educators. We are nearing the end of the school year and teachers and students are all fatigued from the year. We gave it our all, learned a lot, and grew as a campus, but what I hope is that our student’s perspective has changed due to the supports and systems that are in place at Connally ISD. This perspective change hopefully becomes a catalyst for a shift in overall attitude towards post-secondary plans. As a principal of a CTE focused Early College High School, our mission is clear and our focus is to change our student’s perspectives about their post secondary plans. We hope to engage them in rigorous coursework that is centered on the career ready skills that they will need as they enter the workforce. One thing I forget at times is that all students need to be career ready. Their path might be straight to work, a technical school like Texas State Technical College, or maybe a 4 year university, but once they complete that step they are entering the workforce.
At Connally ISD we have made a conscious effort to give our students skyscraper perspectives and thus their attitudes about their futures have evolved. We have put a high premium on offering more dual credit courses all while giving students the support structures they need to engage in college coursework. There are a variety of reasons why we are promoting dual credit courses more with each cohort of students. We live in a city that has 2 colleges that are willing partners with all area high school students, whether that be on the college campus, the high school campus or online. Texas State Technical College and McLennan Community College have some amazing folks that want nothing more than to help public school educators offer dual credit courses that can truly change a student’s perspective. They understand that in order to change the landscape of our great city, education has to be attainable, so why not in high school? Another reason why our district and others are pushing for dual credit courses is the Texas Education Agency has made them an integral part of our accountability system. Out of House Bill 22 the A-F accountability system was birthed and now school districts will be given a letter grade based on standardized test performance, graduation rates and how many students are College, Career and/or Military Ready. Therefore, one of the many measuring sticks are the amount of students that have taken dual credit coursework in their high school careers. Offering these types of rigorous courses is also aligned with our district mission, so lots of resources have been put towards preparing students for these kinds of steps. Programs like Connally Career Tech ECHS, Advancement Via Individual Determination, and grants such as Gear Up and Upward Bound have helped give students a broader perspective to their future. This is for sure a process that takes slow and deliberate steps but so does climbing the stairs in a skyscraper in downtown Houston.
Recently we received a technology lending grant from the Texas Education Agency. We are very excited about what this will mean for our students who are trying to see a broader and higher perspective for their lives. All high school students that are taking a dual credit course will have the opportunity to check out a Google Chromebook for the entire school year as well as check out mobile hotspots as needed. Making our dual credit courses 1 to 1 will allow our students to now have tools as they engage in college level coursework. Due to our socio-economic constraints as a campus we would not typically have the ability to give students this kind of access, but now with this grant we will be able to give them the necessary tools to be successful.
I am proud to work for a campus and a school district that takes the typical barriers such as schedules, money and/or time and treats them like opportunities. These perspective changing efforts, paired with the right tools, are already yielding positive results. We don’t gauge our success based purely on data; we gauge success on how prepared our students are entering a college or career field. If at the end of the day we as a district can say that we adequately prepared our students for a college or career of their choice then we have been successful.
Hermann Pereira is the Principal of Connally Career Tech Early College High School, CTE Director and AVID Coordinator and has been in education for 11 years. He is a Houstonian who roots for all Houston sports teams but has called Waco home for the past decade. He is married to Kristi for 14 years and has two children, Hudson who is 9 years old and Ruby who is 7 years old.
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