The Annual Interpretive Luncheon was held by the Nolan County Extension Office and Nolan County Leadership Advisory Board on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at the Nolan County Courthouse.
Making the presentation at the luncheon was Dr. Kim Alexander, the superintendent of the Roscoe ISD (Independent School District). He discussed how the school is working alongside the local 4-H program, among other collaborations, toward their success in college readiness.
Roscoe ISD recently obtained a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) grant, which helps to develop a model for future jobs with assistance from the state's program, known as Educate Texas. Educate Texas is a governor-appointed program that strives to bring school and students into the 21st century.
The main goal with the grant is to help break the generational poverty cycle in the state. Dr. Alexander noted that the district appreciates their resources, as they practice dependent collaborations with the local 4-H program, higher education institutions and the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, among others.
Starting in 2003, Texas A&M conducted research on various trends regarding population growth and shifts. The numbers showed 25 million Texas along with a growing rate in low socio-economic residents, with projections that the state would double in population by 2050 and by that time, around 90% of people would be placed into the low socio-economic category.
It was also noted that the low socio-economic standards bring about other issues like health and environmental concerns. And by adding technology and a competitive environment to the mix, the results led to a different type of client with a different need.
Only about 9% of low-socioeconomic students would study beyond high school, statistics showed, and for students only completing the 12th grade, opportunities are scarce. With the multitude of issues, a model was needed to address the situation through public education, as the culmination would make it a problem for everyone.
Alexander shared that at a P-16 meeting--which addresses education from early childhood through college education, the state's Commissioner of Higher Education noted that by age 4, a large literacy gap is seen in children from different socioeconomic homes. Thus, instruction should be redirected for students of all backgrounds.
Roscoe ISD conducted their own studies in 2006 on the number of low socio-economic students, which was significant. Two years later, the district applied for and received an early college grant.
The goal with this grant was to ensure that students would be more than high school completers but would be able to obtain a significant amount of college hours. By 2015, the district's goal is to have 90% of their graduates to leave high school with Associate's degrees and then keep track of the students, with the projection that 50% of those students would have their Masters' degrees in a three-year time frame.
Roscoe ISD also added a college readiness program which provides 21st century workforce skills to students. Through leadership and learning center measures, they hope to close the literacy gap by third grade, which is a strong indicator for the future of a student.
Alexander stressed the importance of implementing rigor within their students, but added that rigor must be coupled with relevance in order to keep students engaged. At Roscoe, a STEM advisory committee continues to study relevance by looking at patterns and models from places like Overland Park, Kansas and in Temple, Texas.
While newer models work toward higher education and business collaborations, the local expectation is to feature animal health, thus implementing the local 4-H program.
Furthermore, Roscoe's involvement in the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium--one of only 20 schools in the state and the only local school--is helping to overhaul the accountability system in Texas, in order to frame state tests around other objectives and measures like student-based research.
Roscoe is already making progress by including the 4-H program in its science studies for project learning from the third through eighth grades. The hope is to start off with short-term projects, leading up to end-of-the-year projects, which could later lead to scholarship opportunities. Assisting the school with this step is Roxanna Reyna, an Extension Program Specialist.
Dr. Alexander showed a similar project, which he said students would be capable of completing if it was framed correctly. In its early development, students would then be able to learn in this manner but they would be able to relate it to their career paths, ranging anywhere from agriculture, business, education, engineering, technology, etc.
Internal and external advisors would assist, along with the collaborative efforts from the Texas Agrilife Extension and 4-H, among others. As Roscoe and other Nolan County districts strive for local flexibility in state accountability, measures are being taken to address the issue. Progress is being made, but more work is being done to ensure students' success in Roscoe.
Also at the luncheon, guests were briefly informed of annual highlights from the local program in areas such as the Better Living for Texans (BLT) program, the agricultural program, 4-H and youth development and Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) programs.
One notable event from the past year were food handlers' classes, which were offered at the Sweetwater-Nolan County Health Department. Coming up in April, a car seat safety check-up event is scheduled to take place.
The staff of the local extension office was introduced as well, which consists of Tasha Baxter, FCS agent; Elizabeth Vera, office manager; Angela Stuart, BLT assistant; and Zachary Wilcox, Agrilife Extension agent.