I don’t know about you, but I remember the days when you went to the grocery store with your parents, and you had a printed list of supplies to get, and you took your time walking up and down the aisles, looking at the scissors with the rounded ends, the right kind of #2 pencils and maybe you’d splurge on the eraser caps you put on the ends of pencils.
Then, you’d figure out which shirt you wanted to wear on the first day of school, and your preschool planning session was all done. You didn’t have to know, at age 6, what you might want to be when you grew up. You weren’t aware of which schools within your district offered optional classes for your education or why there were any set up differently from others, right?
Those were the old days, friends. Reading up on the College Station ISD recently, I was delighted to see that students as young as kindergarten are being screened as possibly ready for gifted and talented (GT) programs by Spring of their kindergarten year. Tests that have been around for years include the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. I remembered taking them, but I wondered how long they’d been around—since 1935! These focus on “vocabulary, reading comprehension, listening, and word analysis” among other areas. Reading remains key to success.
In addition to their GT programs, CSISD has an excellent program called Advancement via Individual Determination, or AVID. Students as young as elementary school, through middle school and high school classes, who are “traditionally underrepresented in higher education” are reached out to for special focus. A positive peer group is created, mentoring occurs, and more. In other words, all kids are taught to have dreams and work toward them, even if their early beginnings don’t seem equal to their classmates’. CSISD tools and programs help them find success.
I was researching College Station high schools the other day and saw that U.S. News & World Report gave the newer College Station High School #1895 in the nation in National Rankings, #175 in Texas High Schools, and #1 in the College Station, TX Metro Area High Schools.
Specifically, 41% of students took at least one AP exam, 33% passed at least one AP exam, 93% showed Math proficiency, 82% showed Reading proficiency, and there’s a 97% graduation rate. Although the reading proficiency is low, the graduation rate is high and of an enrollment of 1,858 students and 115 teachers, 36% total minority enrollment and 21% economically disadvantaged, these are representative of the statistics that U.S. News & World Report collected.
According to the site niche.com, which “explores the best districts with Gifted and Talented Programs, based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education.” And, on this site, the overall Niche grade is A+ for CSISD, with 19 schools and 13,188 students.
There are 51 student reviews there and this one from a sophomore caught my eye: “CSISD exhibits character, pride, and responsibility among the students and staff involved within it. The teachers truly care for their students and treat them as their own, while the students, in the other hand, take advantage of the tools given to them in order to succeed. One thing I would like to see change about the district is a larger emphasis on early college readiness and an increase in activities including exercises students can encounter in the real world.” That’s pretty telling from a sophomore.
One thing to note, though, is how statistics vary according to the organization collecting and evaluating the data. Niche.com notes CSISD rates #20 of 1,002 of the best school districts in Texas, #31 of 1,109 of best places to teach in Texas and #13 of 1,003 of best school districts for athletes in Texas.
Speaking personally, we’re very proud of our Funeral Director, Ricky Alderete, who serves as a Substitute teacher throughout the year at CSISD.
So, what does all this mean? It means that any student who desires to succeed, can. Whether in College Station or Bryan, there are multiple opportunities for driven, motivated, inspired and passionate young people to pursue a course of high school study that will help them get to where they want to be.
High school to college is a pathway that many students take, but it’s not for everyone. Neither are gifted and talented classes. The secret sauce, the real advantage of Bryan and College Station schools is not tied to any data, statistics, analyses or other cold, hard numerical facts. It’s in the hearts and minds of the TEACHERS in each and every school.
The teachers are the ones who spend hours, we never see, within in-service hours learning how to reach the minds of students who sometimes need to have a different perspective brought to inspire kids to learn. It’s the teachers who spot a child with potential and say, “Maybe you’d like to do a science fair project about that topic,” or “I know you are really good at a certain subject. Is that something you might like to learn more about?” Basically introducing our community’s children to opportunities to learn more.
Programs in Bryan and College Station schools are exceptionally good, as I’ve learned in my recent introductory reviews of our community’s public schools, including the one I grew up in. But without these amazing teachers we have, they would only be “potentially wonderful programs.” Teachers are the heart and soul of B-CS Schools and on behalf of all of us on the Callaway-Jones family team, we salute you and thank you for all that you are doing for our young people all year long. Enjoy your Labor Day Monday break and best of luck in the coming school year!
Cody D. Jones ‘02