In May, the Texas Legislature authorized giving schools an additional $275 per high school student, as a supplement to make students better prepared for college.

While it might not seem like much, it is making a difference for schools in Navarro County, many of which have already put the money to work.

Frost, Dawson and Blooming Grove are using allotment to pay for tuition and books for students who take dual-credit courses from Navarro College.

“When a kid graduates from Blooming Grove they’ll already have a year of college,” said Superintendent Mike Baldree. “Blooming Grove is scholarshipping our students and paying for their first year of college before they get out of high school.”

The three districts in the western part of the county banded together to form the program, Baldree explained. By working with the college, the districts were able to coordinate advanced courses to be taught at Blooming Grove High. Students from Dawson and Frost travel to Blooming Grove to share the classes taught by college instructors.

“We do a little of everything,” said Jim Revill, superintendent with Frost ISD. “We pay the concurrent enrollment at Navarro College and textbooks for seniors, we pay for sophomores to take the PSAT, we pay for that. I expect we’ll pay for some after-school tutoring after we see what they did on the TAKS test in the spring.”

The additional state funding comes with strings, as most government funding does. The state is spending $318 million on the programs this year, and the money is to go for preparing high school students for college.

The four areas recommended by the state are:

• Increase percentage of kids graduating from high school;

• Increase enrollment in advanced courses (including dual-credit courses);

• Increase percentage of students graduating with the higher-level high school diplomas; and

• Increase the percentage of students considered college-ready in English or math.

Meanwhile, many schools still struggle with the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, the supposed minimum standard for high school graduates.

Dawson is spending its allotment on tuition and books, but is also buying some software to help students prepare for the college admission tests ACT and SAT, as well as purchasing new computers, said Hugh Ellis, superintendent.

“But the big thing is paying for tuition and books for kids to take college courses,” Ellis said.

Because the program was announced after registration, students didn’t know about the free college classes, but spring promises higher enrollment at all three schools.

“Why pass up a free education?” Ellis asked.

Corsicana, with the largest high school in Navarro County, and consequently the largest allotment, at just over $400,000, is still working on a plan to spend the money.

“Mr. (Keith) Moore is in the process of establishing a committee to set up an action plan based on the goal,” explained Sherrye Dotson, assistant superintendent for curriculum. “According to the guidelines, we need to set goals to increase the number of college-ready students.”

Among the options are to pay for college courses, like Blooming Grove and its neighbors; to buy some computer courses to get students up to speed; or even to have high school teachers who already have master’s degrees teach college courses at the high school.

“Right now, the problem with dual-enrollment with Navarro is our schedules don’t match,” Dotson said.

Corsicana High School has switched to an every-other-week alternating schedule, which means students spend more time per class, but don’t have the same schedule two weeks in row.

In order to overcome that obstacle, Principal Moore has said he wants to use some of the high school allotment to establish a special computer lab for on-line courses from any college. Under that scenario, students or their parents would pay the tuition, although that could change in the future.

Schools aren’t required to do anything until November, but most districts are already starting the process because of the long list of requirements involved.

“You need to go ahead and get started, because if you’re going to spend it appropriately and wisely, you need to do the planning,” said Chip Curington, assistant superintendent for finance for Corsicana ISD.

Ennis High School is also still in the planning stages to spend its $400,000 allotment, according to spokesman Glenn Hyde.

“Our understanding is that we need to get our lower-achieving kids up to a higher level of learning,” he said. “To get them taking higher-level classes.”

Toward that end, Ennis intends to offer drop-out prevention programs, advanced classes and tutorials, Hyde explained.

“But the final determination has not been set,” he said.

Mildred intends to tackle both ends of the spectrum at once, said Superintendent Doug Lane.

“Right now, the planning situation is computer hardware and software,” Lane said. “For enrichment programs and also for remediation.”

Examples of enrichment programs are dual-credit computer classes through Navarro, while an example of remediation programs are TAKS preparation classes and tutoring.

Kerens is using its allotment to pay for textbooks for students taking dual-credit classes, and for a computer reinforcement course that helps students who need to work on specific skills.

Superintendent Kevin Stanford said he applauds the legislature for granting the high school allotments as an official acknowledgment of how much more it costs to educate near-adult students the younger children.

“It does cost more to educate high schoolers,” he said. “It costs a lot more.”

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Janet Jacobs may be contacted via e-mail at jacobs@corsicanadailysun.com

School district High school allotment Programs funded

Blooming Grove $83,600 Dual-credit courses at Navarro

Corsicana $417,725 (In development)

Dawson $33,000 Dual-credit courses at Navarro

Ennis $414,975 (In development)

Frost $27,000 Dual-credit courses at Navarro

Hubbard $42,075 Dual-credit on-line courses with Hill College

Kerens $54,450 Computers, college text books

Mildred $59,125 Computers; enrichment and remediation

Rice $96,250 N/A

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