How do we identify and recruit eligible students?

PSJA uses an intensive community outreach process, as well as data analysis, to identify and recruit eligible students.

This section contains information on how to identify and recruit students, including guiding principles, tools, and an example of how PSJA uses innovative methods to reach out to its targeted student populations.


Identify Potential Students

Student eligibility for PSJA's College, Career & Technology Academy is guided by a combination of state and district policy. Innovative Texas state policy allows school districts to receive per pupil dollars for students up to age 26 who are earning a high school diploma. The district designed the school for older students who are close to graduating, and it has put in place eligibility policies to support this goal.

At CCTA, eligible students are those who according to state policy:

  • Are 26 years old or younger
  • Reside in the district

And who according to district policy:

  • Have failed to pass any of the required Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) exit exams, or who lack five or fewer of the credits needed to complete high school
  • Have dropped out or have not completed requirements by May of their designated graduation year

KEY PRINCIPLES FOR IDENTIFYING ELIGIBLE STUDENTS

WORK WITH PARTNERS WITHIN THE DISTRICT

  • In the spring, the high schools in the district provide CCTA staff with the names and contact information of those students in the graduating class who are unable to graduate with their cohort in the spring, based on credits earned and exit exam results. 
  • The district's Student Data Center provides the names and contact information of eligible dropouts or non-completers, based on credit and TAKS data.

TARGET STUDENTS CLOSE TO GRADUATING

  • CCTA starts the spring recruitment process by contacting the students who are close to but unable to graduate with their cohort in the spring because they have not met credit or TAKS requirements, drawing from the lists provided to them by the high schools. CCTA contacts them prior to the last day of school and brings them on campus for a spring recruitment tour. Engaging students before they disappear increases the likelihood of enrollment. During the tour students have an opportunity to enroll in CCTA for the summer and, if needed, a fifth year, thereby enabling them to continue in school without becoming dropouts.

BUILD COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND INCREASE ENROLLMENT SIMULTANEOUSLY

  • In the fall, CCTA increases the pool of potential students by recruiting dropouts or non-completers identified by the district Student Data Center through a major recruitment drive called the Countdown to Zero Campaign. As CCTA has grown in reputation, word of mouth has begun to play a role in recruitment as well.
  • The campaign shows young people that the whole community cares about and is behind them.

Recruit Eligible Students

The spring recruitment process targets those who have been identified as not eligible to graduate with their graduating cohort, based on credit and Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills requirements. The recruitment process takes place after the TAKS results have been issued in the spring, at which point it is clear which students will not graduate on time.

The Spring Recruitment Planning Tool enables schools interested in implementing a similar process to create an action plan. The Intake Process and Intake Tool provides guidelines on how to set up the enrollment stations referenced in the tool.

 

KEY PRINCIPLES FOR SPRING RECRUITMENT AT CCTA

GIVE STUDENTS WHO WILL NOT GRADUATE IN THE SPRING A WAY TO COMPLETE HIGH SCHOOL WITHOUT BECOMING DROPOUTS

  • Have each high school in the district identify students who will not graduate because they are missing five or fewer credits or have not passed all the required exit exams.
  • The district data office can do this as well.

RECRUIT COUNSELORS AS WELL AS STUDENTS

  • Bring the high school counselors on a tour of CCTA prior to bringing students: they become CCTA advocates.
  • Do this annually: New counselors get their first introduction to CCTA; those already familiar with it get to see what is new.
  • Review the documentation needed for enrollment with the counselors so they can have it ready for the students when they want to enroll.

USE THE PROCESS TO START BUILDING A COHORT

  • Schedule one day for each high school campus to CCTA. This enables the students to get to know each other.
  • Bus them: This makes sure they arrive and makes them feel special.
  • Set up enrollment station in CCTA around the campus. As students move from one to the next, they see the whole facility.

EMPHASIZE DUAL ENROLLMENT

  • Build the college-going culture from the beginning.
  • Provide the partner community college with an enrollment station where students can see the emphasis on dual enrollment and complete college enrollment paperwork.  

HOLD THE TOURS ABOUT TWO WEEKS BEFORE THE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION

  • This enables students to participate with their class in senior-year activities because they are still enrolled in high school.
  • This also assures that students never become dropouts.

Countdown to Zero OVERView

Countdown to Zero is what Pharr-San Juan Alamo ISD calls its goal of graduating every student who enrolls in the district, hence “zero” dropouts. Many community members identify “Countdown to Zero” as the recruitment drive, known as "the walk,” that occurs each September. But the walk is just one of a variety of elements that, working together, have dramatically reduced the district's annual dropout rate from 6.2 percent in 2005-06 to 1 percent in 2009-10.

 

KEY PRINCIPLES OF COUNTDOWN TO ZERO

ENLIST COMMITMENT AT ALL LEVELS IN THE DISTRICT

  • The key principle of the Countdown to Zero is the full commitment of the district, from the school board to the superintendent to security guards and the maintenance staff, to ensuring that all students graduate, as well as a commitment to the flexibility necessary to make the school system work for the students.

BEGIN BEFORE STUDENTS DROP OUT

  • PSJA sets attendance benchmarks, and daily attendance is tracked and monitored. When a student’s attendance drops below a benchmark, school staff mobilize to determine how best to help that student stay on track. A system of targeted options and supports matches students’ individual needs and learning styles with options that promote student achievement.

DISTRICT STAFFING IS STRUCTURED TO SUPPORT COUNTDOWN TO ZERO EFFORTS

  • PSJA pupil services personnel serve as the district-level staff who work with high school staff to address attendance/dropout recovery and retention issues; a School Attendance Specialist (Liaison) is assigned to secondary campuses to enforce the Texas Compulsory Attendance Laws and ensure that students are referred to district guidance and support programs; and a Dropout Prevention Specialists is placed at high schools to ensure that students are withdrawn accordingly with Texas Education Agency Data Standards.

Countdown to Zero Walk

The Countdown to Zero Walk is a key feature of the College, Career & Technology Academy recruitment strategy. The walk is a coordinated recruitment event that sends district staff and volunteers from the community to the homes of every potential CCTA student.  

KEY PRINCIPLES OF THE COUNTDOWN TO ZERO WALK

DO INTENTIONAL OUTREACH TO YOUTH WHO HAVE DROPPED OUT TO CONVEY THE COMMUNITY'S COMMITMENT TO THEIR FUTURE

  • PSJA developed the walk strategy because district leaders recognized that young people who have left school need intentional outreach to encourage them to return.

DEMONSTRATE THE FULL COMMITMENT OF THE COMMUNITY TO GRADUATING EVERY STUDENT

  • The entire community supports the goal of zero dropouts and the Countdown to Zero Walk. During the walk, district and school staff and community members go door to door to the homes of youth identified as eligible to reenroll, encourage them to persevere and graduate, and register them for the program most appropriate for them.

KEEP CCTA AND THE GOAL OF ZERO DROPOUTS IN THE MIND OF THE PUBLIC

  • The publicity around the Countdown to Zero walk, as well as the impact of enlisting a wide variety of community members in the effort, has a lasting impact.
  • Family members continue to encourage young people to return to CCTA for their diplomas in the months following the walk.

 FOCUS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLICITY ON MOVING FORWARD

  • CCTA makes sure that the communications and publicity around Countdown to Zero and enrolling in CCTA are forward looking and positive.  The slogan is “Haven’t finished high school? Start college today!” 
  • Rather than “return,” which implies going backward, all communications and marketing focus on going forward to college, with the high school diploma as a step along the way.

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