What is PSJA's College, Career & Technology Academy model?

College, Career & Technology Academy in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, Texas, is a dropout recovery school where young people experience themselves as college students rather than high school dropouts.

CCTA is an example of the Jobs for the Future three-phase model for dropout recovery. Students experience enriched academic preparation in a college-going culture, postsecondary bridging to college, and first-year college support.

CCTA serves students who are off track or who have dropped out and are close to high school graduation. They must be just five or fewer high school credits shy of graduation and may still need to pass required state tests, known as TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills). Through a partnership with South Texas College, CCTA students have customized college courses available to them. As soon as they pass the English Language Arts TAKS, they take a compressed college-level, college-credit-bearing Career and Technical Education course called a “mini-mester.” Developed by the college for CCTA students, mini-mester courses can be held on the STC campus or on site at CCTA.

The students also enroll in South Texas College’s College Success class. Taught by CCTA staff, it ensures that students develop the additional learning strategies and transition knowledge and skills they need to succeed in postsecondary education. College Success helps them understand college norms and expectations, develop college-appropriate study skills, explore career interests, and understand their options for high-payoff credentials.

All students start CCTA with a one-on-one meeting with the academic counselor, who carefully reviews what high school credits and TAKS they need to graduate and introduces the school’s offerings, including the expectation that they will graduate ready for college and with college credits under their belt. Each student is enrolled in a customized course of study that addresses his or her academic gaps.

CCTA teachers teaching academic courses use the Common Instructional Framework that enables students to develop the foundational and critical-thinking skills needed for postsecondary success. In addition to whole-class instruction, students recover missing credits via online courses supported by teacher-facilitated instruction.

Postsecondary bridging begins the moment students contact CCTA and learn about the college connection. It continues via the weekly mentor class, in which teachers introduce students, most of whom are the first in their families to consider college, to concepts that youth who grow up with college-educated parents take for granted. This includes providing information about costs -tuition, fees, books, lab supplies- and financial aid, as well as about college curricula, course requirements, and course credits. The College Success class focuses on how to succeed academically: understanding the syllabus, study skills, and time management. Teachers reinforce this "college knowledge" in a variety of ways, including through making connections between classroom work such as report writing and expectations in college classes. Field trips to the STC campus and the mini-mester also prepare students for college success.

Support for students in their first year of college is provided by a CCTA counselor based on the STC campus. CCTA graduates also know they are always welcome to visit the CCTA campus to get help from teachers and for the support that comes from being in a place where “everybody knows their name.”

Since opening its doors in 2007, CCTA has graduated over 1,000 students, helping the district’s high school graduation rate climb from 62% in 2007 to 88% in 2011.

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