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Achieve Early College High named top RGV high school

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McAllen ISD’s Achieve Early College High is the top-ranked high school in the Rio Grande Valley based on rankings compiled and released by a child-advocacy group.

Children at Risk looked at five academic and equity categories of data to assemble its lists. During a virtual press conference held on Tuesday, Nov. 17, the top RGV high school, middle school and elementary school were recognized.

McAllen ISD Superintendent, Dr. J.A. Gonzalez, noted that every student and teacher in the district having access to an individual electronic learning device is part of the recipe for McAllen ISD’s success.

Dr. J.A. Gonzalez,
McAllen ISD

“I think what makes us unique also is that we’re a one-to-one district,” Dr. Gonzalez began. “All of our elementary students have an iPad and our secondary students have Chormebooks. I’m real proud that we have a one-to-one initiative that we use with fidelity. We also have connectivity across the city because we’ve worked with the City of McAllen which has provided connection for our students. We also handed out Hot Spot (devices) to students during this COVID-19 pandemic. We have systems and processes in place that allow us to continue flourishing. We have a great staff, a hard-working student body, very supportive parents and that’s why we are an ‘A’ rated school district.”

McAllen ISD is big on raising the Emotional Quotient of the organization he added.

“Emotional intelligence is a key part of what we deliver as a school district and I believe that is the secret to our success,” Dr. Gonzalez said.

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Achieve Early College High provides a path for students to earn a college Associates Degree through South Texas College while they are still in high school. This is at no cost to their families. Last year, a school record 87.6% of Achieve graduates earned their Associates Degree through South Texas College (78 of 89 students). The school opened in 2008.

Achieve ECHS Principal Miguel Carmona cited emotional intelligence as a key component to Achieve’s success.

“Our teachers are amazing here,” Mr. Carmona said. “It’s a team effort. In these times, the emotional portion is a big part of it. We need to make sure our students are in the right mindset to focus on academics.”

In 2015, Achieve ECHS earned national Blue Ribbon status – the highest award presented by the US Dept. of Education.

Children at Risk examined the past three years of available data that demonstrate campus and district consistency over time. Schools are measured by:

  • Achievement Indicators: Performance on STAAR Reading and Math tests from the past 3 years.
  • Performance Indicators: An adjustment of achievement indicators to eliminate bias toward campuses with low percentages of economically disadvantaged students.
  • Growth Indicators: The improvement over time on standardized test scores in Reading and Math.
  • Racial Equity Indicator: Comparative measure indicating how well schools are serving students of color.
  • College Readiness: Graduation rates, SAT/ACT participation rate and scores, and AP/IB participation rate and scores

Due to the pandemic, this year’s rankings focused on a three-year analyses that showcased campus and district consistency over time via its Three Year Strong ranking. Rankings included several categories.

Overall, in the Rio Grande Valley, there are 170 high performing schools which are “A” or “B” Pandemic Edition Ranked schools: 106 elementary schools, 37 middle schools, and 27 high schools. The Rio Grande Valley has 112 Pandemic Proof Schools: 72 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, and 16 high schools. There are 68 Consistent Gold Ribbon Schools: 64 elementary schools and four middle schools. For the newest ranking, PaceSetter Schools, Rio Grande Valley has nine campuses.

Overall, Children at Risk examined data from 4,000 elementary schools, 2,000 middle schools and 1,349 high schools in Texas.

Sixty-percent of Texas students are considered low-income, according to Children at Risk. Across Texas, 27 percent of schools earned an “A” or a “B.”  The Rio Grande Valley had the highest percentage of high-performing schools at 36 percent. This is the 16th year Children at Risk has produced state rankings. 

“Our schools in Texas are tremendously underfunded yet we still see excellence at work,” Children at Risk official Bob Sanborn said during the press conference.  

Listings have been compiled for other areas of the state. All of the rankings will be released by November 30.

The complete rankings for the RGV are here: https://texasschoolguide.org/pandemic-rankings/rgv/

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