By Rebecca LaFlure
Killeen Daily Herald
Killeen Independent School District and Central Texas College officials met Thursday to discuss their ongoing efforts to create a college-going culture on local campuses.
The Labor Department estimates that by 2015, 90 percent of skilled work force jobs will require some form of postsecondary education.
Local educators are working to increase their focus on preparing students for life after high school.
"This is a challenge people are facing across the nation," said Bill Alexander, CTC's deputy chancellor for educational program and support services. "We're talking about a change in culture here."
The P-20 Council, composed of educators from area colleges and school districts, works to provide students with a seamless transition from high school to a postsecondary education.
Formerly known as Partners in Education, P-20 became a state-recognized council in August. It's one of the few education councils located in a non-high metro area, Alexander said.
About half of KISD students in the class of 2008 attended college the fall after they graduated, compared with 58 percent statewide, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Though these numbers do not include students who attended college out of state, local educators agreed Thursday that more should be done to increase the number of students who go to college.
"Our goal is to implement a plan that communicates to all postsecondary staff, faculty, administration and to all parents and students that college in Central Texas is achievable, attainable and affordable," Alexander said.
He said the council's central focus is on the "neglected majority," which includes students ranked in the 25th to 75th percentile of their graduating class.
The council plans to hold FAFSA workshop sessions at local high schools from January to March to help students apply for financial aid opportunities.
In November the council will launch Café Con Leche, an outreach program for Hispanic students. KISD has the largest percentage of Hispanic students of any school district in the council's area.
The council plans to work with area Chamber of Commerce members to get local businesses involved in its cause.
KISD officials and area colleges continue to plan for a KISD Career Academy, expected to open by fall 2012.
The academy would provide a place where students could choose a pathway of study similar to a college degree plan. Many students could obtain an industry-level certification before they graduate from high school.
Located at the intersection of Trimmier and Stagecoach roads, near Charles Patterson Middle School, the facility would house between 800 and 1,200 students. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.
"At the end of the day, we want graduating seniors to leave with work force or college readiness," said Bobby Ott, KISD deputy superintendent. "I'd argue they'd leave with both."
KISD created a Citizen Advisory Committee this summer that helped select three programs of study: information technology, health science and telecommunications. Students could take more specific classes under each of the three programs.
Though KISD officials are still working out the details, KISD Superintendent Robert Muller said the academy would likely offer two half-day sessions for high school juniors and seniors. Students would spend the rest of the day at their home campuses.
KISD already partnered with CTC, Texas A&M University-Central Texas, Texas State Technical College, Temple College and the Killeen Fire Academy.
The district's next step is to form relationships with area employers, such as local hospitals.
But for the academy to be successful, KISD will have to recruit students.
"We feel this areas is rich in resources," Muller said. "Now it's about attracting the students."
KISD officials are taking steps to expand its dual credit course offerings to high school students.
Dual credit courses, offered for free in KISD, allow students to obtain high school and college credits at the same time.
"This program has stood up from scratch in the past four years," said Mike Helm, KISD board member.
In the past three years, the program has grown from 272 students to 2,030 students.
Officials are working to add biology and chemistry dual credit classes next year. They also hope to create hybrid classes, which would allow students to work online some days and in the classroom with a visiting professor on other days.
"We fully anticipate this program to continue to grow," Muller said.
Contact Rebecca LaFlure at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7548.