Royal ISD hosts community event highlighting advanced academic programs

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 4/20/21

Royal ISD hosted a community gathering at Royal High School in Brookshire April 14 to highlight programs that provide opportunities for the district’s students. RISD Superintendent Rick …

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Royal ISD hosts community event highlighting advanced academic programs

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Royal ISD hosted a community gathering at Royal High School in Brookshire April 14 to highlight programs that provide opportunities for the district’s students. RISD Superintendent Rick Kershner was joined by students, faculty and community members who helped showcase the opportunities the district provides to learners.

“Every business needs good employees, ready to go,” said keynote speaker and president of the West I-10 Chamber of Commerce, Arnold England. “And as fast as we’re putting up walls out here between (Brookshire) and Katy and then around, (those companies) need a lot of employees.”

England lauded RISD’s efforts to promote trade skills in schools alongside science, technology, engineering and math – often referred to as STEM – coursework. England spoke about going to Royal High School and working to improve the Future Farmers of America pens using the welding skills he’d learned there, in the process pointing out that employers moving to the area would need those skills in the workforce.

Joy Wilson, director of RISD’s Teaching & Learning Department, said she was proud that the district is one of only 13 school districts in the Texas Education Agency’s Region 4 – which has more than 50 districts – to offer the Early College High School program. ECHS allows students to graduate from high school with an associate degree already in hand.

Wilson also said that RISD students are excelling at raising scores in accountability testing through the STAAR test.

“I want you to know that apart from that day, that test, that our students are tested on 22 different subjects,” Wilson said. “And within our last accountability (testing cycle) here, 18 of those tests – we improved.”

Wilson said she credits the hard work of teachers and students and programs such as the RISD STEM Academy and Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit partner with the district that helps kindergarten through high school seniors develop knowledge and skills through engineering as well as computer and biomedical sciences coursework.

Felicia Glover, principal of the RISD STEM Academy said her campus currently has 306 students.

One of those students is Lauren Hillsman, a seventh-grade student who said she enjoys the programs at the STEM Academy and appreciates the anti-bullying policies and practices in place there which have effectively eliminated bullying for her.

“Our campus houses grades second through eighth and not only encourages but requires students to perform at peak levels,” Hillsman said. “STEM has amazing opportunities for all grade levels.”

Hillsman said the programs include an award-winning robotics team and opportunities to learn coding and mechanical assembly.

At the middle school level in language arts, Wilson said students had improved their writing skills by 11% year to year in standardized testing and were participating in bilingual programs which assist students in entering a workforce that prefers multilingual candidates.

RISD Director of Advanced Academics Melissa Baker said programs such as those at the STEM Academy lead to opportunities for students. In 2019, 13 students of the roughly 20 that began with advanced placement courses during the 2014-15 school year earned associate degrees through Lone Star College while in high school. This year, she said, about one-third of the district's high school population is enrolled in the program. Of those, 15 are expected to graduate with associate degrees this year, though from 2022 forward, she expects that number to be 40 or more students each year.

The STEM Academy, Early College High School, UIL academic team performance, partnerships with state universities and other programs offered by the district have earned statewide recognition, staff said.

“We have been designated by TEA as a model campus for college and career readiness,” Royal High School Principal Tony Runnels, Jr. said.

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