Students rely on college-track programs to make it to graduation day

Leander Middle School AVID teacher Lucinda Lassiter (left), and student Lillian Basulek, 13 (right), review materials on a school computer on Oct. 18, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
Leander Middle School AVID teacher Lucinda Lassiter (left), and student Lillian Basulek, 13 (right), review materials on a school computer on Oct. 18, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — In school, teachers typically talk about preparing for the next step. No matter what level, the adult figures in school districts across the country tend to lead the way for students, pointing them toward higher education.

Data compiled by the Texas Tribune tracked the graduation rates of eighth graders from 1997-2005.

The Tribune reported that approximately 300,000 eighth graders enroll in Texas public schools each year. Of the students who began eighth grade in 2005, 74.2 percent graduated from high school, 54.2 percent went on to enroll in college and 20.9 percent graduated from a Texas public university.

“What we found was students who are considered by the state to be economically disadvantaged are less likely to graduate from high school, to enroll in… a university, and to graduate from a Texas public university,” Texas Tribune developer Annie Daniel said. The data was organized by economic background, ethnicity and gender.

“We also found that women tend to graduate at a higher rate than men, just slightly,” Daniel said.

Students and teachers are relying on college-readiness programs, like AVID — Advancement Via Individual Determination — to promote success before and after graduation. Lillian Balusek, 13, an eighth grader at Leander Middle School, participates in the school’s AVID program. She said the academic guidance she receives helps her plan for the future.

“If you don’t have any idea what you want to do for your future, this is a big step towards it,” Balusek explained.

Her AVID teacher, Lucinda Lassiter, said the AVID curriculum, which includes college visits and extra tutoring, plants seeds about college in seventh and eighth grades.

A student in Leander ISD's Leander Middle School takes notes in an AVID program, which is designed to assist with college-readiness. Oct. 18, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)
A student in Leander ISD’s Leander Middle School takes notes in an AVID program, which is designed to assist with college-readiness. Oct. 18, 2017. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

“There’s always a reason and a purpose in what we’re doing,” Lassiter said. “When we learn something today, we may not use it tomorrow. We might use it the day after, we might use it two years or 10 years from now.”

She said urging kids to consider their college and adult-life planning at an early age is important.

“We push kids towards taking those upper-level courses in middle school. We encourage all of our middle school AVID students to take at least one advanced course and then when they go on to the high school program, they are required to be in those advance courses because those help them to be successful in college,” she added.

Other districts have similar approaches. Manor ISD spokesperson Scott Thomas said the district has numerous initiatives and programs in place, aiming to help “middle school students prepare to be accepted into post-secondary institutions as well as succeed in them once there.”

In addition to AVID, the district partners with organizations to provide well-rounded education, including non-profit Breakthrough Central Texas.

“Students in the Breakthrough/Manor partnership receive extended learning opportunities, leadership experiences, and comprehensive advising including financial aid counseling, ACT/SAT Prep and individualized college counseling,” Thomas explained.

Basulek said she hopes to be accepted to the University of Texas, Baylor University, or Concordia University Texas, which would keep her in the Lone Star State closer to her family.

Though she said she constantly changes her mind about what she wants to do when she grows up, Basulek said she’s confident “it’s going to be something great.”

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