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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M partnerships help rural schools succeed

Classroom
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Classroom

Texas A&M’s Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications, or ALEC, has partnered with rural schools to implement early college programs.
The partnership between ALEC and Roscoe Independent School District began with Kim Alexander, Roscoe ISD’s former superintendent. While serving as principal of Roscoe High School, Alexander began working on his doctorate in agricultural education through a joint program with A&M and Texas Tech. For his dissertation, Alexander focused his research on what could be done to help disadvantaged students learn best and implement strategies within the framework to boost the number of those students who continued onto higher education.
Following his dissertation and study, and with the guidance of institutions like A&M, Roscoe ISD was restructured so students were using hands-on learning through research. In many rural schools, students aren’t well equipped with the resources to pursue higher education, but this program can change that, Alexander said.
“By reducing time to [college] degree, it reduces the time for life to happen and people to drop out,” Alexander said. “We know [a student’s] support system is key, and the traditional support beyond [high school] is parents with money. But, Texas is gaining about a thousand people a day, and 90 percent of [them are] economically disadvantaged. We’ve got to do some innovative thinking and collaboration to up the credentials for post-secondary education for all students and not just the top 10 percent.”
In 2009, Roscoe ISD had the first school-wide early college program in Texas, which was quickly followed with becoming the first school-wide STEM academy in 2012. The advances continued, and in 2017, Roscoe Collegiate High School became the first rural Pathways in Technology Early College High School in the state of Texas.
Head of A&M’s ALEC department and Alexander’s research advisor Matt Baker told AgriLife Today the model has seen much success and can be used to aid economically disadvantaged communities to grow and thrive.
“Roscoe is now being held up as a conceptual framework for rural school improvement, not just across rural parts of Texas but nationwide,” Baker said. “These other schools are now using the Roscoe framework and applying it to their local situation and needs.”
Among the many programs implemented in Roscoe ISD, there exists a full-time Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 4-H agent, which offers students hands-on research experience to better equip and prepare them for colleges and universities.
Professor and senior scientist at ALEC Gary Briers said the programs offered give students the chance to experience an engaging education that prepares them, not only for higher education, but for the workforce beyond.
“Roscoe offers a lot of opportunities to have research-based learning,” Briers said. “One of those programs that we recently integrated was the school-wide AgriLife 4-H curriculum. Programs like this allow for students to be comfortable with research so when they enter higher education, they already know what’s going on.”
Following Alexander’s retirement from Roscoe ISD in 2019, he started a nonprofit, Edu-Nation, to help other rural schools find and implement changes to better aid their students’ success. Briers said Throckmorton Collegiate High School and Hamlin Collegiate High School, which are near Roscoe ISD, have worked with Edu-Nation.
While rural school districts such as Roscoe have made great strides in preparing college-ready students, Alexander said it wouldn’t have been possible without outside support.
“There’s power in collaboration,” Alexander said. “We’ve had a lot of support from Texas A&M, Texas Tech, the workforce and community colleges. They’ve pumped a lot of resources into these rural schools.”

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