“We have been dedicated to career and college access work at SMU since 1966. We actually have some of the oldest running college access programs in the country, so we’re really part of a legacy.” – Dr. David Deggs
Rural school districts often face resource constraints that limit the ability to provide a robust number of pathways for college and career readiness. These challenges inspired the second panel at the first annual SMU Rural Superintendent Leadership Symposium, which focused on improving college and career readiness among graduates of rural high schools. Dr. David Deggs, Executive Director of College Access Programs at SMU, moderated the panel of two rural East Texas superintendents.
Todd Schneider (Bullard ISD) reflected on the increasing relevance of student pathways and CCMR programs as the expectations of colleges and employers continue to evolve. Schneider doubted that a one-size-fits-all approach would be best for all students, so he decided to take advantage of the smaller student body in his district to craft a more individualized approach. “To go from a graduating class of two hundred kids to a freshman class of seven thousand, you get lost quickly,” he remarked, “so there’s a lot of things that we want to try to put in place to make sure that they’re equipped to make that next step.” According to Schneider, these things include meeting with individual students, analyzing data about existing programs at BISD and considering modifications, and funding new initiatives to expand student pathways where possible.
Jim Moore (Wells ISD) took a different approach to a similar goal. Like Schneider, he saw the unique difficulties that rural students face in transitioning out of high school, so he proposed developing a dual credit/CTE program in order to ease students’ transition to their career or higher education program of choice. Given the constraints of working in a rural context, Moore placed a heavy focus on planning and logistics, aiming to increase student opportunities by piloting three new CTE programs and raising community support. “We’re moving in the right direction as far as addressing some of our barriers, but more importantly, offering our kids a quality education to be part of the 21st-century workforce,” he said.