|SAN JUAN, June 8 - PSJA ISD Superintendent Daniel P. King is to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative, which takes place June 13 and 14 in Chicago.
King will be involved in the summit’s Reconnecting Youth work sessions. He has been asked to participate because of his success in turning around PSJA from being one of the worst school districts in Texas at preventing school dropouts to one of the best. Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton will speak at the conference.
In 2006, PSJA’s dropout rate stood at 18.7 percent, compared to the statewide average of 8.8 percent. Today’s PSJA’s dropout rate is 3.1 percent, compared to the statewide average of 6.8 percent. It is 99 percent Hispanic and 90 percent economically disadvantaged.
“The Clinton Foundation picked up on the work we are doing here. They asked if we would participate in the Clinton Global Initiative to explain the work we are doing with disconnected youth who are under-educated and who have dropped out, those who do not have the skills to get a good job,” King told the Guardian.
“I have been asked to share the work PSJA has done, the success we have had with reconnecting dropouts, getting them to finish their high school diploma, getting them into community college and getting them certificates and industry credentials. I have been asked to work with a subgroup at the Clinton Global Initiative on developing ideas and best practices that can be turned into implementation plans that can be used in the United States and other countries.”
According to the Texas Business Leadership Council, PSJA “has become a state and national model for dropout prevention and recovery, inspiring state legislation (SB 975 in the 82nd Legislature) and replication of its innovative initiatives across Texas and the nation.”
PSJA and Dr. King have won a number of national and state awards in recent years. Asked what interested the Clinton Foundation most about PSJA, King said the College Career and Technology Academy. This campus attracts youths who have dropped out of high school. The students can come back and not only earn a high school diploma but also a community college certificate. As of last week, the CCTA had graduated 1,100 18 to 26 year olds. At last week’s graduation, nine young adults from CCTA graduated from South Texas College before they graduated from high school.
King is particularly impressed with one young adult, a 25-year-old mother who came to the Rio Grande Valley from Mexico some years ago. She did not finish high school, started to raise a family and then came back to PSJA via CCTA. Not only did she secure a high school diploma she also earned a certificate in business computer applications from STC.
“This young lady is really determined to go on and get her associate’s degree. She is real motivated by her success. She had dropped out seven or eight years ago. She came back and in one school year was able to complete a college certification and finish her high school diploma. She is very motivated and determined that she is going to get her associate degree and put herself in a much better position to provide for her family,” King said.
King said he will be sharing the story of this young adult and others who have graduated from CCTA at the Clinton Global Initiative.
PSJA’s success at preventing dropouts has been recognized by Jobs for the Future. The group’s Lili Allen wrote a big feature on CCTA in August 2012 titled “Back on Track through College in the Rio Grande Valley – From Dropout Recovery to Postsecondary Success.” In the article, she points out that CCTA builds a college-going culture from the moment students are recruited. She noted that billboards in the area market CCTA as the place to “start college today.” Allen also quotes CCTA Principal Linda Carrillo as saying that from day one, students know that they will be active participants in their learning and that in every class they will be asked to write, to ask and to be asked challenging questions, and to collaborate with their peers to understand challenging content. “Students are empowered with learning strategies that provide them with the tools to succeed as they strive to earn their high school diploma and start college at the same time,” Carrillo said.
King said Carrillo’s work has led to him being asked to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative. Asked who might be in the audience at the summit, King said: “Like-minded people from around the country and, I assume, from different countries. There will be task forces. They have an AIDS initiative, education initiative, focused primarily on disconnected youths, and an economic development imitative. They have a task force for each.”
Dozens of leaders from the business, foundation, NGO, and government sectors will participate in CGI America. They include Ellen Kullman, chair and CEO of DuPont, Audrey Choi, managing director and head of global sustainable finance for Morgan Stanley, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Muhammed Chaudhry, president and CEO of Silicon Valley Education Foundation, Janet Murgia, president of the National Council of La Raza, and Eva Longoria, of the Eva Longoria Foundation.
The Guardian asked King if, because the conference has the world “global” in its title, PSJA’s successes could be replicated in other countries. He responded that there are definitely problems with dropouts in other nations, especially third world countries where opportunities for students to receive a good education are not as great as in the U.S. “The Clinton Global Initiative is looking for unique ideas and unique ways to approach key issues and then come up with implementation plans that they can solicit funding for, in order to try to spread and scale the ideas,” King said.
The Chicago conference will be the third annual meeting of CGI America. According to its website, it is focused on “finding solutions that promote economic recovery in the United States.” The aim is to “develop solutions that increase employment, advance access to education and skills development, strengthen energy security, and promote an environment for business growth and innovation.”