Co-author Rosa Gomez
Co-author Mari Aguirre Rodriguez

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s a question we have all heard or asked. Whether the answer is a doctor, plumber or a whale trainer at Sea World, one thing is clear – You must have a plan.

Generation TX San Antonio is ensuring students have a plan by preparing this generation of San Antonio students to be college-and-career ready. The reason is simple: the careers are available, but the students need to be prepared for them.

Today, 32% of the jobs in San Antonio require post-secondary education, but only 18% of our kids are getting that education, according to Workforce Solutions Alamo and H-E-B Customer Insights.

Dr. David Conley, CEO of Educational Policy Improvement Center

That is why we started Generation TX San Antonio and SA Ready with Dr. David Conley, the nations’ expert on college-and-career readiness. Within just one year, GenTX SA is already in every Bexar County school district, working with students and teachers, to change expectations, and that’s going to change San Antonio’s future. The SA Ready website officially launches today.

Common Core Standards Initiative

Texas chose to adopt a different core of knowledge base that the state has labeled the College-and-Career Readiness Standards (CCRS), in lieu of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The state hired Dr. David Conley, CEO of the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC), to facilitate those standards and lead that conversation for teachers, educators and higher-education administrators.

SA Ready Program

We work to help teachers who are continuously looking for reputable tools to solve and ease gaps in their classroom. They need them. They are looking for them. And the SA Ready program has them, all created for teachers by teachers.

In 2011, GenTX SA organized a task force of curricula specialists and educators and challenged them to develop an instructional thread (kindergarten through high school) that helps students prepare for college and careersThroughout the 2011-2012 school year, five local school districts piloted this innovative lesson writing and professional development project and an additional six districts joined the program in 2012-2013.

Theresa Heim, Texas Teacher of the Year Finalist, Connally Middle School 7th grade reading teacher and AVID Coordinator

The educators in those districts include Texas Teacher of the Year Finalist Theresa Heim. Heim not only helped develop the lesson plans alongside fellow teachers, but she also implements the lessons in her classroom at Connally Middle School. As the 7th grade reading teacher and AVID Coordinator, she sees college-and-career readiness teaching not only as her responsibility as an educator but an honor to change her students’ lives like her teachers changed hers as a student.

“I am grateful and thankful for them (my former teachers) for getting me where I am,” Heim explained. “They were teachers, yes, and you know technically it’s supposed to be your job. But, they went above and beyond. They did it and now it’s my turn to do it for these kids. Just like in the way they changed my life, I know that in going the extra mile with these kids, I may be doing that for one of them.”

Technology & Teaching with SA-Ready.org

One way to make it easier for teachers to go that extra mile is making credible resources easily accessible through technology. That’s why we created the free online, teacher resource platform, SA-Ready.org, to house the SA Ready lessons.

So what makes these lessons different than other educational open source sites? The quality, validity and variety of resources SA-Ready.org offers are a first-of-its kind.

First, the high quality lesson plans go through a rigorous review process. Lesson writers are trained using a college-and career-ready professional development model created by EPIC’s Dr. Conley, aligning the lessons with the Texas College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS).

Along with lesson plans, the website hosts multiple free resources, including a toolkit and video capturing excellent classroom teaching in a Khan Academy style of learning for teachers.

“Tying technology, curriculum, and instruction together can be a powerful tool to connect teachers and students better,” said Dr. Conley. “We find of 100 middle schoolers nationally, 93 say they aspire to go to college but only 26 earn a college degree within six years of enrolling. That shows us one thing: We are losing kids along the way. They are not prepared. However, Generation TX San Antonio’s online project will prepare more young people for college and careers.”

With Dr. Conley’s help, in just one year we produced and vetted more than 100 high-quality lessons. By the end of the 2014 school year, SA-Ready.org will feature more than 700 lesson plans to be used by teachers nationwide.

Photo courtesy of Generation Texas San Antonio.

College-and-Career Readiness

Another unique aspect of SA Ready lesson plans is that they are college-and-career ready specific. So what does that mean? It means any student that graduates from high school should be able to enter a technical, trade, two-year or four-year institution without taking any remediation courses. The overall focus is continuing learning. 

“As the economy has changed, our social needs have changed and the structure of our society has changed, we find that what we need is an aligned connected system that creates the opportunity for all students to receive an education that enables them, if they choose to do so, to continue learning beyond high school,” said Dr. Conley. “That’s the heart of my definition. That’s the heart of the policy issue. That’s the heart of the problem at the same time.”

Classroom to the Boardroom

SA Ready is one part to a bigger solution – job creation and career achievement. College-and-career ready lessons expand students’ thinking beyond high school and college into what they want to do for their careers. More importantly it provides the details that help them to prepare to achieve all the goals they are setting for themselves.

Part of that achievement is finding a promising career path supported by strong academic skills. That creates a win-win scenario for the teachers, students and businesses.

So I ask you to think about this, what teacher inspired you to “be what you wanted to be when you grow up?” Mine (Mari) was Mrs. Cathcart, my high school journalism teacher who convinced me that I was good enough and smart enough to be anything I wanted to be. Most importantly, she gave me the skills and knowledge to succeed in a college classroom. A great teacher can change the path of a student. We believe that teachers could start a movement not seen before. A movement of inspiration. A movement of information. A movement of college and career readiness for every student.

Mari Aguirre Rodriguez is the Executive Director of Generation TX San Antonio. You can reach her at mari@gentx.org.

Rosa Gomez is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Generation TX San Antonio. You can reach her via Twitter @rgomez1 or email at rgomez@gentx.org.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org