NEW YORK — Three exceptional high schools have been named College Board 2009 Inspiration Award winners for improving their academic environment and helping underserved students achieve equitable access to higher education. Each winning school will receive a $25,000 award, and each of the two honorable mention schools will receive $1,000 to apply toward programs that encourage students to attend college.
Remarking on today’s announcement, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “At a time when higher standards and increased college readiness have become critical to our nation’s future, it is encouraging to know that these Inspiration schools provide a wonderful example for all of us as we work to reform our education system. Congratulations to these schools, their principals, their teachers and their students for this tremendous success. They show us what is possible.”
The 2009 Inspiration Award-winning schools are:
- Hidalgo Early College High School, Hidalgo, Texas
- Riverdale High School, Riverdale, Calif.
- William B. Murrah High School, Jackson, Miss.
The College Board will honor each of the schools at special inspirational assemblies attended by administrators, faculty, students and parents. On May 6, College Board Senior Vice President Peter Negroni will present a 2009 Inspiration Award to Hidalgo Early College High School. On May 12, he will present an award to Riverdale High School. Then on May 14, College Board President Gaston Caperton will present the third Inspiration Award to William B. Murrah High School.
The Inspiration Awards celebrate America’s most improved high schools. These schools create a culture in which success in the classroom is “cool”; they help their students acquire self-confidence and the skills necessary not only to gain admission to college but to succeed on campus. Winning secondary schools demonstrate significant and consistent growth across the entire student population in the number of students taking rigorous courses and the percentage of graduates accepted to institutions of higher education.
In announcing the winners, College Board President Gaston Caperton said, “We are delighted to honor the 2009 Inspiration Award schools. They have made a difference in their communities and in the lives of their students. Because of the unique programs they have created, teachers, parents, community organizations and local businesses have come together to help students graduate from high school and go on to college.”
Hidalgo Early College High School
Hidalgo Early College High School is located in south Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border. The school serves a student population that is 98 percent Hispanic and 91 percent economically disadvantaged. More than half of the students have limited English proficiency. However, the district is committed to providing every student with a high-quality education that leads to success in high school and beyond. To reach this goal, every student has multiple opportunities to take college-level classes while still in high school. At Hidalgo, students can earn up to 60 college credits prior to graduation at no cost to the student or family.
Students are encouraged to think about going to college by attending college fairs, through the display of college information in every classroom, and through offerings at the college planning center. Special parent nights present information about the college admissions process and financial aid.
Hidalgo has a 98.3 percent high school graduation rate, which is the highest completion rate of any school district in Hidalgo County. Recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked Hidalgo ECHS as one of the “Best High Schools in America.” Providing opportunities for economically disadvantaged students has encouraged students to stay in school and achieve higher levels of educational attainment.
Riverdale High School
Riverdale High School, located in rural central California approximately 25 miles from Fresno, is dedicated to providing a challenging and high-quality education for all students. The school prepares traditionally underrepresented students for academic success in high school and beyond. In fact, Riverdale has become known as a “school of choice” because the education students receive allows them choices after graduation. In 2006, the school received a Title I Achievement Award and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges renewed the school’s accreditation until 2012. Riverdale was recognized as a bronze medalist in U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best High Schools” in 2008 and 2009.
Riverdale’s student population is 79 percent Hispanic; 76 percent of the students participate in the reduced-price lunch programs; and 38 percent are immigrants. Currently, 14 percent are learning English as a second language, while 76 percent of the students speak English as their second language. An array of programs is available to help students in high school and with their post-high-school career decisions. Beginning in 2007-08, all core classes became college preparatory, and 111 of Riverdale’s 542 students took an AP® Exam. As students leave Riverdale High, they are required to provide proof of a postsecondary objective. Last year, almost 90 percent of the class of 2008 was accepted into a two- or four-year college. Last year, more than $766,000 in scholarships was awarded to Riverdale students to support them in their postsecondary pursuits.
William B. Murrah High School
As a Title I, inner-city school enrolling underserved students, William B. Murrah High School understands that there are many barriers students encounter in reaching college success. Recognizing the importance of a rigorous curriculum, teacher preparation and student support, Murrah has worked to provide these essentials. To improve academic readiness, Murrah developed vertical teams of teachers (including middle school teachers) who create aligned curricula and share effective teaching strategies, student scholarships, and a partnership with the nonprofit Education Services Foundation, for student support services.
In another partnership, with University Medical Center in the Base Pair program, students work with faculty researchers. From this immersion, Murrah students have had successful college experiences in schools such as Yale and Brown.
In the last five years, the success of Murrah’s AP students shows that the improvements made have had a significant effect. The number of AP students has increased by 54 percent, the number of AP Exams taken has increased by 74 percent, and the number of AP Exam scores of 3 or higher has increased by 36 percent.
With insights from the College Board’s CollegeKeys Compact™ — a national effort to make college access and success a reality for all students, including those from low-income backgrounds — Murrah faculty and staff, along with students, parents and partners, implemented a plan that built on earlier successes. Specific activities were undertaken to create a college-going culture. Focusing on factors that appear significant in helping low-income students go to college, activities concentrate on raising the level of student expectation; encouraging them to take a rigorous curriculum; helping students identify the benefits of college; and providing information and hands-on assistance in planning and paying for college.
Awards Reflect Importance of Access to Higher Education
“The 2009 Inspiration Award winners are models for others who seek to close the achievement gap. The hard work and dedication of these educators and the example of these communities are an inspiration to all of us,” said Caperton.
A distinguished panel of Inspiration Award judges selected this year’s winners based on the school’s success in increasing the number of students (from all school demographic groups) being prepared for college.
The 2009 Inspiration Award judges included:
- Brian Cashman, general manager, New York Yankees
- Edwidge Danticat, award-winning author and professor
- Chauncey Veatch, 2002 National Teacher of the Year
- Mike Marriner, Roadtrip Nation
College-preparedness gains were measured based on a variety of factors, including the percentage of students taking college-preparatory core curriculum courses; the percentage of students accepted into two- or four-year colleges; and growth in student participation in rigorous classes such as AP, International Baccalaureate or other honors programs. Beyond meeting basic eligibility requirements, the Inspiration Award-winning schools were selected for their innovative ability to inspire student success.
The following schools are recipients of the College Board 2009 Inspiration Award Honorable Mention, and each school has received a $1,000 award:
- Bell Multicultural Senior High School, Washington, D.C.
- McAllen Memorial High School, McAllen, Texas
More information about the College Board Inspiration Awards is available at www.collegeboard.com/inspirationawards.
The College Board
The College Board is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the College Board is composed of more than 5,600 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations. Each year, the College Board serves seven million students and their parents, 23,000 high schools, and 3,800 colleges through major programs and services in college readiness, college admissions, guidance, assessment, financial aid, enrollment, and teaching and learning. Among its best-known programs are the SAT®, the PSAT/NMSQT® and the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®). The College Board is committed to the principles of excellence and equity, and that commitment is embodied in all of its programs, services, activities and concerns.
Jennifer Topiel, The College Board, 212-713-8052, email@example.com.