- Expertise: Preparing All Students for College
- Position: Chief Program Officer
- District: IDEA Public Schools, Weslaco, Texas
Three miles from the Pharr International Bridge in Texas—a major point of entry into the United States from Mexico—the prekindergarten students at the IDEA Pharr Academy arrive with virtually no English-language skills. By the time they graduate, though, most will be headed for a four-year college or university with at least 11 AP course credits on their transcripts. The lead architect of that trajectory is Dolores Gonzalez, the chief program officer at IDEA Public Schools, a charter school network that serves 30,000 students, most of them in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Motivated by “devastating” feedback from IDEA graduates who said they felt unprepared for college-level coursework, Gonzalez is leading an Advanced Placement for All initiative that, along with a new pre-K program, starts building the path to higher education in the earliest years.
“Pre-K eliminates the achievement gap for us at a very, very young age, all the way to AP, which is the other end of the spectrum,” Gonzalez says. “If I were king of the world, I would have every single school district have pre-K.”
Lessons from the Leader
- Prioritize Early Education: Early-childhood education is crucial for eliminating achievement gaps and providing children with the tools they need to succeed in every year of school.
- Focus on At-Risk Students: Take responsibility for helping every student reach his or her highest potential and use appropriate interventions at every step of the way to support students.
- Make High School Rigorous: Design courses that truly prepare students for college and ensure that they can enter their first year of higher education without the need for remedial courses.