AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas OnRamps Program, administered by The University of Texas at Austin, is partnering with eight independent school districts in South Texas to bring college-aligned content, innovative teaching strategies, educational technology and advanced teacher training to 13 campuses this school year.
“The OnRamps mission is to dramatically increase the number and diversity of students who are ready to succeed in leading colleges and universities,” said Harrison Keller, deputy to the president for strategy and policy at UT Austin and founder of the OnRamps program. “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with, and learn from, these committed South Texas educators to provide new opportunities for their students.”
Rigorous dual enrollment courses will be offered to more than 250 students this school year in several ISDs: Donna, Hidalgo, Lyford, McAllen, Point Isabel, Roma, San Benito and United.
“We are thrilled to offer these courses with Region One ESC GEAR UP,” said Julie Schell, director of OnRamps. “Our courses are designed to immerse all students in authentic, college-level experiences that will accelerate their postsecondary success.”
Twenty-nine teachers from Region One GEAR UP campuses participated in Texas OnRamps Summer Professional Learning Institute and began the school year with more than 2,500 combined hours of robust college-aligned content and pedagogy. These teacher innovators are implementing what they learned to challenge students’ learning at a higher level. The Region One ESC GEAR UP program serves 27 school districts in the South Texas area, including the Rio Grande Valley.
“The two-week UT OnRamps training was an eye-opening experience,” said Fernando Segovia, an OnRamps pre-calculus instructor from McAllen ISD. “It taught me how to take my students thinking to the next level by using Inquiry Based Learning. I could not have survived the two weeks without great (UT) faculty and staff directing and challenging my potential.”
Through the OnRamps dual enrollment model, which is distinct from traditional dual credit courses, students are separately enrolled in college and high school courses with two separate instructors (one high school and one college) using the same curriculum, designed by faculty experts at UT Austin. Students receive separate grades on their high school and college work, and students who perform well can earn college credit. This approach helps prepare students for the transition to college by engaging them in college-level work early.
To further support student excellence, this year all Region One GEAR UP students participating in OnRamps are engaging in learning modules designed specifically to develop the key skills and strategies necessary for college. Andrew Butler, a UT Austin faculty member, cognitive scientist and learning expert, designed modules to engage students in high-quality instructional materials that promote independent learning strategies and study skills that are aligned with success in college.
“We are pleased to partner with UT Austin and provide our students a learning opportunity that will aid in furthering their educational goals, help students be successful in a postsecondary setting, and help families afford a college education,” said Tina Atkins, Region One GEAR UP administrator. “For many of our GEAR UP students, it is not them not wanting to go to college that keeps them from attending; it is the cost of attendance that is too much for their family to afford. OnRamps gives students the chance to earn college credit while in high school, saving their families a substantial amount of money in tuition costs later.”