Brownwood ISD Offers UT OnRamps for Academic Excellence
By Sara Musgrove
Success can be defined in many ways. Brownwood ISD provides a personalized plan to prepare students for college-level reading, writing, and math skills to create their own. High school-aged students across the globe are taking university-level courses along with their daily academics in dual-enrollment programs. This primes them for their first years in secondary education. “Many of the best-prepared high school students—even those who have taken the most rigorous course work offered to them—still struggle in entry-level college courses,” the University of Texas OnRamps website states. “Far too many of these high-potential students never complete a post-secondary degree.” When students find the stakes raised in higher-level educations, the pressure of performing better can overwhelm the common student. Brownwood ISD offers a variety of courses for college readiness through various methods of dual-enrollment programs, cooperating with Howard Payne University, Ranger College, Texas State Technical College, and now The University of Texas at Austin in their signature OnRamps program.
Incorporated in the 2017 school year at Brownwood High School, OnRamps offers high-quality, innovative college coursework in a range of fields, including English, United States History, Pre-Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics. Five teachers from BHS have attended training seminars at the University of Texas at Austin to prepare them for their educational endeavors with the OnRamps program.
“The teachers went for two weeks to U.T., stayed in U.T. dorms, and were students,” said Lindsay Smith, Associate Principal at Brownwood High School. “It was intense. They learned the subject matter and then also how to teach at a college level. It has helped the rigor in the classrooms.” These teachers have brought back a refreshed excitement for their skills and the opportunities students now obtain in their classrooms. “This is a huge commitment for the teachers,” Smith said. “Their teaching seems to change across the board.” This enthusiasm has spread to the students as well. “We’ve had quite a few students come and say, ‘I know if I can pass this class through U.T. Austin, I’ll be good when I go off to college.’ The kids have stepped up.”
Advanced academic enrollment allows students to understand the expectations required of them in post-secondary education while in a familiar environment. They experience quality coursework designed by University of Texas faculty, which is graded by both the U.T. faculty and the high school teacher for grades on both their U.T. and high school transcripts. Students then earn three hours of core college credit which can transfer to any public college or university in Texas, while receiving support from family and friends in their local community. This shifts students into the rigor of higher education with a tangibly supportive foundation. “Students see themselves learning, see their progress, and feel proud of themselves,” the OnRamps website states. This supportive partnership creates a student with not just knowledge, but practical application, visible progress, and higher self-esteem. This type of student is the one who succeeds.
Brownwood ISD continues working to transform how students learn in order to prepare them for academic success. OnRamps offers a challenging and fulfilling outlet, and the future is bright. So far in the 2018 academic year, 84 students have participated in the OnRamps program. These students will simultaneously earn grades on their high school and university transcripts, while saving time and money in the long-term scope of their educational timeline. And the cost? Free for all participants, financed by grants from the Texas Education Agency.
“Students get an actual college professor grading their papers, which is confidence-building,” Smith said. “This has leveled the playing field because there’s quite a few who can’t afford dual credit or are afraid to waste money if they fail. With OnRamps, the teaching and quality of the classroom has improved for everyone, not just a select few.”
Above: Students in Telise Murray's OnRamps Pre-Calculus class work on assignments.