More students enrolled in El Paso Independent School District high schools this year than in the 2014-15 academic year — a sign that innovative academic programs and open enrollment may be effective in attracting students into the district, administrators said.
Figures from EPISD’s Office of Strategy and Accountability indicate that at the end of the first six weeks of the 2015-16 school year, the District had 18,358 students enrolled in high school. That number is 292 students higher than the high-school enrollment figure for the same time last school year.
“EPISD is on a path to become a District of choice, and our efforts over the last two years have been centered on creating academic programs that will help us give our students the type of education they deserve,” said Superintendent Juan Cabrera. “We understand there is still work to be done,” he added. “But we also know that much has been done by our administrators and our classroom teachers to create programs that will help us enrich the lives of the students we have right now, and those we hope to attract as well.”
EPISD has experienced a dip in enrollment over the recent years, losing about 1,000 students each year. Total enrollment for the 2015-16 school year at the end of the first six weeks was set at 59,833 students.
That figure is 888 fewer students than the District had at the same time last year. Forecasters in the District’s strategy and accountability office predicted the dip in enrollment for this year within 1 percent, meaning the Board of Trustees and Administration were able to budget appropriately for the school year.
Still, the District is optimistic that the hike in enrollment at the high-school level could be a sign that more families are choosing to stay within the boundaries of EPISD, or are taking advantage of the 2-year-old open enrollment policy that offers students from throughout El Paso County tuition-fee enrollment in District schools that have capacity.
Figures show eight high-school campuses saw at least modest increases in enrollment: Bowie, Burges, Coronado, El Paso High, Franklin, Silva Health Magnet, Chapin and Transmountain Early College. Jose Lopez, EPISD’s Executive Director of Strategy and Accountability, said even highschool campuses that saw enrollment go down, experienced lower-than-expected dips.
This school year, EPISD launched two new innovative programs that had broad impact at the high school level: EPISD PowerUp and New Tech High. Through PowerUp, a program that combines technology with active learning lessons, students will be able to solve problems critically using technology and detailed instruction, including the EPISD teacher-developed digital flex books now being used in El Paso ISD, as well as the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District.
New Tech High is a hands-on, project-based learning program that incorporates group work with technology. The program is available at both Franklin and Irvin high schools. “Programs like New Tech are improving the District in more ways than one,” said Scott Gray, an assistant principal at Irvin.
“They are keeping students engaged in learning so that they’re better prepared for college; and they’re making the District a more attractive option for those families who have moved to the neighborhoods in the outskirt of El Paso.”
EPISD is working to improve the current suite of academic programs it offers students, and expand its offerings with particular focus on the elementary- and middle-school levels. To help guide these efforts, the District recently hired Karen Blaine as its Executive Director of Innovation and Advanced Academics.
“We are facing a tough task in trying to reverse the declining enrollment in the District,” Superintendent Cabrera said. “And we know that the only way to get out of this difficult situation will be through the implementation of high-quality education programs.”