Partnership Celebrates 25 Years of Academic Excellence
For 25 years, the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence (EPCAE), based at The University of Texas at El Paso, has ensured that students from pre-K to graduate school have access to high quality educational opportunities, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, ZIP code or financial means.
Established in 1992 to improve the academic success of students in the Paso del Norte region, the EPCAE, a communitywide partnership, is recognized as one of the most innovative and effective urban school reform initiatives in the United States. To mark the EPCAE’s silver anniversary in 2017, UTEP hosted a lecture on Sept. 19 to celebrate the remarkable achievements that have resulted from the collaborative’s collective efforts.
The event featured presentations from some of the EPCAE’s key players, including Susana Navarro, Ph.D., who co-founded the initiative with UTEP President Diana Natalicio; Robert B. Schwartz, professor emeritus of practice in educational policy and administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Kati Haycock, former president of The Education Trust.
“What absolutely has to be noted is how very different this community is from the one that we saw in 1991 and 1992,” said Navarro, who retired in 2011 after serving as the EPCAE’s director for 20 years. “In those days, the achievement patterns painted a pretty dismal picture. Few students achieved and were at remotely acceptable levels whether at third grade, at eighth grade, or in high school. What was happening in postsecondary [education] was just as gloomy.”
Today, the EPCAE has been credited with successfully improving high school graduation rates, increasing college readiness programs, and reducing academic achievement gaps across demographic groups. UTEP also experienced impressive growth in enrollment and in the total number of education degrees awarded.
“This region has a very special educational interdependence,” President Natalicio said. “More than 80 percent of UTEP students are graduates of high schools in this region and an estimated 75 percent of area teachers are graduates of UTEP. This means we have a mutuality of interests and a shared stake in our collective success.”
The EPCAE plans to increase the number of dual-credit and advanced courses offered in high schools and prepare more teachers with credentials required to teach these college-level courses. - Laura L. Acosta