Remember the 1988 inspirational movie “Stand and Deliver”? It was about school teacher Jaime Escalante who encouraged students at risk of dropping out to instead learn calculus. Well, a national group called Best in Schools created an award inspired by Escalante called Best in Education, and that award for 2017 just went to Jose Espinoza, the superintendent of Socorro ISD in El Paso.
Located right next to the border, Socorro ISD has over 46,000 students. 90 percent of whom are Hispanic and 70 percent of them are economically disadvantaged.
“I was very honored and humbled to receive this award on behalf of team SISD. So in my opinion, it’s not an individual award. It’s a team award,” Espinoza says. “Here in third through eighth grade, there’s a total of 17 tests. And in 2012, we were behind the state of Texas in 9 of the 17 tests. Well now, for the last four years, we are ahead of the state of Texas in 17 out of those 17 tests.”
Espinoza says that aggressively pursuing grants is one strategy that’s worked for the district.
“We received an $800,000 from the Kellogg Foundation and it’s something that helped us get our WIN Academy started,” he says.
Espinoza says WIN Academy supports students who haven’t been successful in a traditional school setting.
“They’re able to gain two or more years’ worth of knowledge in this fast-track, demanding, flexible education system. For example, our WIN students, they stay in school for nine hours. They receive a daily double dose of reading and also math,” he says.
Another strategy that’s working at WIN Academy is keeping a student with the same teacher for multiple years.
“Normally, a kid’s in third grade, goes to fourth grade, they have a different teacher,” Espinoza says. “Well, students in WIN Academy, they move up with their same teacher so that teacher’s going to know every strength, every challenge about the child, but also about the family, the home environment.”
Written by Jen Rice.