When you first walk into the Algebra II class at Winona High School, you can tell this is a math class. But listen closely. This is really advanced stuff.
Here at Winona H.S. more and more students are signing up for tougher math courses. Sandra Saxon is part of the reason why. She encourages every student to do more than the minimum course load for graduation. "It's either do it now, or do it later. And you end up using more time doing it later, taking longer to get out of college."
So many students graduated last year with an extra year of math, two years of foreign language, another year of social studies and one more year of science classes that Winona ISD won an award. The new Gold Performance Acknowledgments honors schools that meet specific requirements in seven different categories; Attendance, Algebra I Grades, Advanced Course Completion, Advanced Placement Classes, College Admissions Test Results, TAAS Equivalency, and Recommended High School Program Graduation.
While GPA honors do give schools like Winona bragging rights, Saxon says it also helps schools focus on getting kids to get more out of High School. "We're trying to reduce the students who are needing remediation courses as they go into college. We're trying to help out those employers who are saying that students, when they graduate are not ready to walk onto a job and start."
That means a new way of thinking about student achievement statewide.
Many East Texas districts received at least one GPA award, and a few received two.