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Texarkana Independent School District (TISD) and Texas A&M University-Texarkana have forged a powerful partnership. Working together, they are building a pipeline for students well versed in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education from kindergarten through college. This model, the first of its kind in the country, may turn out to be one that can be replicated in other school districts.
The planning for the program, officially called the Texas A&M University-Texarkana—Texarkana ISD K–16 Engineering Collaborative—began in January 2005, when a blue-ribbon committee of TISD had its first meeting. Members of the committee included parents, community and business leaders, and school district representatives. The purpose of the meeting was to review the school district’s facilities and programs and determine how to improve its STEM program. This committee had a strong incentive—a need for more engineers at the local level to support businesses, such as International Paper, Domtar Paper Mill, and Alcoa.
As plans for the K–16 vertically aligned program evolved, the planning committee received good news. The family of Josh Morriss, Jr., donated land near the Texas A&M-Texarkana campus for the new K–5 elementary school. The first piece of the K–16 pipeline, this school, called the Martha and Josh Morriss Mathematics and Engineering Elementary School, focuses on math, science, and engineering.
The new school opened its doors in the fall of 2007, with Principal Rick Sandlin at the helm. Students apply to attend the school and are selected on a first-come-first-served basis. The school’s first cohort of 396 students has about 23 percent African American, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian students and 15 percent from low-income households. No matter where the students live or what their backgrounds are, they are all expected to live up to the school’s high standards.