The Lufkin High School Early College High School will soon receive the Provisional Early College designation from the Texas Education Agency. What that means is that the Lufkin High School ECHS implemented all of the design elements for each required benchmark and met the state’s Provisional Early College outcomes-based measures.

According to the TEA website, the ECHS Blueprint addresses six benchmarks: 1) target population, 2) partnership agreement, 3) leadership initiative, 4) curriculum and support, 5) academic rigor and readiness, and 6) school design. Even though we have technically been in a planning year, Lufkin High School has forged ahead with a group of students moving to their sophomore year with 10 to 12 college hours in their schedules for the 2019-20 school year.

Finishing up their first year of the ECHS, the 111 freshmen had a phenomenal college experience. Out of the cohort, all of the students passed their first college course with more than 80%, making an A or B on their report card to prove college readiness.

Before taking this course, students also had pass the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, which determines the appropriate level of college coursework for an incoming student. The exam consists of three different parts — mathematics, reading and writing.

Of the first cohort, 100% is either TSIA complete in reading or writing. In addition to successful completion of their first college course, all students passed all three end-of-course tests required during their freshman year: Algebra I, English I and Biology I.

Our final measure of success is grades in the students’ academic courses, with many taking an advanced course for the first time. Bottom line, the ECHS students’ grades exceeded the non-ECHS students’ grades on the campus.

When thinking about the challenges that some of these students face, possibly being the first family member to ever attend college, I am very impressed with their first college and high school experience.

There are many benefits to students enrolled in the Early College High School. College tuition, books and instructional fees are free up to 60 hours. Students will continue to receive high school credits and can even participate in high school clubs and activities. The cohort is small, with a maximum amount of only 125 students in the program each year.

The students will have all the support they need to be successful, including tutoring and access to the Angelina College library and tutoring centers, as well as academic counseling services.

The students have applied and been accepted based on one or more of the following criteria according to the blueprint established by the TEA and the demographics of Lufkin High School and Lufkin ISD:

■ The student must be at risk as determined by 13 criteria from the TEA.

■ The student must qualify for free or reduced lunch.

■ The student must be African American or Hispanic.

■ The student must be male.

After those initial criteria are met, other students are eligible for admittance through a lottery system.

The second cohort, the Class of 2023, was inducted into the ECHS on May 7. These students are attending a Summer Bridge Camp to prepare for next year at Lufkin High School. This group took the TSIA test in late May, and out of this group, 64% are already complete in writing and eligible for their first college course with another testing opportunity this summer.

I could not be more proud of our students, staff, and community partners for making our first planning year a success. Our students are flourishing and gaining the skills they need to be successful in taking college courses.

We simply could not have the ECHS without the support from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation and Angelina College. We are beyond fortunate to have community partners who recognize the value of investing in education.

Never doubt that Lufkin students can and will be successful. They make Lufkin ISD and their community proud every single day.

Lynn Torres is the superintendent of Lufkin ISD. Her email address is ltorres@lufkinisd.org.