There are more opportunities now for Angelina County students to graduate from high school with college credits and technical certifications — and in some cases entire associate degrees — than ever before.

The Angelina County Cooperative Early College High School partnership, Advanced Placement courses and dual-credit/concurrent courses allow high school students to earn their diplomas while becoming licensed in a trade or get a good head start on course hours toward a college degree.

Pineywoods Community Academy’s PARAMUS Early College High School is a free public charter school open to all students in Angelina County. Hudson High School offers an ECHS for students who were in its Advancement Via Individual Determination program while in middle school. Meanwhile, Lufkin High School’s ECHS is designed for traditionally underserved populations. We think that’s great.

What we don’t agree with is the Texas Education Agency’s gender and race requirements that curtail the participation of girls and students who aren’t African American or Hispanic under state-designated ECHS programs.

More than 100 LHS freshmen started their high school and college careers simultaneously last fall in the school’s new program. The ECHS allows students to earn up to 60 college credits toward an associate degree or certification program at zero cost thanks to a partnership with Angelina College and an $864,000 grant from the T.L.L. Temple Foundation.

The ECHS students who applied were accepted based on one or more of the following criteria: being the first in the family to attend college; desiring to attend college but lacking the funds; being motivated to be challenged with college-level course work; and/or being willing to receive academic guidance from dedicated collegiate instructors.

LHS Superintendent Lynn Torres said in a column in June that students are 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 criteria are met, other students may be eligible for admittance through a lottery system.

Because Hudson’s ECHS is not state-designated, the school is allowed to set its own parameters to determine who qualifies, with no restrictions based on gender or race. Although the national AVID program serves all students, it focuses on the least-served students in the academic middle.

We like that PCA’s ECHS is open to anyone. We also like the state’s efforts to bridge the gap between the lowest- and the highest-performing students and rich and poor students with the ECHS offered at LHS.

The TEA says its intent was not to exclude any population — that data determined that “specific subpopulations were underrepresented when compared to the district population.”

We get it. It’s a widely known fact that women have made up the majority of college-educated adults going back four decades now. Whether the work force represents that or not is a subject for another editorial.

But for the love of God, it’s 2019. Let’s not penalize any student who could benefit from this program just because of their gender or the color of their skin.

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