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News & Events

Here’s what’s happening at IDEA



IDEA Public Schools Celebrates National School Choice Week

This week, January 22-28, marks National School Choice Week.  The goal of National School Choice Week (NCSW) is to raise public awareness of education options for children, and IDEA is proud to participate.    

As a public charter school system, IDEA emphasizes how important educational choice is for families who want their child to attend a great school.  Whether its traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, or homes...

IDEA Eastside Visits Baylor University

At IDEA Public Schools, we are committed to exposing our students to colleges and universities across the country through college visits and field lessons.  Your child can experience this, and more, as they embark on the road to and through college at IDEA.  Apply now!  

This past December, all 6th and 7th grade students at IDEA Eastside College Preparatory in San Antonio visited Baylor University in Waco, Texas. 

IDEA’s Philo...

IDEA San Antonio Grows to Reach More Students

In 2012, NBA legend David Robinson invited IDEA to partner on solving educational inequality in San Antonio. IDEA and the Admiral joined forces later that year, united in the quest to provide a quality education to students across The Alamo City. 

Today, five years later, IDEA Public Schools remains laser-focused on this mission—ensuring more students in San Antonio receive a high-quality education and are prepared for the road to and through college an...

IDEA Judson Volleyball Players Bump, Set, and Study

IDEA Judson Academy and College Preparatory takes pride in providing a great education and a robust array of extra-curricular to its students.  With limited spots still available, your child can join the IDEA Judson Team & Family today.  Apply now! 

Read this story and more in the winter issue of IMPACT magazine. 

Lisbeth Martinez, like the rest of her sixth-grade peers, was a new student at a brand new campus.  That di...

IDEA Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

“Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tomorrow, January 16, 2017, IDEA schools will be closed in the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, work and legacy.    

As an organization fueled by the drive to create a more equal world through a quality education for all children, we champion this day as a time to remember a remarkable individual who fought to change...

Reading Excellence at IDEA Bluff Springs

IDEA Bluff Springs in Austin, Texas is building a culture of reading excellence, and your child can join in on the educational fun.      

Walk into the magical Accelerated Reader (AR) zone, where bookshelves line the walls and you can hear a pin drop.  You’ll find IDEA students immersed in both nonfiction and fiction books ranging from insects to magical worlds.

The AR Zone is a space devoted to promoting a cul...

IDEA Teacher Spotlight: Meet Ms. Biniasz

Do you want to become an IDEA teacher and change students’ lives for the better? Apply today!

Sarah Biniasz is a 6th grade Life Skills Teacher at IDEA Bluff Springs College Preparatory.  She began her career at IDEA Public Schools as a 6th grade Humanities teacher and later led the special education department at IDEA Mission College Prep in the Rio Grande Valley. After teaching at IDEA Mission for three years, Sarah was ...

The Future is Bright for IDEA San Juan Pre-K Scholars

Enroll your child in Pre-K at IDEA.  Limited spots are still available for the 2016-2017 school year.  Apply today!  

IDEA San Juan Academy opened its Pre-K program this fall, and the school’s youngest scholars are reaping the benefits.  The goal?  Ensure every IDEA Pre-K student is ready for kindergarten by being able to read on or above level, as well as perform basic math skills.  That goal is within reach, as IDEA Sa...

Dolores Gonzalez Recognized for Leadership in Preparing All Students for College

By Arianna Prothero, Education Week

Three miles from the Pharr International Bridge in Texas—a major point of entry into the United States from Mexico—the prekindergarten students at the IDEA Pharr Academy arrive with virtually no English-language skills. By the time they graduate, though, most will be headed for a four-year college or university with at least 11 AP course credits on their transcripts. The lead architect of that trajectory is Dolores Gon...

TEA releases preliminary A-F grades for school districts

As seen in The Monitor

By Danya Perez-Hernandez

School district officials throughout the state started 2017 with a better understanding of where their districts might stand under the Texas Education Agency’s upcoming accountability system.

Last week, the districts received a “What if” report based on four out of the five domains that TEA is proposing to legislators as part of the new A-F accountability system.

“It is very...

Commentary: There is only ‘us’ in public education

By Larkin Tackett, executive director at IDEA Public Schools Austin

As seen in myStatesman 

“And so, how are the children?” That’s how members of the Masai tribe in East Africa greet each other. And the traditional response, “All the children are well,” signifies that all is right in the village, as long as the children are cared for and safe.

Like the Masai, we should care about how all of t...

IDEA Public Schools Earns 3 As and a B on New TEA Accountability Rating System

IDEA Public Schools learned last week that the network of 51 schools serving nearly 30,000 students has earned three As and one B on TEA’s new A-F Accountability Rating System, which are due to be released on January 6, 2017.

The As were earned in Domain II (Student Progress), Domain III (Closing Performance Gaps), and Domain IV (Post-secondary Readiness). The B was earned in Domain I (Student Achievement.)

“We believe this is a fai...

Summer Camp Registration Opens at Camp RIO

Where Education and Adventure Go Hand-in-Hand

There’s so much to learn from nature and the world around us--that’s the philosophy at IDEA Camp RIO at Historic Lula Sams.  Educators at Camp RIO have a passion for the outdoors, deliver an active, world-class, and exciting outdoor education camp to students in the Rio Grande Valley, and their summer camp registration has just opened! 

About Camp RIO

Camp RIO at Histo...

Accelerated Reader & iLearning Hotspot: The Perfect Winter Break Activity

IDEA Public Schools wants to encourage families and students to utilize Accelerated Reader (AR) and Hotspot software during winter break.  Both programs will be available for students to use at home from December 22- January 8.  While relaxing and spending time with loved ones over the holidays, IDEA wants to ensure students and families have the tools to dedicate time to reading books at their “just right” level, taking AR quizzes, and logging into their HotSp...

​IDEA Campuses Spread Holiday Cheer

With the holiday season in full swing, IDEA campuses across the organization are spreading joy to the community, and helping those in need, through fundraisers, food drives, and giving initiatives. 

You too can spread some IDEA holiday cheer by donating to IDEA scholars!  Your gift will directly help an IDEA graduate on the road to and through college.    

“Toys for Tots” at IDEA North Mission

IDEA North Mission Academy ...

Advanced Placement Teacher Shines at IDEA Frontier College Preparatory

-By Joshua Lumley

Joshua Lumley teaches Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science and AP Chemistry at IDEA Frontier College Preparatory in Brownsville, Texas.  Read about his growth as a teacher and the positive impact he is having on his students and their college readiness.

At IDEA Public Schools, I cherish the opportunity to work with seniors and athletes, all of whom are on a path to and through college. As a 12...

IDEA Public Schools debuts massive new administrative headquarters

By Michael Rodriguez 

As seen in The Monitor 

WESLACO — Although it’s been open since late October, IDEA Public Schools gave its new headquarters an official debut this week with festivities that highlighted its flashy and more practical uses.

Such is its innovation that district officials believe the headquarters may herald the arrival of modern workplaces to the Rio Grande Valley.

A ribbon cutting ceremony marked the o...

Inclusive Schools Week: Great Things Happen in Inclusive Schools

Every first week in December, schools nationwide celebrate Inclusive Schools Week. Inclusive Schools Week recognizes the progress that schools have made in providing a supportive and quality education to an increasingly diverse student population, including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, language preference and other factors. The week also provides an important opportunity for educators, students and parents to discuss what else needs to be done in order...

IDEA Public Schools Board Approves Expansion to Fort Worth

The IDEA Public Schools Board recently approved the network’s expansion to the Fort Worth region in 2019. IDEA Public Schools is a growing network of tuition-free Pre-K - 12 public charter schools serving more than 30,000 students in 51 schools throughout Rio Grande Valley, Austin, and San Antonio. IDEA was recently named America’s Best Charter School Network and boasts national rankings on The Washington Post and U.S. News & World Report’s top high schools lists...

IDEA schools moves forward on El Paso expansion

By Lindsey Anderson 

As seen in the El Paso Times

A fast-expanding Texas charter school network is taking concrete steps to open four schools in El Paso by 2018.

IDEA Public Schools, based in the Rio Grande Valley, is debating acquiring property in Far East El Paso and the Lower Valley to open schools on the sites. The network has also appointed an El Paso executive director to lead ...

IDEA schools expanding pre-K program to close learning gaps

By Danya Perez-Hernandez 

As seen in The Monitor 

PHARR — Three months into the school year and without much instruction from the teacher other than a “Get ready” command, kindergartners at IDEA Pharr are reading full words and their first-grade elders are beginning to read books on their own.

“Next word, get ready,” a teacher says. “Rrraaat … rat,” kindergartners answer sounding out each letter first and then the full word.

...

IDEA’s Principal-in-Residence Program Develops Extraordinary Leaders

IDEA Public Schools knows closing the achievement gap is a task that requires compassionate leaders who want to make a difference for students.  We know our vision of College For All Children is possible, but not without individuals who want to make positive change in education.

This path to real change starts with our principals.  IDEA is making an impact in low-income communities throughout Texas.  We educate nearly 30,000 students in 51 schools, and fo...

Three New IDEA Campuses to Bear Donors’ Names

By Bekah Mcneel

As seen in Rivard Report

The rapidly growing IDEA Public Schools charter network will grow by three more San Antonio campuses by August 2017. Currently, IDEA has 14 schools in San Antonio, spread across seven K-10 campuses. The additional campuses will each house an Academy and a College Prep and bring the total to 20 schools serving 9,000 students in the city, from Pre-K through 11th grade.

The three new...

With AP For All, IDEA Lays a Foundation for College-Readiness for Students

-By William Corbit, Director of College Counseling at IDEA College Preparatory Brownsville, and a vehement supporter of IDEA’s “AP For All” Initiative.    

Advance Placement at IDEA College Preparatory Brownsville

I am proud to be a colleague of two extraordinary teachers at IDEA College Preparatory Brownsville, Stephen Lopez and Allyson Even.  This past year, they both taught Advanced Placement (AP) classes and had extraordinary results.

AP clas...

IDEA Celebrates New Headquarters Location with Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

December 1, 2016 was an exciting evening for IDEA Public Schools!

The IDEA Rio Grande Valley Team and Family held a ribbon cutting ceremony for staff and members of the community to celebrate the opening of our brand-new, state-of-the-art headquarters building in Weslaco, Texas.  This large space is intended to serve as an area for members of the IDEA team to collaborate and work in a bright, positive, and healthy environment. 

City o...

New IDEA Principals Announced

IDEA Public Schools is thrilled to announce five outstanding individuals who will become principals of IDEA schools this upcoming 2017-18 school year—Hope Walker, Elisha McCardell, Pam Ray, William Chermak, and Christina Villarreal. These exceptional members of the IDEA Team and Family will serve as campus principals in our San Antonio and Rio Grande Valley regions and lead their teams to provide their students with a high-quality education.

Hope Walker: IDEA Najim A...

Guinness World Record Attempt Benefits College Matriculation for IDEA Austin Students

Fitness, fun, and focus were top of mind for Mark K. Jordan, a local wellness coach and 2014 Guinness Book of World Records holder for the most number of pull-ups on November 15.  That day marked Mark’s attempt to break the most recent pull-up record over a 24-hour period.

As Mark mentally and physically prepared for this feat, he was determined to ensure he was able to leverage the event to raise awareness, an...

IDEA Teacher Spotlight: Bryan Cruz Cultivating Student Success at IDEA Mays

My name is Bryan Cruz, and I’m a proud Teach For America Corps member and Humanities teacher at IDEA Mays College Preparatory .  I strive to make positive change for my scholars.  Both, Teach For America and IDEA Public Schools, taught me to seek the possible and push aside the “impossible.”

I joined IDEA’s team and family to be challenged professionally and stretched to my fullest potential, just like our students.  Here at ID...

Accelerated Reader & Hotspot Software Available for IDEA Students During Thanksgiving Break

On behalf of everyone here at IDEA Public Schools, we want to wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving! 

IDEA wants to remind families and students that while you’re relaxing and spending time with loved ones during Thanksgiving Break, Accelerated Reader (AR) and Hotspot software will be available from November 18-27 to use at home.  IDEA students are encouraged to spend time reading books at their “just right” level, take AR ...

Celebrating American Education Week 2016

Happy American Education Week, IDEA Public Schools!

This week marks the National Education Agency’s 95th annual celebration of American Education Week. Throughout the week, IDEA Public Schools has honored our amazing educators, recognized the success of our students, and shared the important role education can play in our lives.

American Education Week was first celebrated in 1921, with NEA and the American Legion as co-sponsors, and grew out of national c...

IDEA Promotes Healthy Incentives for Students

Three years ago, IDEA created the Healthy Kids Here initiative to help combat child obesity in the regions we serve.  The goal?  Become the healthiest school district in America, by: providing a healthy and active lifestyle for our students, increasing student access to healthy and nutritious foods, and educating our IDEA Team and Family on health, wellness and nutrition.

Over the past 3 years, IDEA has implemented Fitness Gram Health reporting systems in e...

Honoring and Thanking Our Veterans at IDEA Public Schools

On Veterans Day, IDEA Public Schools honors and thanks all who served in the United States Armed Forces.  On this sacred day, we want to highlight a veteran in the IDEA Team and Family, Marco C. Lopez, for the heroic work he’s done, both defending our country and educating students.            

Marco C. Lopez, Principal at IDEA College Preparatory Brownsville , served in the United States Army for five years.  A graduate of the ROTC ...

6th Grade at IDEA Public Schools

6th grade is a pivotal year for IDEA students, marking the transition from Academy to College Preparatory.  At the College Preparatory level, further responsibility is placed on IDEA 6th graders to grow to become resourceful learners who take initiative.  

The goal of our college-readiness efforts is for every student to enter their first year of college well-prepared to succeed in college-level courses.  While an IDEA student’s foundational years at the academy leve...

Four IDEA Schools Recognized as Title I Reward Schools

Four IDEA Public Schools were recently recognized by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).  The TEA named IDEA McAllen College Preparatory, IDEA Weslaco Academy, IDEA Edinburg Academy, and IDEA Brownsville Academy high-performance and high-progress Title I schools!  Title I schools are defined as campuses with a student population of at least 40 percent low-income. More than 85 percent of students at IDEA Public Schools identify as low-income. 

To be deemed a high-performing school is no sm...

IDEA Public Schools buys Camp Rio at Lula Sams for outdoor fun

By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD

As seen in Valley Morning Star

BROWNSVILLE – Ryan Sparrow passed slowly in front of the children sitting beneath a tarp.

He held a bullsnake in his hands, and he was giving the third graders from IDEA Academy Brownsville an opportunity to feel its scales or even hold it.

“Is he from Texas?” asked Sparrow, a guide at IDEA Academy’s Camp RIO near Br...

IDEA Students Become Literary ‘Millionaires,’ Dress to Impress

By Bekah Mcneel 

As seen in Rivard Report 

Students in the IDEA Public Schools network have the opportunity to become millionaires in a way that may be even more valuable than the money associated with that title. Students in the public charter system are encouraged to join the Millionaire Readers Club by reading one million or more words during the school year.

Most children’s chapter books have around...

Piden respetar el transporte escolar. Llamado; autoridades suman voces

By Edelia Hernández

As seen in El Mañana

Edinburg, Tx.- Autoridades escolares suman sus voces para hacer un llamado a la comunidad de incrementar la seguridad y precaución en las zonas escolares y alrededor de autobuses escolares.

Cada tercer semana de octubre, los distritos escolares en todo el país observan la Semana Nacional de Seguridad del Autobús Escolar para crear conciencia de la im...

U.S. Congressmen and Senator Visit IDEA Public Schools

IDEA Public Schools was honored to recently welcome several United States Congressmen and a United States Senator as they visited a few IDEA campuses in the Rio Grande Valley. 

Congressmen Ruben Hinojosa of Texas’s 15th Congressional District toured our IDEA McAllen and IDEA Mission campuses last week. IDEA McAllen honored the Congressman for his service to our country during the school’s Hispanic Heritage Assembly.  Congressman Hinojosa served in office for 20 years ...

IDEA Public Schools Purchases Camp RIO at the Historic Lula Sams; Providing Outdoor Activities and Conservation Learning for Students

IDEA Public Schools is excited to announce its purchase of Camp RIO, located at the historic Camp Lula Sams, and renovations that will provide students in the Rio Grande Valley with a quality nature and ecology education and camp experience that will enhance classroom learning.  

On October 26, we introduced the community and partners to Camp RIO activities and facilities, shared plans for future renovations, and discussed how the camp will be utilized to p...

IDEA Public Schools Partners with Esteemed Colby College

At IDEA Public Schools, our team and family extends beyond our students, families, and employees.  We also strive to foster quality relationships with universities across the nation, and beyond, to help provide opportunities for our scholars to learn about, visit, and ultimately matriculate to the country’s top colleges.    

On August 1, 2016, IDEA Public Schools signed a formal partnership with Colby College.  Colby College is located in Waterville Maine and is identified on the B...

IDEA students welcome congressman with grand parade

By Danya Perez-Hernandez

As seen in The Monitor

McALLEN — U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa received what he described as the welcoming of his career on Wednesday morning as he entered the student-lined hallways of IDEA McAllen, who welcomed him to their school with a wave of cheers and high-fives.

“It is one of the greatest moments of my entire professional career as a United States congressman,” Hinojosa told t...

National School Bus Safety Week at IDEA Public Schools

Every third week in October, school districts throughout the country observe National School Bus Safety Week to raise awareness of the importance of school bus safety.

IDEA Public Schools also leverages the week to highlight the impact of our transportation team, honor our bus drivers and share important safety tips across the various modes of transportation for our scholars- bus riders, car riders, and walkers.

IDEA bus drivers transport more...

Pre-K at IDEA Public Schools

At IDEA Public Schools, we believe the road to college starts at a young age.

In order for our scholars to excel in advanced placement classes at the college preparatory level, they have to be fundamentally sound readers, writers, and mathematicians.   

Three years ago, IDEA launched its Pre-K program at IDEA Pharr Academy.  The mission:  Place four-year-olds on the path to college with a quality Pre-K program. 

“We saw th...

IDEA Teacher Spotlight: Brytish Jordan Thrives at IDEA Allan Academy

Brytish Jordan heard remarkable things about IDEA Public Schools—a rigorous curriculum that ensured college acceptance for all students, and a teacher career pathway that encouraged professional growth—so she applied.  During her first interview, she felt comfortable and valued as she taught her sample lesson to educators-turned-recruiters.  She received “Glows and Grows,” and was even given a chance to implement feedback on the spot.  It quickly became apparent to Brytish that IDEA placed tremendous...

IDEA Celebrates National School Lunch Week

Happy National School Lunch Week!

IDEA Public Schools looks forward to this exciting week each year as we celebrate the connection between a quality lunch and successful day of learning.  We know the importance of fueling our scholars with the proper nutrients on the road to college. 

Our district-wide initiative, Healthy Kids Here, was launched in 2014 to provide a healthy and active lifestyle for our students, increase student access to h...

IDEA Celebrates Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for IDEA Mays Academy and College Prep

Welcome to the family, IDEA Mays!

Our seventh campus in San Antonio just celebrated its partnership with Kathy Mays Johnson and the Mays Family Foundation at its ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, October 4.  The event commemorated the nonprofit’s $2 million gift to aide IDEA Public Schools' growth in San Antonio

IDEA Mays is led by Carmen Sepulveda, Academy Principal, Gerald Boyd, College Prep Principal, and a talented and passionate team of...

Student Spotlight: IDEA Public Schools Celebrates 100% College Acceptance, 99.6% College Matriculation

Carolina Cantu, a senior at IDEA Quest College Preparatory in Edinburg, Texas at the time, asked her brother, Danny, where she should apply to college.

“Princeton,” he said.

“Are you crazy?”  Carolina replied.  “I’ll never get in there.”

Carolina’s mother, who’d moved from Reynosa, Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley when she was a teenager, also encouraged Carolina to apply to top-tier universities.  It had been her own dream t...

IDEA Achieves 100% College Acceptance for the 10th Consecutive Year and 99.6% College Matriculation

RIO GRANDE VALLEY (October 4, 2016) – IDEA Public Schools announced today that all students who graduated in its Class of 2016 matriculated to college, with the exception of one student who matriculated to the military and another who is unable to matriculate due to health reasons and is expected to matriculate in the Spring. Since its first graduating class 10 years ago, IDEA has achieved a 99.6% matriculation rate as the district continues to fulfill its unwavering commitment to Colle...

IDEA celebrates 10 years in Brownsville

As seen in The Brownsville Herald

BY GARY LONG

PHOTO BY MIGUEL ROBERTS

IDEA Public Schools marked 10 years of existence in Brownsville at a celebratory luncheon that honored the contributions and achievements of senior leadership, founding students, teachers and community leaders.

The surroundings for Thursday’s event at the Ambassador Events Center on Brownsville’s solidly middle-class north side belied the poverty and low educational attainment out...

IDEA Public Schools Receives $11.9 Million in Grants to Support Growth and Expansion

The US Department of Education recently awarded IDEA Public Schools $11.9 million in grants to support growth and expansion in Texas and Louisiana. This funding will also enable IDEA to further evaluate their impact on student outcomes, college readiness and teacher and student retention.

The U.S. Department of Education announced new grants totaling approximately $245 million under its Charter Schools Program (CSP), which funds the creation and expansion of public charter schools across ...

39 IDEA schools receive esteemed distinctions

TEA releases 2016 Accountability Ratings

The Texas Education Agency’s recent release of the 2016 distinction accountability ratings revealed that 39 IDEA schools received 188 distinction designations for outstanding performance in student achievement, student progress or postsecondary readiness. In August, the Texas Education Agency revealed that every single eligible IDEA school met standard on state accountability ratings.

“Distinctions are a direct indicator of remarkable work done by a campus and reflect the unwavering commitment to our stu...

IDEA Public Schools announces new health-profession focused school

As seen on KXAN 

By Claire Ricke

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Executive Director for IDEA Public Schools, Larkin Tackett, joined us in the KXAN studio to make a big announcement about the upcoming school year.

Tackett announced that IDEA Public Schools is planning to open a health-professions based school in Austin. The goal of the school is to educate the next generation of doctors and nurses in Central Texas.

...

An IDEA Graduate’s Road to College

In political discussions nowadays, the debate on education inequality frequently arise. 

While solutions often sound nearly impossible to actualize, the high school experience of IDEA graduate, Andrea Haerther, shows that a crucial ingredient for a quality education is easy to name but equally intangible: teachers who care. After having finished her freshman year at the University of Houston, Andrea, has gained the perspective needed in order to reflect on the ways that her preparation ...

Bookworm in Training, Ariana Ybarra

Seventh grader at IDEA College Prep Alamo, Ariana Ybarra has been thinking about college since she was in elementary school. 

While planning for college before hitting double-digit ages may seem early, this is normal at a school that aims to send every student to attend college. Ariana’s motivation to pursue higher education attests to the effectiveness of the learning-centered environment at IDEA.

As an IDEA student since pre-k, Ariana believes that “Every...

IDEA Austin: The First Day of School

The first day of school at IDEA Bluff Springs began with high-fives in the rain.  

Assistant Principal of Operations, Sameer Bhuchar, dressed in a white poncho and umbrella in hand, escorted excited and nervous students from the drop-off zone into the new state-of-the-art lobby. 

A mother called back to her son, Nestor, “Where’s my hug?” To which Nestor turned back for one final embrace, managing to keep hold of his grocery...

IDEA Public Schools Receive TEA 2016 Accountability Ratings

The Texas Education Agency’s recent release of the 2016 state accountability ratings revealed that IDEA Public Schools across the district were part of the 85.6% of schools that met standard. The performance index analyzed four different framework areas including Student Achievement, Student Progress, Closing Performance Gaps, and Postsecondary Readiness.  

IDEA Public Schools across the network are focused on its mission to get 100% of students accepted to a four-year college or university though IDEA Pu...

IDEA unveils new campus, AISD discusses opening magnet school

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s back to class Monday for students who attend the IDEA Public Schools and for some they’ll be at a brand new campus.

This year 448 students will come to the Bluff Springs campus to attend kindergarten through second grade, there is also a college prep portion that will open to sixth graders located off Slaughter Lane in Southeast Austin. This is IDEA Public Schools third campus in Austin. It is...

IDEA Public Schools Welcomes Nearly 30,000 Students throughout Texas on the First Day of School

August 15, 2016

IDEA Public Schools kicked off its 16th school year on August 15, 2016 by welcoming the Class of 2030 to Pre-K and the Class of 2017 to their senior year. These students, like all IDEA students, know that college is not a mere possibility for them, but a reality.

IDEA Public Schools, a nationally recognized network of tuition-free, public charter schools, began with one school serving 150 students in Donna, TX. Sixteen years later, ...

Summer Programs Help First-Gen. College Goers Brave the Leap

As seen in Education Week 

By Catherine Gewertz

Betty Torres did her best to be brave as she packed up to leave her working-class Texas border town. An academic powerhouse at 16, she felt ready for her summer courses at elite colleges in New England and the Midwest. But when her dad left her at the airport in San Antonio, she crumpled a little inside.

"He waited in the airport u...

IDEA fills education gap in low-income communities

By Danya Perez-Hernandez

The Monitor

McALLEN — It didn’t take long for first-year teachers JoAnn Gama and Tom Torkelson to see students in low-income areas needed more help than they were getting.

They set out the next year to create an after-school program for struggling students in a couple of portable buildings. That was nearly 20 years ago. Now known as IDEA Public Schools, the after-school program turned into the...

EDITORIAL: Congratulating IDEA Public Schools

The Monitor Editorial Board

June 30

Headquartered here in the Rio Grande Valley, sometimes it’s easy to forget that IDEA Public Schools is a national player among charter schools.

But IDEA reminded us of its greatness and scope, once again this week when it won the 2016 Broad Prize for Public Schools at the 2016 National Charter Schools Conference in Nashville.

In doing so, it won $250,000 to fund c...

Prize-winning charter network wants to help immigrant children

redefinED

By Travis Pillow

June 27, 2016

NASHVILLE – This morning, at a national charter school gathering, Texas-based charter management organization IDEA Public Schools won the 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools.

The $250,000 award recognizes charter networks for strong academic results, especially among low-income children of color.

In a move that echoes past Broad winners, IDEA founder Tom Torkelson said the network plans to share the prize mon...

IDEA Public Schools named America’s Best Charter School Network

RIO GRANDE VALLEY (June 27, 2016) – IDEA Public Schools has been named the winner of the $250,000 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools at the 2016 National Charter Schools Conference in Nashville. The award honors the public charter management organization that demonstrates the most outstanding overall student performance among the country’s largest urban charter management organizations while reducing achievement gaps for low-income students and students of color.

“We are thrilled to be the recipient of the 2016 Broad...

USDA sees the vegetables of their labor

Organic farm next for IDEA project on W. Side

By Alia Malik, San Antonio Express News

June 23, 2016

Months after sponsoring their first urban garden in San Antonio at IDEA Monterrey Park, an entourage from the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited the West Side charter school Thursday to see the vegetables of their labor.

Months after sponsoring their first urban garden in San Antonio at IDEA...

Gama: High expectations drive success at IDEA

Even though the first IDEA Public Schools campuses in El Paso aren’t opening until 2018, a lot of the planning is happening now.

Last Wednesday, I was in El Paso with some of my IDEA colleagues and El Paso community leaders. As we were driving down Alameda after a delicious lunch at Chico’s Tacos, I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed as I looked around and saw a neighborhood that resembles the u...

IDEA Public Schools Participates in Summer Feeding Program

IDEA Public Schools is now participating in the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. As participants, IDEA will provide free, nutritious meals for all children 18 years and younger during the summer at select campuses.

The Seamless Summer Option (SSO) was created to ensure that children in low-income areas could continue to receive nutritious meals during long school vacations, when they do not have access to school lunch or b...

IDEA Public Schools named a Finalist for Prestigious Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools

IDEA Public Schools learned today that they are one of three public charter school organizations in the country nominated for the prestigious 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. The winner of the prize will receive $250,000 toward college-readiness efforts and be awarded to to the public charter school network that demonstrates outstanding academic performance and success reducing the achievement gap between low-income students and their affluent counterparts. The winner will be announced at the...

IDEA charter launches aggressive expansion plans with $16 million gift

As seen in the Austin American-Statesman

By Melisa B. Taboada

IDEA Public Schools will aggressively expand its footprint in Austin with a $16 million donation to be announced Monday.

The financial gift from the KLE Foundation, set up by Rani Clasquin and Eric Harslem in 1997, will more than double IDEA Austin’s previous expansion plans by 2022, and the charter school says the donation will help it boost enrollment to 20,000 s...

IDEA Quest Runner Seeks State Gold

May 10, 2016

EDINBURG - State track and field meets are coming up this weekend.  A Valley high school sophomore from Idea Quest seeks to improve on her strong finish of a year ago. 

Watch story here. 

Edinburg IDEA's Valery Tobias Returns To State Track Meet

May 10, 2016 BY JON R. LaFOLLETTE | The Monitor

EDINBURG -- It’s easy to miss Valery Tobias. The Edinburg IDEA Quest sophomore competes for a Class 3A school at sparsely attended meets for a program with minuscule resources.

But Tobias is happy flying under the radar. Away from the track, she’s as quiet as she is fast. Indeed, Tobias is content to let her times do the talking. Yet...

IDEA Public Schools is coming to El Paso

A fast-growing charter school network that began in the Rio Grande Valley will open schools in El Paso in 2018.

IDEA Public Schools plans to establish at least four schools here, two elementary and two upper-grade schools, in 2018. The network has hired an El Paso director, whom IDEA representatives weren’t ready to publicly identify Tuesday.

The charter network is also considering partnering with local school districts, IDEA Chief Advancement Officer S...

Big IDEAS: High-Achieving South Texas Charter Network Reveals National Expansion Plan

(McAllen, Texas) – We’re gonna need a bigger stadium.

That’s what IDEA Public Schools officials in the Rio Grande Valley said to themselves earlier this year while planning for their annual College Signing Day.The 507 high school seniors in the charter school network’s Class of 2016 — its largest graduating class yet — along with their parents, friends, classmates and guests apparently couldn’t all fit into the State Farm Arena in ...

IDEA Public Schools Ranked Among the Best in the Nation from The Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (April 19, 2016)

This week, numerous schools within the IDEA Public Schools network were ranked among the best and top performing schools in the nation by both The Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report.  

For the second consecutive year, IDEA Public Schools has been included in The Washington Post national school rankings, and this is the eighth consecutive year IDEA will be represented in the U...

IDEA Public Schools rank as most challenging in the nation

IDEA Public Schools were recognized by the Washington Post America’s Most Challenging High School list for the second consecutive year with four campuses ranked in the top 20. IDEA College Prep Mission was the district’s top performer placing eleventh.

Schools are rated on what Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews calls “the Challenge Index,” which is “total number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge tests given at a school each year and ...

That’s the Idea: Some schools serving low-income students believe in a challenge

Most public schools in the Washington region are in this group. The national list shows only about 10 percent of the nation’s schools meet our definition of challenging, compared with more than 70 percent in this region. Most suburban districts here are involving average students in AP, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge courses and tests on an introductory college level.

D.C. schools also are doing more with AP. The Columbia Heights Educational C...

IDEA farms connect students with their food

As seen in The Monitor

by Daniel Flores

Griffin Arellano, farm coordinator at IDEA Quest, walks through the Edinburg campus into the cafeteria. Stacks of kale leaves protrude atop the crate Arellano hauls from the small farm he and students maintain.

As he enters the fourth and fifth grade lunch time, a staggered chorus of students shout at Arellano — a figure they recognize and associate with their...

IDEA Public Schools to offer Paid Family Leave to All Employees

One of the only education systems to offer paid leave

As seen in Valley Town Crier

IDEA Public Schools has announced it will offer up to eight weeks of paid family leave to all eligible employees effective July 1.

This unprecedented decision was approved unanimously by IDEA’s senior leaders and shared with IDEA’s 3,000 employees via an internal announcement.

Paid family leave and other medical benefits have been in ...

IDEA Public Schools to offer Paid Family Leave to All Employees

One of the only education systems to offer paid leave

IDEA Public Schools announced today that it will offer up to eight weeks of paid family leave to all eligible employees effective July 1. This unprecedented decision was approved unanimously by IDEA’s senior leaders and shared with IDEA’s 3,000 employees via an internal announcement today.

Paid family leave and other medical benefits have been in the spotlight the past eighteen months given the...

IDEA Academy San Benito announces plans to transition to STEM campus for 2016-17

School will be first of its kind in Rio Grande Valley to focus on STEM skills at elementary level

IDEA Public Schools is proud to announce that IDEA Academy San Benito will transform to a Pre-K – 5th grade Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) academy for the 2016-17 school year. The school will be the first of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley focusing on building excitement, interest and skills in S...

IDEA McAllen Educator named Finalist for 2016 H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards

Three South Texas educators have been named finalists for a 2016 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award, spotlighting them as some of the best educators in Texas.

H-E-B’s Excellence in Education is the largest monetary awards program for educators in Texas, and among the largest in the nation. The honor was kept a surprise from the educators, who learned they were finalists when H-E-B representatives visited their classrooms and schools with balloons, cake, a...

IDEA San Juan Teen Gets Perfect Score on Spanish AP Test

KFXV-TV (FOX 2 News)

Each year high school students have the option to take a rigorous, multiple-component exam by subject to help them earn college credit.

Last year less than 60 students around the world got a perfect score on the Spanish exam. I spoke to one student from San Juan, who did just that.

IDEA Frontier trying to run and gun to playoffs

The Brownsville Herald

by Joshua McKinney

It’s been a fast rise for IDEA Frontier, and the hope is a fast style of play can keep that going.

IDEA Frontier is looking to make back-to-back postseason trips for the first time in six seasons of varsity play. 

To do that, the Chargers will need to navigate a tough District 32-3A that includes S...

IDEA Frontier receives International Baccalaureate Authorization as International Baccalaureate World School

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), announced their authorization of IDEA Frontier as an International Baccalaureate World School, the first IB World School in Cameron County. IDEA Frontier successfully completed an intensive two-year candidacy process that included specialized professional development, curriculum development, and research and support.

IDEA Frontier has embraced the International Baccalaureate philosophy focusing on the development of the whole child, both in the classroom and in the global community. The rigorous...

‘Mavs Book Bus’ Assisting Underprivileged Children in Weslaco

Watch video here.

IDEA Weslaco Pike College Prep has implemented a new literacy initiative in which students and staff travel to colonias and other neighborhoods of underprivileged children and families across the Weslaco area each month to read to children of all ages and distribute free books. The school plans to distribute more than 3,000 books throughout the year to encourage the love of reading in the hearts of children throughout the community.<...

Notre Dame football star, San Antonio native Corey Robinson meets with local students

San Antonio Express-News

By Chris Quinn

Notre Dame wide receiver Corey Robinson was joined by his dad, Spurs legend David Robinson, during a special presentation to promote higher education to area middle school students Saturday in San Antonio.

More than 1,000 athletic apparel shirts from top NCAA schools were given to students at several campuses around the city as part of Corey Robinson's One Shirt, One Body initiative.

...

David Robinson, son donate shirts to IDEA Schools

KSAT News

Students at IDEA Public Schools across the city got some new swag Saturday.Spurs legend David Robinson and his son, Corey, handed out more than 1,000 shirts to students.Cory Robinson and fellow Notre Dame athlete Andrew Helmin spoke with the middle schoolers about hard work and dedication.

Corey said he is happy to help pay it forward.

"I just love to give back to the community especially...

What Education Needs is a Silicon Valley

One Day Magazine

Tom Torkelson (R.G.V. ’97) is the CEO of IDEA Public Schools, which he co-founded with JoAnn Gama (R,G.V. ’97) in Donna, Texas. IDEA educates nearly 24,000 students across 44 schools in the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, and Austin, the majority of whom are Latino and from low-income communities.

In the 25 years since Teach For America was founded, we have seen entire industries and sec...

IDEA Eastside Installs New Vegetable Garden Made Possible by a $10,000 Grant from the Department of Agriculture

San Antonio, TX (December 17, 2015) – Students and faculty members at IDEA Eastside Academy and College Prep installed a raised-bed vegetable garden today. This garden installation was made possible in part by a $10,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture. The garden will enhance IDEA students’ study of healthy eating and living habits as well as earth science. The new garden will also provide a setting in which students, teachers, and residents of San Antonio’s eastside can i...

The Revolutionary IDEA of Farm to School Programs

Featured in Austin Moms Blog By Elisa BotelloYou may have heard the concept of “farm to table” dining with concerns to the growing hip trend among the culinary scene. The term refers to the practice of growing and using local food to be served.

I feel lucky as a parent to now know that many schools, including IDEA Public Schools where my first-grade son attends, have began to adopt this concept within the...

IDEA Public Schools Offers Coding Class to Students in Partnership with Teach For America

Featured in The Monitor By Danya Perez-Hernandez

As she passes computers around, Evelyn Hunting advises her high school students to be open minded about the basic computer coding session they are about to take Friday. Even the slightest knowledge in the subject, she said, can be used as an advantage in many different careers.

“I really think that the important part of today is just trying this one hour,” Hunting sai...

IDEA Public Schools Breaks Ground on Newest San Antonio Campus

IDEA Mays Academy and College Prep made possible by a $1 million gift from The Mays Family Foundation

San Antonio (December 2, 2015) – IDEA Public Schools celebrated the groundbreaking of San Antonio’s sixth IDEA Public Schools campus, IDEA Mays Academy and College Prep, earlier today. IDEA is one the highest performing charter school networks in Texas. Founded in the Rio Grande Valley 15 years ago, IDEA has successfully pursued it mission to make college for all children a r...

Federal Grant Helps IDEA Monterrey Park College Preparatory Build School Garden

By Melissa Blair, Public Affairs Specialist , USDA

The four raised garden beds filled with assorted plants may seem small on the expanding campus of the IDEA Monterrey Park College Preparatory in San Antonio, but their mission is big and goes well beyond the school’s gates. Students will be gaining knowledge and skills that will benefit them the rest of their lives by participating in the school garden, which is being used t...

Attn: Austin Parents

IDEA Austin Team and Family-We have experienced quite a bit of rain this morning. Our scholars are all safe and sound and presuming will classes as scheduled. Parents, please stay safe and off the roads. We will be in communication with you should there be any modifications to our pick-up or transportation schedule.

Together We Rise: Ganas, Migas, and Whatever It Takes at IDEA Schools

By Phillip Garza

Q: What does it take to get more low-income, first-generation students of color to and through college? A: It takes Whatever It Takes.

When I reflect on the skills I use daily, everything about leadership I learned as a Teach For America corps member. Everything about understanding the current state of affairs, constructing a vision for students facing the opportunity gap, and leveraging others to join me in pursuing...

Cross country team strong at IDEA Frontier

Step by step, IDEA Frontier of Brownsville is building up its athletic program.

While the Chargers field teams in volleyball, basketball, soccer and track, the sport that has brought the school its most success to date is cross country.

The IDEA Frontier boys dominated the District 32-3A cross country meet Oct. 17 to qualify for Monday’s Region IV competition in Corpus Christi. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is the host o...

IDEA schools reopens Camp Lula Sams

BROWNSVILLE — IDEA Public Schools has reopened the iconic Camp Lula Sams as CampRio at Lula Sams to provide outdoor adventure education and enhance learning across its schools.

Camp Lula Sams, now CampRio, sits on 85.7 acres of predominantly untouched wildlife preserve inside city limits on Brownsville’s northern edge. The Earl C. Sams Foundation built the camp and gifted it to the Girl Scouts of South Texas in 1953.

It operated as a G...

Nearly all IDEA grads begin college experience

By TRAVIS M. WHITEHEAD Staff Writer

SAN BENITO — Arianna Izaguirre is busy working on her degree in biology, a subject she fell in love with while attending IDEA San Benito .

“All of this is basically from my teachers,” she said.

Her two biology teachers had such a passion for the subject she began pursuing it herself.

Arianna, 18, is studying at Texas A&M University in Col...

Texas charter network boasts 99.9 percent college-going rate

Graduates of a charter school network in Austin, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley boasted a 99.9 percent college acceptance rate this year – roughly double the statewide average.

Among the 541 IDEA charter grads going on to college this fall, 338 were the first members of their family to do so. Two students were granted military exemptions, preventing IDEA from achieving a 100 percent rate. They are expected to matriculate in the spring.

I...