Texas Tech is nationally recognized as an institution that provides a level of higher education to students after their high school experience. That same opportunity is given to students in different levels of schooling.
The Texas Tech University Independent School District is a program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade in special situations to get the same level of education that would be provided through a regular school district.
This worldwide program offers online and print-based curriculum for students in a different way than just a typical ‘brick and mortar’ school, Sam Oswald, executive director of TTUISD, said.
“TTUISD does not start at regular semesters like other schools do, like the university does,” Jim Taliaferro, TTUISD superintendent, said. “A student can order a course, for example, on Thanksgiving Day, and they have six months to finish it.”
All courses provided through TTUISD are written by certified Texas teachers and based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, Taliaferro said. The students, like high school students in Texas, also have to take state exams.
Students in a wide range of different situations participate in this program, Oswald said. The program includes actors, Olympic athletes and musicians. But another group of students who participate in the program do not get the same amount of coverage.
“You hear a lot about the movie stars and the models, but the thing that catches my heart and my interest are the students that have had illnesses,” Oswald said. “We have had students pass away while they are in the process of taking the course. The university has been very supportive, going up to the president and the provost sending condolences to the family.”
Taliaferro said he has seen firsthand the positive effect TTUISD has had on students.
“When I worked in a district three hours north of here, we had a student that needed to take a test in order for them to walk at graduation that night,” he said. “I called to Tech the day before and we got the student enrolled in the Credit by Exam. He took it, passed it and walked that night. School districts have a great respect for having a mechanism that can make good things happen for kids, and we are a part of that mechanism.”
The program has morphed into a worldwide program, Taliaferro said.
“We have had students in 58 schools in Brazil,” Taliaferro said. “We just started work in China. It’s a unique setup for the state of Texas, Lubbock and Texas Tech.”
Victor Santos, a sophomore computer engineering major from Brazil, went through the TTUISD program during his time in high school, he said. He went through both the Tech and Brazil curriculum at the same time.
Doing both curriculums at the same time was stressful for Santos, he said, but it prepared him for his college education.
“At that time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Santos said, “but in the back of my mind, I kept telling myself that it would work out in the end, that it would pay off and it did.”
Graduating with two curriculums helped Santos stand out from other students, he said.
Toward the end of their schooling in Brazil, students get to come to Tech as part of a summer camp, Oswald said. They get to participate in courses, stay in the dorms and travel and learn about Texas History.
“This is a rich experience for the students,” Oswald said.
Participating in the summer camp is when Santos decided to come to Lubbock after high school, he said.
“I knew that I wanted to come to Lubbock in my senior year of high school,” Santos said. “TTUISD gave us the chance to stay here, to take some classes and travel around Texas. I saw how the classes work here and thought that I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.”
If a student completes the TTUISD program, they get a special opportunity if they want to continue their studies at Tech, Taliaferro said.
“If the students complete our full-time program where they get a diploma, we offer a scholarship to these students,” Taliaferro said. “If they meet the GPA requirement and pass the essay portion through the committee, they get $1,000 a year for their time at Tech.”
Santos thinks TTUISD is an important aspect of Tech as a whole, he said. It gives Tech an international stage rather than just a national one.
“TTUISD is important because it shows that Tech is not only nationally recognized, it is internationally recognized,” Santos said. “A lot of people in Brazil know what Texas Tech is because of TTUISD’s partnership with different high schools.”