IDEA recognized with charter school award

WESLACO — They finally did it.

Actually, the word “finally” isn’t the right word, because IDEA Public Schools has done many things in the past 18 years.

At present, the system of 44 charters schools, of which 30 are in the Valley, has won the much sought-after 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools.

“I am so proud of our students’ and teachers’ hard work,” said Tom Torkelson, founder and CEO of IDEA Public Schools.

The winner of the 2016 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools was announced at the National Charter School Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 27.

The Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools honors schools which have demonstrated the best academic outcomes in recent years, particularly for low-income students and students of color.

IDEA Public Schools says almost 90 percent of its students are low-income, and 95 percent are Hispanic. The schools have shown an impressive success rate, with 100 percent of graduates being accepted into college. It has a college graduation rate five times the national average for low-income students.

“This award is based entirely on student performance results — nothing that I did or said — so it was a testament to their effort, each day, to work hard to get smarter,” Torkelson said.

IDEA has been a finalist for the Broad Prize on three occasions. This time, it received the recognition. Torkelson said the review committee looks at data which is about two years old. In this way, all the data is “vetted, verified, and comparisons across the finalists can be made.”

“Each year we were up for the award I’d look at our up-to-date data and say, ‘Wow, if only they had this year’s results, I know that we’d win,’” he say. “It’s unheard of what we’ve done: our student performance results have improved every year, even though we have quadrupled in sized over the last five years.”

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