Lubbock, TX – Rise Academy has been chosen by Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath as one of only two schools in the entire state to be recognized with the prestigious National Title 1 Distinguished School Award.
Selection for the Distinguished Schools award is based on meeting high academic performance criteria and an 85% or higher low-income student population.
Rise Academy founder and director Richard Baumgartner said the award was completely unexpected. “We’ve had many years of consistently high academic achievement at Rise Academy, but I never saw this award coming. We are very proud that Rise Academy will represent Texas as one of the nation’s highest rated schools,” said Baumgartner. “We are also especially proud to represent Texas charter schools. This award shows that charter schools can be, and have been, among the best schools in the state,” he added.
Information about Rise Academy’s educational philosophy and instructional strategies will be provided to National Title 1 Association staff so these methods can be shared with other schools to help improve achievement for their students.
Baumgartner stated that a proven methodology and a rigorous curriculum are essential to academic achievement, but he emphasized that it’s people who make the difference. “However good a methodology might be, success is not possible without having the right people practicing that methodology. So I would like to thank all the Rise staff, past and present, for contributing to this triumph,” he said.
Baumgartner went on to also thank Rise parents for doing their part. “Like one wise person once said, ‘It’s not easy to be a Rise parent.’ In addition, I’d like to thank our Rise board members, especially Frank Gutierrez, who’s been with me since the beginning, and also Robert Pratt (now a leading talk show host), who provided crucial technology and marketing support in the early years at well below market prices,” stated Baumgartner.
The Rise founder explained that his charter school would now be looked upon as a standard-bearer for excellence. “During August orientation, I told both the staff and the parents that Rise Academy had the potential to be a great school. I still believe we have a ways to go before we can truly make that claim. But this award certainly validates the great progress we’ve made and motivates us to strive to be even better. We really have to be good now at what we do from top to bottom. With such recognition comes greater responsibility,” Baumgartner concluded.
Rise Academy uses a variety of direct instruction methods, from pre-k through 8th grade. Reading Mastery, a structured, phonics-based basal reading program with scripted lessons, is prominently featured in grades pre-k through 1st. Baumgartner described the merits of Reading Mastery in particular, and the direct instruction methodology generally. “Some educators portray direct instruction as the old lecture-by-teacher method, where students sit and passively receive information. That’s not at all accurate. Reading Mastery is intensively interactive between students and teacher. There is constant elicitation of student responses in almost everything we do,” he explained.
Rise Academy is an independent public charter school which began operation in September, 1999. The school has open enrollment, and is unable to selectively “cherry-pick” students. About eighty-five percent of Rise students are low-income minority children residing mostly in east and northeast Lubbock neighborhoods.
As a charter school, Rise Academy must conform to most Texas Education Agency rules, with exceptions for teacher certification requirements and pay-scale. Currently the academy serves about 275 students in grades pre-k through 8th.