Top 100 Best High Schools 2013 – The Science Academy of South Texas – Newsweek – 94/100
The Science Academy of South Texas
The Science Academy of South Texas, also known as ‘SciTech’, is a high school in Mercedes, Texas, United States, as part of the South Texas Independent School District.
900 Med High Dr, Mercedes, TX 78570, United States
The school serves as an alternative to larger high schools of local independent school districts for students interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, and engineering. The school’s unique curriculum has given it national recognition. Being a public magnet school, open enrollment has been the school’s policy since its creation, although application is required. The Science Academy of South Texas is part of the South Texas Independent School District.
The Science Academy of South Texas has notable partnerships with Rice University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Texas-Pan American and South Texas College. Its sister school South Texas High School for Health Professions, also known as Med High, resides on the same campus. Both schools are served by Biblioteca Las Americas, the school library, which is located at equal distance from both schools.
The Science Academy has no athletics department but students participate in academic competitions regularly. In 2008, The Science Academy gym was completed, no longer sharing with the neighboring Med High.
A recent study has labeled The Science Academy as a “dropout factory,” citing a 55% retention rate. However, this study did not take into the account that the Academy does not have any students zoned into it; all students come from other area high schools and many of those students simply returned to their regular high school.
As of the 2011-12 school year, the school had an enrollment of 675 students and 54.42 classroom teachers (on a FTE basis), for a student-teacher ratio of 12.40.
In 2007, principal Edward Argueta left and was replaced by Michael Aranda, who was an assistant principal at Med High at the time. The current assistant principals include Nora Casarez and Julian Garcia III.
Many SciTech students who graduate in the top 10% of their class have been accepted to Yale University, Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rice University, and Princeton University.
The school was founded in 1989 as the Math and Science Academy. Jorge Lopez, the principal of neighboring Med High served as principal. After a year the name was changed to The Science Academy of South Texas. The school colors were changed from black and gold to green and gray. Only one student received a letterman jacket with the black and gold colors. In 1992 the building was completed and classes moved out of the portables.
A detailed history of the Science Academy can be found in Dr. Anna Rudolph Canter’s dissertation entitled “In the Middle of an Orange Grove, Across the Street From the Tortilla Factory: The Science Academy of South Texas http://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/2143/canterar35023.pdf?sequence=2 “When I began my doctoral studies at UT Austin, I studied, among other topics, minority students’ failures and successes in schools. I always remembered the students at the Science Academy of South Texas. For one course, I conducted a pilot study of the experiences of teachers at the Science Academy. As I spent time in the Valley collecting those data, I became more interested in the story behind the school. As a result, I chose to write the history of the Science Academy for my dissertation research. My goal—to write a rich, detailed, multi-voiced account of the history of the Science Academy—is represented by this dissertation.” Anna Rudolph Canter
Awards and recognition
During the 2005-06 school year, the Science Academy of South Texas was recognized with the Blue Ribbon School Award of Excellence by the United States Department of Education, the highest award an American school can receive.
In 2003, it was placed 8th on Newsweek magazine’s listing of “America’s Best High Schools”.
In its November 30, 2007, U.S. News & World Report ranked Science Academy #23 on its list of America’s Best High Schools. Sci Tech’s sister schools South Texas Business Education & Technology Academy (BETA) came in at 54th place, and South Texas High School for Health Professions (Med High) was ranked 64th.
In 2008-2009, the Science Academy was recognized for holding world-class swimming lessons with their rooftop pool.The lessons, however, were only available for two years, and were promptly dropped after the teacher quit. A reason for this was that too many students weren’t attending because the entrance (a staff stairway) was not authorized for student use.
In 2010, the school was ranked number twelve on Newsweek’s ranking of the best high schools in the nation. It was also ranked third among Texas high schools.
In 2011, Science Academy was ranked number twenty six on The Washington Review.
In the 2012 issue of the U.S. News & World Report, the Science Academy ranked at number 48. Its sister schools Med High and BETA ranked 104th and 245th, respectively. Sci Tech’s Advanced Placement (AP) exam passing rate was at 44%. BETA had a passing rate of 15% and Med High had a passing rate of 27%.
SciTech has numerous extracurricular organizations:
Cinema Technology Club (CinTech)
Mu Alpha Theta
University Interscholastic League
Solar Car Team
Technology Student Association