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A College-Going Culture Thanks to the El Dorado Promise
A College-Going Culture Thanks to the El Dorado Promise
El Dorado School District/Sylvia Thompson
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The El Dorado Promise Scholarship, a scholarship program funded entirely by Murphy Oil Corporation for El Dorado High School graduates marked its eleventh anniversary in 2018. The Promise has provided funding to more than 2,200 EHS graduates, who have attended 138 colleges and universities in 31 different states. Currently Promise Scholars are enrolled in 73 different colleges and over 85% of the 2017 EHS graduates enrolled in college in the fall 2017.

One of the lasting effects of the Promise is the creation of a college-going culture throughout El Dorado Public Schools. At Kindergarten Bash, the summer information sessions for incoming kindergarteners, parents are given information about the Promise. Then on the first day a school, each kindergarten classroom is visited and the students are told about how they can go to college with the El Dorado Promise. They even learn the Promise Cheer--“The El Dorado Promise says I can go to college!” They leave school that day with a Promise backpack filled with information about the district and the scholarship.

If you were to visit an El Dorado campus on any given Wednesday, you would find faculty, staff and students dressed in college t-shirts, because Wednesdays are “College Days” throughout the district. Of course there are quite a few University of Arkansas – Razorback shirts, but especially at the junior high and high school students enjoy wearing a wide variety of collegiate gear! Additionally, at the high school you will see the colleges EPS teachers have attended and the degrees they have earned posted by each teachers’ classroom door.

In a recent study of the El Dorado Promise ( An Evaluation of the El Dorado Promise and College Going Culture, December 2017), the University of Arkansas Office of Educational Policy (OEP) found that the El Dorado Public Schools (EPS) have created a proactive, positive and provable environment to promote college-going and college readiness. Researchers found, compared to matched comparison groups, students in EPS are urged to take more proactive steps in both preparing for and pursuing their college careers. Additionally students in EPS rate their district higher in these factors than students from similar Arkansas schools.

Evidence of college readiness can be seen in the district’s Advanced Placement (AP) program. The AP program, created by College Board, consists of rigorous college-level classes that give high school students the opportunity to gain the skills and experience colleges recognize. Students enrolled in AP classes take a nationally administered test at the end of each school year. Passing scores of a 3, 4 or 5 earn college credit for those subjects. Over the past eleven years, enrollment in AP courses and the number of AP courses offered by EPS has increased over 160%. Pre-AP classes now begin in 5th grade and continue through junior high to prepare students for the courses offered in high school. Many EHS seniors applying to highly selective colleges and hoping to earn additional scholarships will enroll in as many as five different AP classes---no “easy senior schedule” for these students! The district includes 70 AP and pre-AP teachers and up to 19 different AP courses are offered at EHS, including computer science and AP Seminar. In May 2018, 431 students will take more than 946 AP exams.

In addition, EPS students can earn college credit by enrolling in concurrent classes through SouthArk Community College. Concurrent classes are college–level classes taught to high schools students in which students receive both high school and college credit for their work upon earning at least a “C” average. For the 2018-19 school year, 21 hours or seven different concurrent classes, will be offered at El Dorado High School.  EPS students can also enroll in SouthArk’s Secondary Technical Center, where they attend classes at SouthArk in such fields as Automotive Technology, Criminal Justice, Health Science Technology, Industrial Technology and Welding.

One of the culminating activities symbolizing each EHS graduate's opportunity to go to college is Academic Signing Day, where students from the Senior class gather to sign academic letters of intent to accept the El Dorado Promise Scholarship and further their education. This year’s Academic Signing Day will take place on Wednesday, April 18 with former Arkansas Razorback Basketball and NBA player Sidney Moncrief as the keynote speaker.

Because of the El Dorado Promise Scholarship and its guarantee that EHS graduates can attend college, El Dorado Public Schools has created a college-going culture. Students in El Dorado Public Schools are aware that college is in their future and teachers encourage the students to prepare for this from kindergarten through high school graduation.