Frequently Asked Questions

Designation Information

What is designation, and where do I find out more about designation for T-STEM or ECHS?

To establish and run an ECHS or a T-STEM Academy, public school districts must apply to obtain designation from the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Once designated, an ECHS or T-STEM must re-apply each year to maintain its designation.

Visit for information on applying for designation for either program.

If a campus is designated, does that mean they will receive grant funding if it becomes available?

No. The grant process and the designation process are entirely separate. Should grant funds become available, designated campuses will be encouraged to apply.

We want to apply for designation with the intent that, if designated, we will operate as a magnet school. Is this acceptable?

No. T-STEM and ECHSs are not magnet programs. T-STEM Academies and ECHSs should serve all students, with a special emphasis on underrepresented populations (economically disadvantaged, at-risk, ELL, and first-generation college goers).


What are the benefits of becoming a T-STEM Academy?

Benefits of designation include recognition as an approved T-STEM Academy; membership in the T-STEM and College and Career Readiness School Models Network; invitations to convenings (special events hosted by TEA and Educate Texas); and access to professional development, technical assistance, and research-based best practices.

Why should we be interested in STEM education?

STEM education is inherently grounded in scientific inquiry, which is a fundamental skill needed for problem solving and the development of higher-order thinking skills. Also, STEM education is the doorway to economic opportunity. A recent study from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found that traditional STEM jobs have grown faster than job growth overall for decades, and this trend will continue at least through 2018.

What is the T-STEM Academy Design Blueprint?

The T-STEM Academy Design Blueprint is intended to serve as a road map for benchmarks, program requirements, and indicators to facilitate individual STEM Academy growth. The Blueprint provides resources such as benchmarks, program requirements, and key elements for success, and artifacts allowing campuses to see their status along the rubric continuum.

What can I learn from the T-STEM Blueprint?

In addition to being a roadmap for T-STEM Academies, the Blueprint contains helpful information for all schools that are trying to increase rigor and college readiness. The Blueprint provides guidance on how to develop partnerships with local businesses and colleges in order to increase student's exposure to college and career rigor. The Blueprint also contains guidelines and examples of Project-Based Learning (PBL), which builds student's problem-solving and higher-order thinking skills (both of which are necessary for our increasingly competitive global economy).

What is an MOU, and why does a T-STEM campus need it?

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is an agreement between your campus and a business or an institution of higher education (IHE). It is a contract which describes the terms and services provided and/or exchanged by both parties for a specific period of time. MOUs can be with an IHE, and address a dual-credit agreement and/or college supports and experiences. Or it can be with a business partner that provides student internships or other work-based learning experiences. In order to be valid, all MOUs must be signed by both parties and cover the school year for which the applicant wishes to be designated.


What are the benefits of becoming an ECHS?

Benefits of designation include recognition as an approved ECHS; membership in the ECHS and College and Career Readiness School Models Network; invitations to convenings (special events hosted by TEA and Educate Texas); and access to professional development, technical assistance, and research-based best practices.

What is an Early College High School?

ECHSs are innovative high schools that provide students least likely to attend college with an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and up to 60 college credit hours. ECHSs provide dual credit at no cost to students; offer rigorous instruction and accelerated courses; provide academic and social support services to help students succeed; increase college readiness; and reduce barriers to college access.

What is the ECHS Blueprint?

The ECHS Blueprint outlines the process for earning and maintaining ECHS designation in Texas. It segments the process into six "benchmarks", and describes the documentation and data required to respond to each benchmark. TEA has led a revision of the ECHS Blueprint; find out more here:

What is an MOU, and why does an ECHS need it?

Texas Education Code 29.908 says that Texas ECHS programs “must include articulation agreements with colleges, universities, and technical schools in this state to provide a participating student access to postsecondary education and training opportunities.” The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) serves as this articulation agreement. MOUs help maximize an ECHS’s chance of success by formalizing the school district/IHE partnership in the following areas:

  • General operating procedures: defines the roles, responsibilities and financial obligations of each partner.

  • Use of facilities: in Texas, an ECHS campus can be in a new or existing building, by itself, or as a campus within a campus. ECHS students also need permission to access partner IHE campuses. The MOU outlines how space is allocated and shared.

  • Course articulation: establishes policies for matching and transferring coursework between the partners, as well as ongoing procedures for reviewing courses that may be counted for dual credit.

  • TEA’s downloadable “Guidance for Early College High Schools: Memorandum of Understanding” is an essential resource for ECHS planning teams.