Santa Fe School Grants Aim to Close the Achievement Gap | Education
Three Santa Fe schools are set to begin the first phase of a statewide program that could lead to more resources that would help them close the achievement gap for underprivileged students.
This spring, the New Mexico Department of Public Education awarded a $ 50,000 planning grant to Kearny Elementary, Milagro Middle, and Nina Otero Community schools as part of the state’s Community School Grants program.
The funding is part of a plan to bring equity to education in the wake of the landmark Yazzie-Martinez trial in which a judge ruled the state did not sufficiently fund public schools.
As part of the planning phase, Kearny, Milagro and Nina Otero will conduct community surveys.
“This includes students, parents, staff, community vendors, local residents, area commercial store owners – really engaging all of these stakeholders to find out what they see community needs and from school. [are]Said Crystal Ybarra, deputy head of equity, diversity and engagement at Santa Fe Public Schools.
Schools have ambitious plans to improve academic performance; provide after-hours learning and community opportunities; and to meet the physical, mental and emotional needs of students.
Santa Fe High and César Chávez Primary Schools are past the planning stage and each received $ 150,000 in implementation phase grants this year.
According to the National Education Association, the community school model establishes a link between academic success and access to resources that some communities may be deprived of due to their location or poverty.
Community schools are expected to provide students with physical and social resources, provide extended learning time and opportunities, facilitate community and family engagement, and foster collaborative leadership.
These factors are largely based on partnerships with outside organizations.
To be eligible for the state grant, a school must have at least one subgroup of students who is consistently underachieving, or 40% of its students must qualify for a free or reduced lunch.
Ybarra, who oversees the implementation of the community schools, said that it was not until César Chávez received a planning grant in the 2019-20 school year that she realized how important the needs of the school were huge, with its high population of English learners and homelessness rate.
From there, the district received implementation grants to bring comprehensive resources to the school through partnerships with city agencies and businesses. Resources included more teacher training on trauma-informed care, art projects, and a “resource room” with a washer and dryer.
When schools reach their maximum grant level, the district will need to seek other forms of economic support to support progress.
“It can be public or private grants,” Ybarra said. “All of our schools operate, at some level, within a framework of community schools quite naturally.”
The district had previously applied for funding for Kearny and Milagro as they powered Santa Fe High, but the applications were only approved this year.
“We wanted to see if we had set up the framework for community schools [kindergarten] until the 12th [grade], what kind of long term process we would do, ”she said.
Indicators such as attendance, graduation, and discipline rates will be tracked to see how effective the model is on student achievement.
Kearny principal Robin Noble is eager for the planning phase to begin at the school, which has large numbers of students learning English and living in poverty. Both of these factors can make academic success difficult for students, she acknowledged.
“One of the things that I think Kearny craves is direction and focus,” she said. “Kearny is definitely a school that needs to close the achievement gap.”
Noble said the Planning Grant, and later the Implementation Grants, would help Kearny deliver more focused instruction to students who need it.
“We are going to give the children school-level standards,” she said. “And when we run into gaps, we want to have a really strong response and remediation system so that they receive targeted instruction on their gaps and not just try to repeat that year.”
The district joins others across the state, as well as lawmakers, who see the four-tier community school model as a way to help level the playing field for at-risk students.
Lawmakers passed the Community Schools Act in 2013 to allow any public school to become a community school, but it wasn’t until 2019 that state and federal funds totaling $ 14 million were allocated to the school. program by the state’s public education department. The state distributed more than $ 6 million in grants to community schools for the 2021-2022 school year.
The latest round of grants could bring the number of community schools in the state to 54 within three years, the state said.
In January, the Learning Policy Institute reported that community schools in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe that had been operating for five years or more were performing above average.
“The long-term hope is that we are developing all schools to better support this model,” Ybarra said.