The Regional Partnership School (RPS) project combines Pojoaque Valley Schools, Laboratory and New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) expertise and resources to improve teaching and learning (particularly in the crucial grades 4-8) in Pojoaque. It is the first school in New Mexico to partner strategically with a school district, a university school of education, and a major employer, and is also intended to be a model of innovation for New Mexico educators and policy makers.
Students helping students
The new afterschool math program at the RPS has recruited five high school students to work with four Pojoaque Valley Intermediate School teachers and education specialists from the Laboratory’s Math and Science Academy to provide extra math instruction for 30 4th and 5th grade students each week.
“The approaches we’re using are more hands-on and activity-based,” says MSA specialist Zach Leonard. “This benefits the fourth- and fifth-graders by boosting their math confidence, improving their engagement and closing gaps in their math abilities, but also helps the teachers as they get a chance to expand their skills. And the high-schoolers connect with the younger pupils, act as role models, develop their leadership skills, and also start to see how rewarding a teaching career can be.”
The activities are based on those used in the successful summer program the RPS has offered for the last two years. In addition to the Laboratory funding the salaries of the four full-time education specialists of the MSA, a grant from Laboratory operator Triad pays a stipend to the high-school tutors.
Mathias Mares, one of the tutors, wants to pass on his enthusiasm for math to the younger students. “Math is the one thing that even though it can be tricky at times, it is always solid in what you can do with it. I just want to make sure that at least one child grows up to share the love of math that I have,” he says. “This year after the pandemic, I'm surprised that these kids have not only embraced being back in school but they are thriving: everyone in the program is excited to be working with everyone involved.”
Helping teachers apply their new knowledge
In addition to improving immediate outcomes for students, another goal of the RPS is helping in-service teachers improve their performance in the classroom, and a $40,000 grant from the LANL Foundation is funding a program that enables teachers to better apply new skills and practices.
“Research shows that one issue with teacher professional development is that it’s often hard for teachers to apply the new skills they might learn about without a good system in place,” says MSA specialist Monica Martinez-Archuleta. “Our program includes quality professional development sessions throughout the school year and for a week in the summer. But we’ve also added a collaborative process to help teachers put their new skills into practice in their classrooms, and work with each other to improve their teaching over time.”
Teachers will develop lesson plans together that incorporate new techniques, watch each other teach the plans, and then revisit the plans based on what they’ve learned.
“Having teachers support each other as they work on their professional development helps ensure stronger teachers and better results for their students,” says Martinez-Archuleta.