After six years of partnership with schools and communities in New Mexico, Citizen Schools is closing its New Mexico operations at the end of this academic year, ending our direct service in Albuquerque, Mescalero, and Santa Fe.
Earlier this spring, Citizen Schools made the decision to end our school partnerships in Albuquerque and Mescalero due to differences between the districts’ chosen strategies to increase student success and those offered by the Citizen Schools model. In Santa Fe, we had hoped to deepen our partnership with the district, but deep fiscal constraints, due in part to sequestration, have forced a difficult choice. Superintendent Joel Boyd has committed to allocating his sparse resources to traditional school-day investments; therefore, while supportive of the Citizen Schools model, he is not able to commit the funds that enable Citizen Schools to continue providing services.
We have boundless gratitude to the people with whom we have partnered, and who have supported us to provide life-changing Expanded Learning Time (ELT) programs to more than 2,000 students. Citizen Schools will continue to be an advocate for ELT in New Mexico and for real-world learning through hands-on apprenticeships.
Hundreds of generous and dedicated people have inspired students and engaged families, stewarded by the principals of the three schools, Diane Garcia Piro, Cardinal Rieger, and Pat Garcia, and leaders of the Citizen Schools programs, Kendra Engels, Velina Chavez, and Kate Preteska. Each of these individuals has contributed her wisdom, commitment, enthusiasm and joy to infuse engaging learning with the magic that makes Citizen Schools' program special.
As a pioneer in the ELT movement, we have gained crucial insights into the factors that drive student success. Perhaps the most critical factor is the depth and scope of partnerships between providers of ELT programming and school districts. These partnerships ensure that Citizen Schools can tailor the academic support we offer, evaluate our impact with rigor, and resource the opportunities we provide to drive systemic change beyond our direct service.
Over the past six years, students in Santa Fe, Mescalero, and Albuquerque have gained access to resources within their community that have changed the trajectory of their lives. WOW! moments have included visiting colleges in Colorado and Texas; networking at an event hosted by Fidelity Investments; discovering the science of the bosque; building solar cars with volunteers from Sandia National Labs; connecting remotely with NASA Engineers in Greenland; creating a newspaper with the Santa Fe New Mexican; and exploring Apache art with tribal elders. These experiences made an impact. They changed lives.
In the last school year, 84% of Van Buren students reported a high level of access to college and career connections, 100% of apprenticeships at Mescalero were rated high quality, and 85% of De Vargas students improved their oral communication skills. Participants in the ELT program at De Vargas Middle School made double digit gains in math proficiency and substantial gains in English Language Arts – outpacing other schools in the district and across the state.
We have been delighted and amazed by the outpouring of support from the New Mexico community for our model, and have watched hundreds of Citizen Teacher volunteers and AmeriCorps teaching Fellows help students discover and achieve their dreams. And while we are disappointed to end our partnerships in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Mescalero, we are confident that these districts will continue their efforts to close the opportunity and achievement gaps for their deserving students.