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Teach Plus honors innovator schools, teachers

Teach Plus, a teacher-focused education advocacy organization, has named three New Mexico innovator schools and two educators as innovator teachers.

The innovator schools, all public charter schools, are Albuquerque Collegiate, Altura Preparatory School, and Mission Achievement and Success (MAS). The innovator teachers are Shari Hicks, of El Capitan Elementary School in Roswell, and Robbi Berry, of Monte Vista Elementary in Las Cruces.

To identify the innovators, Teach Plus leveraged its network of educators and educational leaders in the state to learn more about innovative ideas and practices happening in schools across New Mexico. The schools and teachers highlighted are moving away from traditional educational models and are approaching teaching and learning differently. Teach Plus’s selections were based on the following criteria:

  • Implementing effective innovative strategies to improve student growth and achievement, supported by data.
  • Addressing social and emotional learning needs of students and staff through these innovations.
  • Delivering targeted professional development to staff on how to best use these innovative strategies in their work and teaching.

New Mexico Education will profile the schools and teachers in the coming months. Until then, here are brief descriptions of them all, as provided by Teach Plus New Mexico.

Albuquerque Collegiate

Albuquerque Collegiate is a Title I, K-5 public charter school serving 200 students in the South Valley of Albuquerque. More than 70% of students come from low socio-economic households. Students at the school receive extended learning time daily, lengthening their school year by 30 days beyond the 180 day required by the state of New Mexico.

The innovation for which the school is being singled out is a co-teaching model in grades K-2, with each student being taught by two certified teachers for intensive intervention and differentiation in instruction. In grades 3-5, students are taught by high-quality, subject-level, content specialist teachers. Teachers at Albuquerque Collegiate receive frequent and intensive professional development and one-on-one coaching to ensure best classroom and instructional practices are used effectively.

Albuquerque Collegiate has achieved twice the state’s score in reading, with 73% of all students scoring proficient in iStations Reading Assessment in the 2021-2022 school year.

Altura Preparatory School

Altura Prep is a Title I, K-5 school serving 190 students from across the Albuquerque area. 55% percent of Altura Prep’s student body are from low socio-economic households. Fifteen percent of the student population are English Language Learners (ELL).

Altura Prep’s innovation centers on assigning content specialist teachers for all grades K-5, giving each student access to subject-focused instruction, differentiation, and intervention. Teachers are given more time to thoroughly teach their subject area, providing students with a learning environment where each subject is taught with fidelity and dedication to student mastery.

During the 2018-19 academic year, when Altura first opened its doors, just 32% of students reached grade-level proficiency in reading and 38% of students in math. In the 2021-22 academic year, 74% of students in the same cohort were proficient in reading and 70% of students in math.

Mission Achievement and Success (MAS)

MAS Charter is a Title I school that serves 2,200 preK-12th grade students in two locations in Albuquerque. The school serves the metropolitan areas surrounding both site locations. MAS’s student population is 86% Hispanic and 93% of students are from low socio-economic households.

MAS engages its students in a rigorous college preparatory program focused on getting them ready for success in college and in life. Students receive explicit, data-driven instruction in both foundational skills and personal success skills, goal-setting, planning, and decision-making.

In the 2019-20 academic year, MAS boasted proficiency rates in early literacy as follows: 66% proficient in kindergarten, 90% in 1st grade, and 78% in second grade compared to New Mexico’s statewide proficiency rates of 38%, 34%, and 44% respectively. Additionally, MAS has a 49% proficiency rate in 8th grade math compared to New Mexico’s statewide 8th grade math proficiency level of 13%.

Shari Hicks

Shari Hicks is an Intensive Teaching to Academic Potential (ITAP) teacher at El Capitan Elementary. El Capitan Elementary is a TItle 1, K-5 school serving 438 students in the Roswell Independent School District. Shari is a 2022 Change Agent in the social-emotional learning (SEL) Change Agent Network Fellowship, a Teach Plus initiative where teacher leaders, in collaboration with their peers and principals, identify the social and emotional learning needs of their schools and students and chart a path forward to solve the SEL problems-of-practice through continuous improvement.

Led by Shari, teachers at El Capitan Elementary are participating in a schoolwide effort to teach students mindfulness practices to help identify, self-reflect, and react to their emotions responsibly and respectfully. Shari is also helping teachers support students on a social-emotional level. She has coached teachers at her school on how to use active listening, create safe spaces for students to share their feelings, and recognize a student’s need for open communication with their teachers.

Robbi Berry

Robbi Berry is a 5th grade teacher at Monte Vista Elementary, a Title I school serving 616 K-5 students in the Las Cruces Public Schools. Robbi is the 2021 Las Cruces Public Schools Teacher of the Year. 

Robbi implements project-based learning (PBL) in her classroom, using student-identified, real- world challenges to guide learning and mastery of standards. During the 2022 Legislative Session, Robbi and her students gave testimony advocating for outdoor learning spaces with legislators.

You can read the full Teach Plus innovators report here.