With support from the Region 13 Comprehensive Center, the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) is delivering carefully crafted assistance to its Local Education Agencies (LEAs)—89 school districts and 57 state-authorized charter schools—to create a road map for supporting students most in need. The effort is delivering promising results.
A steep challenge and renewed commitment. Nationwide, the pandemic exacerbated already low student achievement, and in New Mexico, it created even greater disparities for Native students, English Learner students, economically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities, who collectively represent 80 percent of learners statewide. In response, NMPED and LEAs across the state are working to realize their collective commitment to equitably serve all students.
That includes directing most of the nearly $1 billion in federal funds New Mexico received through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to serve students most in need of support. To ensure the funds were used most effectively, the state had to design new systems and measures to help LEAs sufficiently plan, implement, track, and evaluate the effectiveness of those funds, and coordinate them with other federal and state resources. The Region 13 Comprehensive Center helped the state successfully navigate this work.
LEAs in New Mexico receive personal assistance, tools, and resources to get the job done. In 2021, with assistance from the Region 13 Comprehensive Center, the Department began providing LEA leaders with a range of evidence-based tools and resources to ensure they were meeting students’ needs. Those included strategic funding tools; coaching; technical assistance (to help evaluate funding efficacy, align funds, and allocate, track and deliver results); and expert and peer guidance to build capacity to sustain this new approach, so that it can be used in an ongoing capacity for LEA budget planning.
Region 13 and NMPED first administered surveys to determine LEA resource planning needs. The resulting technical assistance took three forms:
- Six webinars to help with ARP plan development, focused on the following topics: selecting evidence-based practices; building and sustaining school-based mental health supports; budgeting and planning for accelerated learning; supporting equitable learning outcomes; planning for sustainability; and addressing educator shortages.
- Three communities of practice (COPs), in which cohorts of LEAs built upon the webinars and received assistance with implementing their plans. Participants received tools and resources to help them address such issues as: leveraging existing planning processes to align ESSER funds; effectively allocating funds; tracking intended, versus actual, investments and results; and sustaining results-driven strategies to address the identified needs of students.
- Coaching and technical assistance via a team established by the department of former superintendents and administrators. These highly experienced coaches served as thought partners to LEAs in preparing and implementing ARP plans.
Strong turnout and positive feedback show measures are on course. A majority (70 percent) of LEAs participated in two or more of the webinars, and more than 90 percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed that the webinars were “high quality,” “relevant,” and “useful.” One participant noted that the webinars “significantly increased the likelihood that funds are used in a manner that supports increased student outcomes.”
Seventeen LEAs joined the communities of practice. Region 13 led the training during the COPs, and the state’s technical assistance team facilitated accompanying working sessions to apply Region 13-developed tools and content.
Of note, nearly 40 percent of LEAs that were central to the state’s landmark Yazzie/Martinez case participated in the COPs. (In 2018, a court ruled in Yazzie/Martinez v. New Mexico case that the state was not meeting its constitutional requirement to provide an adequate education to all students, including English Learners, Native Americans, and those from low-income families.) The Gadsden Independent School District (Gadsden) was among them.
One participant noted that the webinars “significantly increased the likelihood that funds are used in a manner that supports increased student outcomes.”
Perspective of a local education agency. Gadsden, a rural, border district, is a Title I district. Most of its 30,000 students are English Learners. Gadsden’s superintendent and executive team took full advantage of the state’s resources, attending every community of practice session.
Rosy Villalobos, Gadsden’s director of federal programs, sat on the team. Villalobos was responsible for developing and managing the district’s $67 million ARP investment. The community of practice, she says, was “the opportunity for us to change and do better.”
“The community of practice gave us the opportunity to work together, communicate with each other, learn from each other—we never had that opportunity before.”
Villalobos cites two community of practice tools as key to her work:
- A planning and implementation organizer: “[It shows] current state, ideal state, future state . . . gives me visualization of what to follow. [It] is how I am keeping my progress on expenditures. I constantly use it during meetings with my leadership team.”
- A framework for equity-driven resource allocation: “I have it right in front of me. To braid funding. This frame is really good. Really organized. These are things we do not have; we don’t have time. . . . Makes me remember, okay, where’s my data, what is my data telling me . . . questions here help me realize what I need to do.”
Gadsden is now embarking on high-dosage tutoring, a broadband project, developing community and parent centers, social and emotional learning, whole child, and mental health initiatives. Villalobos says networking with other districts helped her implement these efforts.
She credits continued, post-cohort conversations with two other federal program directors in the state as key factors in making progress:
“[W]e really discuss how to implement better, [such as with] high-dosage tutoring: How are we going to make it happen . . . when to tutor, during school instruction, after school instruction, on Saturdays, how many people, kids . . . how can we make it most impactful for academic loss?”
Villalobos also calls Harry Tackett, her state-provided coach, “extremely helpful.” Tackett, a former associate superintendent and federal programs director with decades of experience, is now retired.
Tackett notes the guidance provided by the state and Region 13 encouraged Villalobos to have her entire leadership team regularly participate in ARP tracking.
“You cannot have one person, whether a large, medium, or small district, which can monitor all of this; you need to bring in people from business, special needs, instruction and curriculum, HR. When we went over that, Rosy started reaching out and having those from different departments get together to do the planning. . . . They are now having regular meetings with folks from those different departments . . . to discuss, this is what we wanted, this is what we’ve done, this is where we really want to be.”
Region 13, notes Tackett, prepared him and the other coaches by providing recommended agendas, previews of content to come, and tools that coaches subsequently built ahead of each community of practice working session.
“They did an excellent job of preparing us to work with the LEAs. . . . I haven’t had that before, out of 31 years,” he said.
Expanded support for districts and charter schools on the horizon. Based on positive feedback, the department and Region 13 planned to continue support in 2023 to sustain networking for all who have previously participated, and to go further to:
- enable every LEA in the state the opportunity to participate;
- differentiate support for small rural districts versus large urban districts; and
- provide additional support to those who need it.
“The state is really trying to provide the help they need, not necessarily the help we think they need,” said Tackett, “and has given LEAs a voice in much of that.”
The Region 13 Comprehensive Center works with state education agencies and their regional and local constituents in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and the Bureau of Indian Education to improve outcomes for all children and better serve communities through capacity-building technical assistance. For more information, visit: https://www.wested.org/project/region-13-comprehensive-center/.
This post was developed by the Region 13 Comprehensive Center in partnership with the New Mexico Public Education Department. The Region 13 Comprehensive Center is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.