• December 5, 2019

NTO to study student progress - Odessa American: ECISD

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NTO to study student progress

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Posted: Friday, October 11, 2019 2:00 pm

The New Tech Network, which includes George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa, was recently awarded a five-year $12 million grant to track student success to and through college.

The initiative is supported by a Networks for School Improvement grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

School teams from Ector County, Comal and El Paso ISDs will work together to identify and address common problems that impact students in pursuing and succeeding in college, a news release said.

Allocations to individual schools are not specified since program grants of this kind provide financial support for school staff to participate in both professional development facilitated by New Tech Network and the actual improvement science work being conducted at each school, an email from Danielle Gates of the New Tech Network said.

NTO Principal Gerardo Ramirez said it is his understanding the schools receiving the funds are all in the New Tech Network, but any schools that want to focus on college and career readiness will be able to do so as well in the future.

Among the three districts, 4,300 students will be impacted in the first year and that will expand to 50 schools across multiple districts.

The New Tech Network has been engaged in district and charter school partnerships across Texas for more than 12 years. In the coming academic year, there will be 25 New Tech member schools in 11 districts, the release said.

The grant will enable NTN to provide resources, coaching, data analytics training and guidance, the release said.

“It really is a case study of our campus, what we’re doing, how to make things better, but specifically focusing our junior cohort group and seeing them through finishing their junior year, their senior year and then eventually into college, where they end up in college, how they’re persisting in college and what they’re doing to make sure that they’re successful. So it’s really reflecting back on our practices here, what are we doing to support kids, not just in high school but beyond,” Ramirez said.

“It’s not good enough to say we want them to get into college. We want them to get into a career path. That’s good but really, are we going to make sure they make it through and that they see it through because many go, but do they finish?”

Project Based Research Design Facilitator Valentina Rivera said what the faculty does is provide students with a little bit more power and knowledge to make it to a degree, “not just dream about the dream, but actually achieve the dream.”

Cheraldin Celis, junior English language arts and reading and French facilitator, said the grant is a good way to see what other schools are doing and compare results of how many students stay in college, how many are successful and how many students stay in college.

Rivera said she’s looking forward to hearing success stories from other districts. She added that this gives her a chance to talk to students more about the hurdles they’re going to face and how to jump over those hurdles to success.

First-generation students may not have a frame of reference for what to do to get into college, such as filling out federal financial aid forms. Rivera said the language barrier is a factor and there may be a lack of communication between siblings when one of them is in college. 

“That’s where we come in,” Rivera said.

There’s no reason for them not to be successful because they are being given the tools to reach their goals.

She added that the best thing about the grant is that they will be able to compare notes with schools in other districts.

“In a sense, all the teachers, all the staff, we’re all college readiness teachers regardless of if it’s English or math or science or even our PE coach; our art teacher. They need to hear from all of us for them to go to a two-year college (or) go to a university. Her (Rivera’s) role has been super essential because she gets those seniors and places them in internships and has them put on a symposium and making sure before they leave they know what FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is, that they’re applying for colleges and we’re sharing that good news,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said Celis is very influential with juniors, who will make up the first cohort, in making sure they are at the level they need to be for postsecondary education. 

 “Here at NTO, we have every kind of kid,” Ramirez said. “The misconception is we only have the high achieving kids. They all deserve the best. They all deserve to be challenged,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez, Rivera and Celis said New Tech does its best to prepare students for college. They tell students they have to file financial aid every year, register for classes every semester and talk to their professors.

They also have Echo, a learning management system like Blackboard, Ramirez said.

“At the university level, the majority of your work is turned in online so us having Echo is already giving them a heads up,” he said.

He noted that the project-based instruction mode at NTO teaches students skills they will need in their lives from problem solving to being part of collaborative groups.

Along with Ramirez, Rivera and Celis, Instructional Specialist JaniceLynn Granado has been involved in the process.

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