Contact: Roberta Smith, 277-1998 or
Laurie Mellas-Ramirez, 277-5915

April 27, 2001


From left: Beth Everitt, Roberta Smith, Viola Florez and Larry Willard at a reception at Sandia High School held recently to celebrate the first successful year of the SSLP. Some 100 APS teachers attended. Many of the Literacy Leaders gave brief presentations.  Photo by Laurie Mellas-Ramirez.The University of New Mexico College of Education (COE) and Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) will celebrate the first year of a successful program that provides professional development in literacy for mid- and high school teachers.

A reception to honor donors and demonstrate the project's success will be held Tuesday, May 1, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Sandia High School Media Center, 7801 Candelaria NE.

The "Secondary Schools Literacy Project (SSLP)," initially funded through a $100,000 challenge grant from Wells Fargo Bank, is designed to provide teachers with specialized assistance through professional development workshops to help students at the secondary school level who did not obtain sufficient reading/writing skills in the lower grades.

"This program is right up our alley. It touches on two of our highest community priorities - economic development and education," says Larry D. Willard, CEO and Regional President of Wells Fargo Bank New Mexico and West Texas. "With dedicated teachers working on strong programs like the SSLP, the impact of literacy on education and jobs in our community cannot be understated. That's good for all of us, but we're especially glad to be reaching youth who might otherwise miss out."

The project has far exceeded expectations with more than 108 teachers participating at 38 schools -- a 27 percent higher school participation rate than projected in the original proposal.

Currently, the SSLP is reaching 10 of the 11 high schools, 21 of the 25 middle schools and seven of the nine alternative high schools in Albuquerque. Each of the schools has one or two "literacy leaders" who facilitate study/literacy groups. Two-thirds of the schools have active literacy groups consisting of at least five teachers who meet monthly. The teachers, from across disciplines, discuss strategies on how to reach non/poor readers in their classes as well as how to teach reading in specific content areas, such as social studies, math, language, etc. The study groups offer a place to share information and receive feedback, with the overall goal to improve teaching skills. About half the teachers took part in a SSLP weeklong Summer Institute held last year as part of the project. The teachers involved interact with an average of 120 students per day.

"More than 12,000 students are impacted by the work of this initiative everyday," says Dr. Roberta Smith, director of the UNM COE Professional Development Collaborative. "These numbers are a strong indicator that middle and high school teachers have interest in not only participating in study groups to improve their ability to teach 'reading to learn' strategies, but also in meeting the specific content understanding needs of their students."

"It is evident that the Secondary Literacy Leaders Project is flourishing in the Albuquerque Public Schools. The teachers in the project are bringing about change; they are infusing improved literacy throughout the district," Smith adds.

"The SSLP has filled a huge void for many secondary teachers," says Dr. Beth Everitt, APS SSLP administrator. "Teachers tell me it is the first support they have experienced that directly related to their classroom challenges."

The project has also been successful in merging public and private resources in creative and effective ways. In response to the $100,000 challenge grant from Wells Fargo Bank, APS and the APS Foundation have provided diverse support, ranging from filling a new administrative position with someone to oversee the project to funding for professional development workshops and release time for teachers to participate. Other matching funds were acquired from the Sandia Foundation, U S WEST/Qwest, and Duffy & Jean Ann Swan. These additional funds were obtained through the efforts of the UNM Foundation, as well as the COE Development Office and Professional Development Collaborative.

"I am very pleased with the far-reaching success of the first year of the SSLP project," says Viola E. Florez, UNM COE dean.

"This partnership between APS, UNM, the private sector, and local philanthropies, represents the latest evidence of the power of collaborations to solve problems in education. By addressing the issue of secondary-level literacy education, the initiative focuses resources and talent on an area of very high need. This is great news for public education in New Mexico, because no students should be allowed to 'fall between the cracks'."

In addition to donors and project administrators, several hundred APS teachers and program participants are expected to attend the May 1st celebration. ###

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