March 3, 2005
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Jennifer Chavez
Public Information Officer
(505) 476-0393
jchavez@ped.state.nm.us

Del Norte High School Cited for Excellence in National Landmark Study

(Santa Fe, NM)— Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico is among ten high schools being cited as “doing things right” in a landmark study by American College Testing Program (ACT) and The Education Trust. The study focuses on high-performing, diversely populated schools that provide students with high-level courses, qualified teachers, flexible teaching styles, and extra tutorial support. The study defines, for the first time, the specific rigorous academic skills that need to be taught in English, math, and science courses for high school graduates to be ready for college and work.

Dr. Veronica C. García said:

“I am proud that Del Norte High School has been recognized in the ACT landmark study. The achievements of Del Norte teachers and students clearly show that all New Mexico students can compete nationally and excel. The rigorous standards for teachers and students that we’ve employed as part of Governor Richardson’s educational reforms are succeeding.”

The new study, titled On Course for Success, looked at ten high schools across the U.S. that are already meeting high standards and overcoming the odds—schools that have a diverse student population (40 percent or more minority and/or 50 percent or more low-income) and are producing a higher than average proportion of graduates who are ready for college, based on ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks. The high schools were located in eight states: Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Researchers and content experts from ACT and The Education Trust studied courses taken by the students at these schools who met or surpassed the College Readiness Benchmarks on the ACT exam. They observed classes, met with and surveyed teachers, reviewed instructional materials and course syllabi, and studied course procedures.

The findings point to four major characteristics shared by these high performing high schools:
1. High-level, college-oriented content in core courses—All schools offered coherent sequences of courses focused on college-readiness content at a level beyond most state and district standards.
2. Qualified and experienced teachers—All of the teachers were certified in their subject area, and nearly all had a Master’s Degree or higher with at least one degree in their subject area
3. Teaching that is flexible and responsive to students—Most teachers frequently asked and answered questions and checked for student understanding. In classroom discussions and lectures, they helped students make meaningful connections to the content by using examples that had meaning to students, making reference to prior learning, current events and popular culture.
4. Out of classroom support for students—Students were provided with extra support outside the classroom through tutors, teachers, and other helpers, including peers and adults from the community. Teachers offered help outside of class and reminded students that they were available for assistance.

ACT test results have consistently shown that many students who have taken core courses are still not prepared for college or the workforce. This occurs across all types of schools and all economic, ethnic and racial groups of students. The current findings indicate that schools can be successful regardless of the makeup of the student population. The success of these schools is based largely on providing high-quality course content.

The authors of the report recommend that each high school reevaluate the content of
current college-preparatory classes to ensure that the focus is on the high-level skills needed for college and work readiness. Both organizations have released prior reports (ACT - Crisis at the Core; The Education Trust – A New Core Curriculum for All) suggesting that all students benefit from a rigorous, college preparatory curriculum, as the skills needed for success in the workplace are the same as those needed for success in the first year of college.

The ACT/Education Trust study report, On Course for Success, is available in PDF format at the following website: http://www.act.org/path/policy/reports/success.html.