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the values behind what we have been doing?’ And they will
chose to move on.”
Navarro dismissed the notion that personnel changes
are easier in the El Paso area because there are no teachers’
“With or without unions, education systems have not
been very good about dealing with teachers who shouldn’t be
in education,” she said. “For most principals, it has been part
of the culture that you just had to live with bad teachers.”
Support from the University of Texas-El Paso has been
critical to the Collaborative’s success to date.
“The university has been very important,” said Ivonne
Durant, principal at the H.D. Hilley Elementary School. “They
light the fires.”
President Natalicio, Provost Stephen Riter and deans of
the various colleges all are committed to improving the local
public schools.
Lack of adequate preparation “is not just a problem for
El Paso, it’s a problem that pervades all of American higher
education,” said Riter, a systems engineering professor who
has been provost for four years.
“Our schools are not equipped to turn out a lot of students
who are prepared for college, even kids who took all the right
courses, did all the right things,” he said, “so we have decided
we have to change the system.”
Some of the biggest changes have occurred in the College
of Education, which trains at least 60 percent of the teachers
for El Paso County schools.
“We are fortunate to have a kind of closed loop,” said
Arturo Pacheco, dean of the college. “We are the only four-
year institution within 250 miles (in Texas, that is—New
Mexico State University is only 50 miles away, across the state
line in Las Cruces), we train most of the teachers, two-thirds
of our students are Hispanic, and we have three large school
districts to work with. We can see the results of our work.”
Subject matter courses have been beefed up. Prospective
elementary school teachers now take many more math
El Paso’s Collaborative
June 2008
he El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, first
described in the winter 1999 issue of
National CrossTalk,
to contradict the widely held belief that partnerships between K–12
public schools and postsecondary education are ineffective.
The Collaborative, which includes the University of Texas-El Paso,
El Paso Community College and 12 El Paso County school districts, has
succeeded in improving the performance of K–12 students, increasing
the numbers who move on to postsecondary education, and narrowing
the achievement gap between white and minority students.
This has happened in a region in which 88.5 percent of elementary
and secondary students are Hispanic, and 75 percent are low income.
M. Susana Navarro, executive director of the Collaborative, points
to these indicators of success:
• In 2002, only 47 percent of the region’s students in grades three
through 11 passed all parts of the statewide Texas Assessment of
Knowledge and Skills (TAKS); by 2007 that had that increased to 70
•The high school graduation rate in the area’s three urban school
districts was 78.3 percent in 2006, up from 69.4 percent in 1995.
•The high school dropout rate of 21.7 percent is substantially lower
than in 1995.
•The numbers of students enrolling in some form of postsecondary
education are inexact, but enrollments at the University of Texas-El
Paso (UTEP), and at El Paso Community College, both of which draw
most of their students from local schools, have been growing rapidly.
How did this happen? One reason for success appears to be close
cooperation between leaders of the two postsecondary institutions
and the local school districts. They meet regularly to plan projects and
thrash out problems.
Continuity of leadership has been important. UTEP President
Diana S. Natalicio has chaired the Collaborative’s board of directors
since 1993 (the program began in 1991). The board also includes
the president of El Paso Community College, superintendents of the
three urban school districts and representatives of business, civic and
religious organizations.
M. Susana Navarro has been executive director from the beginning.
Natalicio and Navarro “provide a history of the Collaborative,” as
district superintendents come and go, said Arturo Pacheco, former
dean of the UTEP College of Education.
The Collaborative’s basic message remains the same. As Navarro
The El Paso Collaborative for Academic
Excellence has succeeded in improving
the performance of K–12 students,
increasing the numbers who move on to
postsecondary education.
African American
Pass Rates on Mathematics Proficiency Exams
Among students at schools participating in the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence