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May Roberts Program Pays Off

As in the past, the majority of America's youth depend on it to receive their schooling.

Education, however, is changing in the classroom.

Students at May Roberts Elementary School are just a handful of America's youth who are learning in a new and innovative way.

Frances Ramirez, of the May Roberts staff, leads this creative path to learning through the "Accelerated Schools Project."

"I serve as a part-time accelerated schools coach and part-time associate principal," Ramirez said. "The role of the coach is being someone who is not leading but facilitating. It's a massive role and with all of the ideas that come to the table, it is the coaches role to sift through these and help make connections."

According to Ramirez, May Roberts began the project three years ago.

"Accelerated Schools is part of a comprehensive school reform demonstration grant that we got three years ago," she said.

The $73,000 grant was used to initiate the Accelerated Schools Project.

The school chose the project after investigating several models such as "Onward To Excellence" and "Successful For All," Ramirez said.

"We chose accelerated schools because it was a process," she said. "For example we are divided up into cadres."

Those cadres include health, technology, math and school community.

"Once a week we divide into these groups," Ramirez said.

Then, Ramirez said, minutes are released from each meeting to communicate to the rest of the cadres.

"It's a real democratic process. So, if there is a question that comes out through e-mail or a meeting, we all vote on what we think should be done," Ramirez said. "Then we work on communicating that to our parents and our students, too."

The Accelerated Schools Project revolves around powerful learning, a five component list of goals and assessment that teachers integrate into their lessons.

These five components are authentic, interactive, leaner-centered, continuous and inclusive.

Authentic means that the lessons are relevant to the learner and there are recognizable goals and connections.

Interactive proposes that the students have the opportunity to collaborate with others to work toward a common purpose.

The leaner-centered component aims to enhance student exploration and discovery.

Continuous means that the students perceive knowledge in a more holistic manner to strengthen connections between learning contents.

The inclusive component is designed to allow all students equal access to learning opportunities.

"We try to incorporate all in each lesson," Ramirez said.

To ensure the project goals are being met, May Roberts Principal Conrad De La Paz reviews the staff.

"Our principal, he evaluates our teachers. He looks for these components within their lessons and even in our hiring process - it effects who we hire to participate on our staff," Ramirez said.

On a bigger scale, the school is also assessed by an outside agency. "This month, we are going to have our big evaluation from Northwest Regional Lab. They'll come down and they will let us know where we are at in the process," Ramirez said. "They (Robin Totten and Sue Recee) will examine many parts of a survey."

According to Ramirez, the survey will be taken by parents, students, administration and teachers.

"They will compile all the information to let use know how we are doing and reaching the goals that we set for our cadres and where we are in the process itself," Ramirez said.

Although May Roberts is in its last year of its reform grant, Ramirez said the school will not need the money to continue the project.

"Accelerated Schools kind of gave us the process so that when the money goes away, we can continue the process," she said.

In the end, however, there is a final factor that seals the project and enables it to take blossom.

"It takes all of us to be able to make that child become successful," Ramirez said. At May Roberts, that vision is in place.

November 13, 2001 
By Casey Keller Argus Observer