With support from the LANL and Thornburg Foundations, in June, ConnectED published College and Career Pathways in Rural New Mexico: Strategies and Policy Implications. Using college and career pathways to transform education is challenging no matter where it is undertaken, but it is especially difficult in rural communities with small, geographically isolated schools. For the past five years, ConnectED has been partnering with Gallup McKinley County Schools in New Mexico to design and implement college and career pathways in the district’s nine high schools. In six of these high schools, enrollments range from 75 to about 275 students. They are 30 to 120 minutes by car away from Gallup, with few nearby employers to engage in work-based learning.
In schools of this size, it is extremely difficult to offer students more than one pathway that includes a coherent cluster of three or more career and technical education aligned courses with core academics. The report summarizes what ConnectED is learning about how to adapt academies and pathways to these very challenging conditions. Some of the topics addressed include: 1) “Super Themes” or “Mega Clusters;” 2) More flexible high school graduation requirements; 3) Making work-based learning more accessible, 4) Making dual credit more accessible; 5) Strategies for recruiting teachers, counselors, and administrators; 6) Teacher credentialling; 7) Alignment with middle and elementary school, and 8) Creating a small school community of practice.