News & Blog

New Mexico Launches First 100% Virtual ECHS Pathway

New Project Advances Equitable Access to Digital Skills Pathways

Maryville, TN – August 16, 2022 New Mexico leads our nation this fall in piloting an innovative virtual career path –equipping students with valuable cybersecurity, digital literacy, and/or other computer science-related skills and credentials.

Thanks to an Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grant from the US Department of Education secured for New Mexico by career-connected education leader, NS4ed, Extending Equity into the Digital Workplace seeks to create a 100% virtual “Information Technology Pathway” for Early College High School (ECHS) students.

The key focus of the grant (which was the highest ranked application in the country), is to advance more equitable outcomes for under-represented, rural populations in computer science careers, one of the fastest-growing and highest-paying fields today. Delivered through remote instruction within the context of existing Early College computer science pathways, the Extending Equity grant is piloted in the 2022-23 school year at seven Early College High Schools.

The project spans four years and expects to enroll 125 9th graders each year in a virtual digital skills pathway embedded within existing ECHSs. The goal, ultimately, is to have the path available and benefitting an unlimited number of students.

The pathway includes 12 credit hours of specific IT courses provided by partnering colleges and universities to support students in securing credits toward skill-based IT credentials or degrees. Some students will also take part in NM’s Pathway2Careers™ Math Curriculum, the first fully comprehensive career-connected Pre-Algebra, Algebra I and II, and Geometry curricula in the country. Pathway2Careers teaches students first about numerous high-value careers and then teaches the application of math concepts within the context of how those concepts are authentically used ‘on the job.’

This pathway is particularly significant for students of color and those in rural areas where districts do not have the resources or enrollment to support an onsite IT program. The pilot also seeks to cultivate 30 business partnerships with ECHSs by bringing online business partners from every industry across the state to support and mentor students. Business partners will serve as mentors to students, offer internships (in-person or virtually), and work with educators to develop capstone projects to demonstrate students’ proficiencies.

The coordinator of the effort is the Four Corners Regional Education Cooperative #1 in northwest New Mexico, which has a rich heritage of tribal communities. The Four Corners REC-1 also will partner with school districts statewide in the majority-minority state.

“At REC-1, we believe the EEDW project is critical for New Mexico and the nation,” said David Bowman, Executive Director of REC-1. “Not only does it offer equitable access to high-paying IT jobs for rural and historically under-represented students, but it represents the first chance to learn whether online programming is effective in early college high schools. It is also critically important for our New Mexico businesses and industries, which are struggling to find sufficient qualified candidates for IT positions.”

Securing a statewide mid-phase EIR grant is an important accomplishment because the bar is set high for these grants. According to the US Department of Education, EIR grants are intended, “to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students; and rigorously evaluate such innovations.”

NS4ed will serve as the evaluator on the grant, monitoring students’ progress toward credentials, as well as evaluating what supporting structures are needed for students’ success in IT pathways.

According to the project’s senior evaluator and the CEO and founder of NS4ed, Dr. Joseph L. Goins, “The EIR Mid-Phase is an evidenced-based Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) Tier 1 evaluation. This project was chosen as the highest-rated application in the country in 2021. Extending Equity into the Digital Workforce is the first major re-envisioning of Early College High Schools since their introduction almost 20 years ago! It is an honor to be selected for this distinguished evaluation.”

The first Early College High Schools to participate are Arrowhead Park ECHS, Clovis ECHS, Penasco R.I.S.E, School of Dreams Academy, Carlsbad ECHS, Alta Vista ECHS in Gadsden, Alamogordo ECHS, and three others who are considering participation. The pilot will be a proving ground for a pathway within an ECHS environment, but lessons learned could be extended to other students in traditional high schools across the country.

About Four Corners Regional Education Cooperative #1 

To learn more about Extending Equity into the Digital Workplace, or to join the pilot group, contact the Executive Director of REC-1 and Project Director David Bowman at 505-603-3411 or email the REC-1 office.

About NS4ed, LLC

NS4ed is an educational research, technology, and development company dedicated to negotiating education services. NS4ed’s mission is to help all students attain successful futures through career exploration. This is achieved through providing effective, vested, engaging sole source solutions in customized labor market data, career exploration tools, mathematics & career-connected learning curricula, as well as, educator resources, professional development, and implementation services. NS4ed is a leader in evaluation services and invests in quality measures and assessments to ensure its innovative solutions provide exceptional student experience, comprehensive learning, and support best practices in teaching. Pathway2Careers TM (P2C) Math Curriculum and Career Exploration Curriculum were developed to align with Career Connected Learning (CCL) principles to support sustainable career readiness.

###