Socorro Independent School District announced Wednesday that the district will join Digital Promise and its Center for Inclusive Innovation in an equity-centered R&D initiative to tackle on-the-ground adolescent writing challenges, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“We are honored to collaborate with Digital Promise in this innovative initiative that will enable Team SISD to build on our laser-sharp focus of ensuring all students are prepared for success in college, careers, and life,” said SISD Superintendent José Espinoza, Ed.D. “I am confident that with this partnership, the resources, community input, and focus on diversity and equity, we will give our students a strong foundation to become excellent writers and communicators and make tremendous gains to improve overall learning and academic achievement.”
Socorro Independent School District was selected from a competitive pool of applicants from the League of Innovative Schools (League), a national coalition of forward-thinking K-12 school districts organized by Digital Promise, based on the district’s dedication to improving adolescent writing opportunities, strong community connections, and demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Over the next year, a team of Socorro educators and community stakeholders will work with leaders from Digital Promise to understand Socorro’s primary challenges in middle school writing, and prototype and trial solutions to address these challenges.
Starting in May 2021, this team will begin deepening relationships and thoroughly investigating the identified challenges from multiple perspectives. They will engage a range of community and district stakeholders in a co-design process to develop, test, and improve on a solution idea, focusing on solutions to specifically support and benefit Black and Latino students, and those experiencing poverty.
Teachers and students at SSG Manuel R. Puentes Middle School and Ernesto Serna School will contribute to the process, alongside parents and community members.
Because research has shown that challenges in adolescent writing disproportionately impact Black and Latinx students and those experiencing poverty, leveraging community expertise to address these specific challenges in Socorro can have profound implications.
“Success or struggle in writing can affect student performance and confidence in every academic area, and writing can help students make connections to their own culture, values, and identities,” said Kim Smith, executive director of the League and the Center for Inclusive Innovation. “We’re inspired by Socorro’s commitment to fostering student voice through writing.”
The core R&D team includes:
- Monica Castro, Principal , SSG. Manuel R. Puentes Middle School
- Kathryn Canchola, Student, SSG. Manuel R. Puentes Middle School
- Dove Rempfer, Student, SSG. Manuel R. Puentes Middle School
- Tucker Clark , Community In Schools Coordinator, Socorro ISD
- Catherine Twomey, Journalism Teacher, SSG. Manuel R. Puentes Middle School
- Yessica Torres, teacher/school leader, Ernesto Serna School
- Adriana Rodarte, community member, City of Socorro
- Leslie Rempfer, community member, SSG. Manuel R. Puentes Middle School
- Dianna Ponce, parent, Ernesto Serna School
- Holly Fields, Professor and Assistant Director for Research-Practice Partnerships, University of Texas El Paso
- Miguel Moreno, Coordinator of Instructional Technology, Socorro ISD
“Through this project, I believe that our community can gain a deeper appreciation of the value in understanding how students develop their language skills in both their native language and in the English language such that students can be truly fluent in English and in Spanish,” said Dr. Holly Fields, Professor, University of Texas El Paso.