FARMINGTON — Area school districts and San Juan College are working to develop a formal partnership to promote college readiness and help students avoid remedial classes in college.

During a two-day conference at San Juan College, area school district administrators and teachers met with San Juan College administrators and faculty as they learned about a math alignment strategy from Harper College in Palatine, Ill.

Judy Marwick, Harper College Provost, said Harper College has developed a formal partnership with Illinois high schools to help prepare students by ensuring they have the right skills.

The Northwest Educational Council for Student Success was formed to run the partnership and works with 12 high schools, 19 middle schools, 74 elementary and 10 alternative/special education schools, according its website.

"One of the things we've been able to do is reduce the need for developmental mathematics for recent high school graduates by 21 percent in four years by working corroboratively together," Marwick said.

San Juan College President Toni Pendergrass said college board member John Thompson heard of Harper College's program at a conference and work was started to invite the Harper College personnel out to share their knowledge.

"They have had tremendous results working with their local school districts," Pendergrass said. "What they have been able to do is reduce the amount of developmental education that those students need after they graduate from high school."

Pendergrass said a January report to the state Legislative Finance Committee from the New Mexico Higher Education Department stated that too many New Mexico students show up unprepared to earn college credits. The report says $22 million was spent on remedial college courses in 2013 with nearly four in 10 community college students never completing the courses.

"What we would like to see is more students graduating and persisting and the overall goal is to increase our graduation rate for all of our community members," Pendergrass said.

Area superintendents including Kirk Carpenter from Aztec, Don Levinski from Central Consolidated and Janel Ryan from Farmington school districts were in attendance on Tuesday morning as multiple topics were discussed over two days at the Henderson Fine Arts Center.

Those topics included college placement testing; high school, college and career readiness; and how the partnership was formed among Harper College and the high schools to work on their curriculum and final exams.

Levinski said while the Common Core State Standards initiative has had some resistance, it's goal is to help students achieve the level of achievement they need to succeed in institutions of higher education.

"These type of partnerships are critical. It's very important that higher ed and high schools, in particular, are communicating with each other," Levinski said. "What we're trying to do is close the gaps in reading, writing and math."

Pendergrass said San Juan College is working to develop a memorandum of understanding creating a consortium for the schools and college where they can work together to develop appropriate goals and objectives.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.