[4/5] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

by Seth Saavedra │Thursday, April 5th, 2018

Friends & Colleagues -

I'm working on a story that's both personal and exciting. A story about a New Mexico family doing all they can for their children. I can't wait.

But, with the steady stream of good stuff coming out this week, I had to take a quick break to write this local and national roundup. If you have an extra 20 minutes, check out a podcast that came out yesterday featuring former Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandera. And here's this week's roundup:

[LOCAL: NEWS] Albuquerque Journal Highlights Differing Viewpoints. In two stories this week, Shelby Perea touches on the live wire topic of school grades, and the degree to which they are helpful.

The first describes South Valley Academy, an APS charter school. SVA has moved from a B to a D over the past four years. And, despite 14 and 4 percent proficiencies in reading and math, respectively, the graduation rate is 14 points higher than the NM average. The reason for the drop in school grade? According to principal Julie Radoslovich, it's because "growing up in poverty does impact academic success" and the PARCC is hard. I recently had an SVA teacher write a thought-provoking piece on high school graduation and college readiness.

In a second article, "Touring Excellence", we learn more about a school with similar demographics to SVA but quite different outcomes (40 and 29 percent proficiencies) and beliefs about their students: Mission Achievement and Success. Moving from a C to an A over the past four years, MAS's website states:

[We believe] that all children, regardless of race, economic status, or past educational experiences can succeed if they have access to a great education. Providing a great education means surrounding students with a team of dedicated, passionate, and highly effective educators who embrace a “no excuses, whatever it takes” attitude to ensure that our students not only earn a high school diploma, but possess the skills to experience success in college and the competitive world.

To this author, these differences in beliefs about their students are dramatic. One school cites student identities as the reason they can't or aren't learning. The other acknowledges the unique challenges their students face and strategically addresses them through school culture and structure. For two schools only 15 minutes away from each other, they are worlds apart in how they view students' potential.

My advice to parents? Contact and visit both schools. Talk to teachers, administrators, and students. Look at their reports cards (SVA and MAS) and see how each is doing. I've been to each school several times and the differences are palpable, though the students look identical and come from most of the same neighborhoods.

[LOCAL: STORY] Heartwarming Profile of Gadsden Teacher. Manuel Mendoza teaches at Gadsden High School along the Mexican border. If you haven't heard yet, Gadsden is one of the best stories in New Mexico education. It's a district that's essentially all Hispanic and as poor as any other. Yet the student learning and graduation results are impressive. As an immigrant himself, Manuel knows how hard life is coming to the U.S. not speaking English. Through tough love and unwavering expectations of his students, Manuel works to get all his students to college, despite their own self-doubt.

[NATIONAL: RESEARCH] Millennials On Verge of Wielding Enormous Political Clout. As the #NeverAgain movement has shown, Millennials and Generation Z will be no idle spectators in our political arena. "Millennials, projected to pass Baby Boomers next year as the United States’ largest living adult generation, are also approaching the Boomers in their share of the American electorate."

The implications for education are massive. Not only will the face of our teaching force significantly change over the next decade as Boomers retire, the perspectives of Millennials, who view school choice as a no brainer, will gain more prominance. Districts and unions would be wise to strategize now about what it will take to attract these generations. High-performing charters, and charter networks, have been doing this successfully for the past decade.


[NATIONAL: RESEARCH] How Do High School Diplomas Align with College Admissions? A recent report from the Center for American Progress explores this question. With historic highs in national graduation rates, there is growing concern about what value those diplomas actually hold.

In New Mexico, the report finds our traditional graduation requirements are well-balanced and aligned well with admission to local universities. In all areas except Foreign Language we meet or exceed "college expectations in the number of units for this subject". Of course, even when our students fulfill graduation requirements, if they aren't reading or writing at a college level, remedial coursework is necessary. This in turn increases the cost and length of college, reducing the likelihood of completion.


[NATIONAL: STORY] Five Education Facts You Didn't Know About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination. Not only was he a prodigy, he spoke fervently about the connections between education and liberty throughout his life.