[4/26] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

by Seth Saavedra │Thursday, April 26th, 2018

Friends & Colleagues -

The New Mexico education train is moving along at a fast clip these past few weeks. Spring has arrived as PARCC testing approaches its conclusion and with graduation on the horizon for many New Mexico students.

I have a request this week: if you haven't already, please sign up for my distribution list, which means you'll get a brief email the day after a new post goes live. And if you're already on this list, have someone you know sign up. This averages out to roughly two emails a week with no spam.


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As always, thank you for reading and drop me a line to let me know what you think - or what I've missed. Here's this week's roundup:

[LOCAL: NEWS] NMPED Launches High School Redesign Network. Using $4 million in Federal funds earmarked for struggling high schools, ten schools from across New Mexico will work with "school boards, principals, teachers, and communities to transform struggling high schools." NMPED has partnered with Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education Cross-State High School Redesign Collaborative on the project. The ten schools invited to participate are:


[LOCAL: NEWS] Struggling Schools to Receive $15 Million Over Next Three Years. As part of our ESSA plan, NMPED has identified 86 schools in need of Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) - meaning "schools either at the bottom five percent of performance amongst Title I schools or high schools with a graduation rate of 67 percent or lower in two of the last three years."

This describes a total of 86 schools in NM. Sixty of these schools applied for CSI grant funding with 46 ultimately selected to receive over $5 million a year over the next three years. A full list of these schools is at the link above.

[LOCAL: NEWS] Michelle Lujan Grisham Releases Eleven Point Plan for Education. The likely Democrat on this fall's gubernatorial ballot has big plans for our education system. Some of the highlights from the full plan include:

  • Universal pre-k funded by increased distributions from the Land Grant Permanent Fund (also known as House Joint Resolution 1);

  • Make STEAM the core platform of New Mexico's schools;

  • Raise NM teacher salaries to match Texas; and

  • Do away with PARRC, school grades, and teacher evaluation (NMTEACH) to then "determine the most appropriate and least intrusive test for New Mexico schools.

On that last point, the logic seems a bit backward to this advocate. And confirms my skepticism about the ed platforms of both Lujan-Grisham and Pearce. The goal should be smart evolutions of our systems, seeking out areas to build and improve upon. Instead, the approach seems to be a "repeal first, plan later" mentality.

Sure this strategy makes for pithy soundbites and wins early endorsements, but it makes for bad policy and leaves our most vulnerable children in limbo. Plus, as New Jersey's new governor has discovered, translating campaign trail promises into effective policy is much harder than it looks.

[NATIONAL: RESEARCH] Fordham Institute Reports on "Charter School Deserts". In a just released report, researchers ask: "As the geography of poverty in America changes, are there many neighborhoods with plenty of population density and lots of disadvantaged kids but few or no charter schools? Or do the schools actually set up shop where poor families live—whether in cities, small towns, or the suburbs?"


Looking at areas of the country with relatively high poverty but no charter schools, they've identified "charter school deserts" in New Mexico and Albuquerque: "New Mexico has eight charter school deserts, representing 13 percent of mid- to high-poverty census tracts, located in rural areas in the south, central, and northwest parts of New Mexico and the Albuquerque metro area." For those interested, Fordham created an interactive map.

[NATIONAL: RESEARCH] Albuquerque Spotlighted In George W. Bush Institute Report. What does it mean to be college and career ready (CCR) in the 21st century? Researchers seek answers with Albuquerque at the center of a case study. Highlighting overlapping efforts from Albuquerque Public Schools, NMPED, and Mission:Graduate, the report finds optimism and "the recognition of state leaders that more action must be taken to improve graduation and post-secondary attainment rates for New Mexicans."


Source: Mission Graduate


There is broad agreement locally that we need to direct more focus and resources to this work. The caveat is that graduation rates must rise alongside skills acquisition. If our graduation rates continue to inch up while math and reading proficiencies move downward, we'll find ourselves in the same trap that ensnared us long before No Child Left Behind and Common Core became sacrificial lambs.