Friends and Colleagues -
This week I have updates on APS District One, New Mexico's science teacher of the year, the need to let families know when their children aren't reading on grade level, and some positive news about the outlook for New Mexican workers without a college degree.
As always, your feedback and social media sharing are greatly appreciated. Please think of one person to send this to and encourage them to sign onto my mailing list. Here's this weeks updates:
- [LOCAL: NEWS] APS Fills District One Seat. Filling the opening left by the resignation of Analee Maestas, the APS School Board voted 4-2 (video of deliberations and vote) to fill the vacancy with South Valley native and Rio Grande High School graduate Yolanda Montoya-Cordova who, according to her application materials, is currently the "State Administrator- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act."
Yolanda was by far the most supported candidate at the South Valley forum. Her stance on accountability is reasonable (it's a necessary tool for improvement, not a punitive measure) and she stated support for charter schools. Kudos to the APS board for listening to the District One community in selecting her. As always, it's up to us as advocates to hold our elected officials accountable to decisions and policies that keep students the primary focus. Too often we are caught up in negotiating the interests of adults at the expense of students who are excluded from those conversations.
As Yolanda writes in her application: "Education is a vital component for youth, their families and the community. Education is the door to lifelong skills associated with academic milestones necessary to reach post-secondary and career goals. Education is also a major contributor to important skill development related to positive relationships, community and civic engagement, personal decision making, and economic success for individuals, their families and the community." Let's hold her and the APS board accountable to this vision.
- [LOCAL: NEWS] NM Science Teacher of the Year Named. Jessica Sanders, science teacher at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, was awarded as New Mexico's 2017 Science Teacher of the Year. Lauded for her contributions in and out of the classroom, she is also a finalist for the statewide Golden Apple Award, which goes to seven New Mexico teachers annually.
- [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico Parents Not Notified. In a continuation of many years of poor communication from districts, most of our parents are still not notified when their children are not on track to read by the end of third grade, a pivotal time for students. In APS, about 9,500 1st-3rd graders were not proficient in reading last year, but only about 1,000 of those students received required notifications.
Not only do our families deserve to know, there is good research backing this mandate. In the research report "Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation" by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, researcher Donald Hernandez finds that: "We teach reading for the first three grades and then after that children are not so much learning to read but using their reading skills to learn other topics. In that sense if you haven't succeeded by 3rd grade it's more difficult to [remediate] than it would have been if you started before then." The report also finds:
- Third grade literacy is a stronger predictor of high school graduation than poverty;
- 89% of students in poverty who read on level by 3rd grade graduate on time; and
- A student who can't read on grade level by 3rd grade is 4x less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does
Regardless of how one feels about mandatory or voluntary retention in third grade based on literacy, what is inarguable is that parents deserve to know if their student is not on target for reading and, just as importantly, what the district/school is doing to remedy to situation, and how parents can support. To not even let parents know of such a pivotal moment is immoral and detrimental to students. I've met parents from all walks of life and with all manner of challenges, however I've not met one parent who doesn't want what's best for their child and to know how they're doing in school.
- [NATIONAL: OPINION] State Testing Improvements. As states ponder the next evolution and era of accountability and testing, my hope is that state policy makers and advocates push for a continued improvements to assessments and how results are reported to families. Mike Petrilli at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute offers sensible suggestions many states are already undertaking:
- Move state tests to the last four weeks of the school year to give teachers more time to teach—and reducing dead time at year’s end (the previous state testing window started in March);
- Require that teachers receive the scores of their incoming students before the next year starts;
- Include in the score reports that are sent home to parents: (1) Information about students’ strengths and areas for improvement; (2) specific suggestions for actions parents can take on their child’s behalf; (3) data on proficiency and growth over time, over multiple years; and, when available, (4) projections of how students with scores like theirs are expected to score on the ACT or SAT;
- Return the results from any formative assessments, like the MAP or iReady, to classroom teachers within one week and to parents within 30 days;
- Publish the statewide testing schedule two years in advance to give districts maximum flexibility to plan their calendars; and
- Ensure and confirm that test score reports actually reach parents
- [NATIONAL: NEWS] Good Jobs That Pay Without an MBA. According to a joint effort study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce and J.P. Morgan Chase, "there are 30 million well-paying jobs in the United States that do not require a bachelor’s degree." Of course, our students still need to graduate high school with the baseline skills (ahem, dare I say proficiencies) in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies necessary to be competitive for these types of jobs in the globalized 21st century.