The Miseducation of Albuquerque Public Schools

When it comes to equity, cultural relevance, and academic rigor, APS sure talks a big game, making a lot of promises. APS leaders try to say all the right things while doing nearly none of them.

Read More

New Mexico Teachers: Let's Be Heard

Often when education is discussed or debated, vital and necessary voices are left out: us teachers. Who better to provide perspective on schools than those of us working with students every day? Who better to speak about teacher pay, class sizes, educational spending, and many other topics than those of us who personally grapple with these issues?

It seems as though some policy makers want teachers to use their voice, but only while we are in the classroom. I’ve seen first-hand that those days are over and the time for direct teacher voice has arrived.

Read More

Summer Side Hustles for Teachers

By Joyce Wilson│Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Side "hustles" have become more popular as people realize they can easily make a little extra money to make ends meet or save away. You may have heard of the sharing economy, which allows you to make money doing things like driving for a ride-sharing service or renting out your home to tourists. These types of opportunities have grown exponentially over the past decade.

Many teachers are in a unique position for side gigs because of summer vacation, which leaves them with some rare extra time. Teachers also tend to be masters of multi-tasking, often working on many things at once. Money aside, pursuing interests outside of the classroom provides a great creative and intellectual outlet.


A side gig doesn’t have to be all about the sharing economy though. There are plenty of good-paying gigs out there that allow teachers to work for themselves and set their own hours. You might even incorporate a hobby you love into your new job, such as making jewelry or selling vintage clothing in an online shop. A helpful aspect about these part-time gigs is that you can keep them all year if you decide to.

Keep reading to find out more about side gigs that can work this summer, or any time of the year.


Become A Tutor

Tutoring is often a natural transition for teachers during summer months. Talk to parents of your students and let them know you’re available for tutoring sessions. You can even spread the word on social media. This is the kind of side hustle that permits you to set your own hours, and you may be able to do it from the comfort of your own home in some cases. Just make sure you keep your lesson plans transparent and keep communication open with your clients.

Be A Tour Guide

Museums, historical locations, and cities with high tourism rates are great places to find a summer gig that could turn into a year-round side job if you enjoy it. Put all your knowledge to good use as a tour guide, which will often allow for flexible hours and seasonal work. Just be prepared to be on your feet for several hours at a time.

Teach English Online

There are several online tutoring and teaching jobs that can help you earn quite a bit of extra cash over the summer, including teaching English as a second language. The great aspect of this job is that you can do it from home while you’re in sweats. Visit here for more information.

Freelance and Contract Work

Many teachers make great writers; not only because they’re knowledgeable about so many subjects, but because they have so many great stories to tell! If you have a flair for writing and have something to say, consider doing some freelance work.

There are plenty of blogs and online companies who are willing to pay good money for your words. Just watch out for scams and companies that promise to make you thousands of dollars in a week. Freelancing won’t make you rich, but it can certainly help pay the bills. You can also start a blog of your own, although monetizing it can take a while.


For teachers serious about making money outside the classroom, it’s important to remember to create an ideal workspace that can help you stay on-task. An uncluttered desk in a room free of distractions can be your best friend. Check out these great tips on how to make a workspace that boosts your productivity.

Finding the right side job for you can take a little time, so try to be patient. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for you. A side gig should be both fulfilling and worth your time in order to become a success.

With a little research and a good plan, you can find a side hustle you enjoy and that will sustain you all year round.

Joyce Wilson - Retired Teacher and Co-Founder of

Joyce is a retired teacher with decades of experience. Today, she is a proud grandma and mentor to teachers in her local public school system. She and a fellow retired teacher created to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.

Are Schools Meant to Be Gardens or Construction Sites?

by Seth Saavedra │Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

This past holiday weekend I had time to catch up on what had become an intimidating backlog of podcasts.


Being the education nerd I am, "Kinder-Gardening" from Hidden Brain caught my eye. It's a rich thirty minutes that left me questioning my world views on education and child rearing.


In the episode, host Shankar Vedantam interviews author and professor Alison Gopnik of UC Berkeley. In her most recent book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, she seeks to answer a question at the heart of raising children, which we now call "parenting".

What Is Parenting? And How Important Is It?


The term "parenting" didn't enter our lexicon until the late 1960s and early 1970s. From there, its usage has grown exponentially.


The title of her book stems from an extended metaphor about the relationship between parents and children.

For "carpenters", children are raw materials we shape and build into a final form. "The idea is that if you just do the right things, get the right skills, read the right books, you're going to be able to shape your child into a particular kind of adult," she says.

"Gardeners", meanwhile, are less concerned with having a direct hand in who or what a child becomes. Rather, they focus on building a nurturing soil bed for them to grow from and explore. Gardeners aim to create "a rich, nurturant but also variable, diverse, dynamic ecosystem."

A world where parents are more obsessed than ever on a results-driven approach to parenting, she argues, is also bad science. Citing studies, experiments, and anecdotes from her own grandchildren, Gopnik makes the case that children learn best by observing a wide variety of people.

“From the point of view of evolution, trying to consciously shape how your children will turn out is both futile and self-defeating.” Though knowing this doesn't make it any easier for parents to avoid doing so.

The Limits of Binary Metaphor

I found the metaphor of the carpenter versus the gardener interesting, even if reductive. Rarely are we "this or that" and the oppositional nature of binaries leads to a lot of finger pointing.

The reality is there are few controlling parents singularly focused on turning their children into only engineers or CEOs. And how many parents are truly “gardeners”, accepting a laissez-faire approach no matter the number of unavoidable hardships their child must endure?

Most parents exist on a spectrum between the two. And whether they are gardening or building depends on the child and the moment. As it should be.

Schools, Race, and Class


Graham Roumieu // New York Times


Gopnik spends some time writing about the impacts of race and class on her findings. She cites early-years interventions: children who have access to early childhood education or provided home-visit support “grow up to be healthier and have higher incomes”.

She expresses concern that schools, like parents, are overly focused on "outcomes" such as test scores and college going. Of course, this is the same straw man argument I most often see from college-educated White intellectuals who've already garnered the benefits of those privileges. And who want the same for their own children.

If we picture schools as only gardens or construction sites, we've hamstrung the conversation from the start. Schools must be both. They need to be places where children play, explore, and discover the multitudes of the world around them.

Schools must also provide scaffolding and tools to shape young minds. Students need to see multiple blueprints for themselves, particularly in a world more reliant than ever on them being professional chameleons with a wide variety of skills.

Yes, too many poor students and students of color in America exist in anemic soil, without all the necessary nutrients to be their best selves. Yet they also suffer from anemic thinking and belief in what they can become. Both are dangerous to their young minds.

A Plurality of Schools

Different students need different mixes of gardening and carpentry. This is why we need more diversity in the types of schools and the approaches offered.

Some students thrive in rigorous, college-prep environments with piles of homework. Others learn best through hands-on projects and apprenticeships. Our current systems offer too little of both.

The point, which Gopnik doesn't quite get to, is that students are widely varied and diverse. Parenting matters but not as much as we might think. And schools have yet to match the spectrum of student needs, reaching for the middle instead of offering better options.

Our students, especially poor ones, need many gardeners and carpenters in their lives. And also unwavering belief in what they are capable of, no matter the garden bed they've grown from.

Being Prepared Changes Everything in the Classroom

By Aja Currey│Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

I clearly remember feeling nervous and excited my first day as a student teacher. It was the end of my teacher prep program and I knew I had just one semester to figure out how to do the job of teaching.

Still, I didn’t know if I was prepared enough to be the teacher I knew I wanted to be.

Eight years later, I know the reality is that I’ve spent this entire time preparing. Each year, I seek to become better for the next. I now know I was not truly prepared for the classroom at the end of my preparation program - and that I’m not alone in that feeling.

My first year, similarly to that of the many other teachers I know, was a sink-or-swim experience.

As a special education teacher, I realized quickly that the extra time I spent learning about different disabilities in my program didn’t touch on the reality I would face in my classroom. I wasn’t prepared to work with my nonverbal students with autism, or to manage the more severe behavioral problems such as when my students would kick and punch.


Aja and her students at Rio Gallinas Charter School for Ecology and the Arts in West Las Vegas


I’m lucky I had an excellent mentor who taught me to manage students in a variety of different ways. I also had support from a good school director and seasoned teachers. Other new teachers are not so lucky.

If we want our students to continue to grow and make progress every year - academically, socially, and emotionally - we need teachers who are ready for the challenge. We lose many teachers before they ever get the opportunity to feel comfortable in the classroom because they are unprepared.

This is a national problem: Forty to 50 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years, including includes the 9.5 percent that leave before their first year is over. It took me until my sixth year to feel truly ready, but almost half of new teachers don’t wait that long.

I see a number of things we can do to prepare new teachers to be ready on day one.

One priority should be to update our teacher training programs with expanded classroom time. Programs must provide new teachers with hands-on experience to best meet the needs of today’s students. This first-hand experience must include expanded student teaching time, more guided time with classroom management in a real classroom, and supervised lesson planning/delivery early in the program.

We must also understand which teacher preparation programs are doing well - and which aren’t.

Soon, the Public Education Department will release the first ever Educator Preparation Program report cards for New Mexico. The goal is to maintain and monitor standards for our universities.


The National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) also provides teacher preparation reviews here:


The report cards aim to provide New Mexico’s teacher preparation programs the opportunity to grow and improve in order to best meet the needs of up-and-coming teachers. This would have helped me and my students tremendously when I entered the profession nearly a decade ago.

We need far more collaboration between all the moving parts that train and create our teachers.

Our universities, local school districts, and state education department should continue to work together. Universities and local school districts need to create model learning schools or classrooms together, with the support of great teachers. And our state education department should partner with professors at universities to create learning experiences for college students that are relevant to what today's students need.

I hope to see more excited student teachers ready to make a difference in our classrooms as soon as they graduate. New Mexico’s students and teachers deserve it.


Aja Currey - Special Education Teacher in West Las Vegas, NM

Aja Currey is the head special education teacher for 1st thru 8th grades at Rio Gallinas Charter School for Ecology and the Arts in West Las Vegas Schools. She is a Teach Plus New Mexico Teaching Policy Fellow.

Preparing “Day One Ready” Teachers

by Elizabeth Long│Friday, May 4th, 2018

A version of this post originally appeared at Teach Reach NM and is republished here with permission.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about how to improve schools—and improving instruction should be at the top of the list. Our teacher preparation programs have a solemn responsibility to produce quality teachers who deliver student achievement.

Take my story, for example. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since first grade. Yet, after my first year of teaching, I was ready to give up on this dream I had as a little girl. It was devastating. I had not been adequately prepared.

Luckily, I chose to stay in the classroom and found school resources to push myself to my full potential. In fact, most recently I earned an “Exemplary” rating as a middle school teacher in Gallup, a school that has gone from a D to a B over the past three years. Unfortunately, not every teacher has access to the resources I had, nor the resolve to keep pushing internally. And that is how New Mexico continues to lose potentially life-changing teachers.

The reality is this: when teacher preparation programs improve across New Mexico then the quality of teaching, and thus the quality of education across the state, will improve as well.

There is a positive trickle down effect when teachers enter the classroom “Day One Ready”.


Elizabeth and her students at Gallup Middle School


So, what does “Day One Ready” mean exactly?

“Day One Ready” means that teachers are not surprised by, but rather prepared for, what they walk into on that first day in their classroom. It is not about perfection, but rather about teachers who are prepared for the opportunities and challenges of teaching our students.

“Day One Ready” teachers are confident that the experiences in their teacher preparation program align with their upcoming classroom experience. As teachers, we must accept personal responsibility for our craft, and for our students’ learning. And this mindset is developed largely via our training.

The summer after my first (tough) year of teaching, I went back to the basics. I ordered Harry Wong’s classic books about classroom management, and read his words as scripture. One may ask, didn’t I do this in my training program?

The answer is “sort of” - I read many famous teaching texts, but often wasn’t exposed to the application side of these theories. Without a classroom of my own, or a classroom to visualize myself in, it was hard to imagine how to put these theories into action. I had some great courses along the way, but the problem is often cohesion and my classes were, to be honest, hit or miss.

I was also shocked by how inadequately I was prepared for the student diversity we find across The Land of Enchantment. Many universities give a “cookie-cutter” view of English Learners (ELs) and culturally relevant teaching with limited connection to New Mexico’s specific students and history.

Our students have unique needs, and these must be addressed in teacher preparation programs. Further, we must celebrate student diversity while never lowering the bar for any student, regardless of background.

This wasn’t always the message I received.


The National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) also provides teacher preparation reviews here:


The purpose of sharing my thoughts and experiences is not to demonize any specific program. Rather, as I have mentored over the years, I have seen many new, promising teachers come and go. In my experience, teacher preparation program experiences correlate with whether teachers stay in the profession and thrive, endure or exit.

It’s common sense to me that our teacher preparation programs should be held accountable, increase the quality and duration of student teaching experiences, and align programs more closely with state and district expectations.

We know that, more than anything else at the school site, teacher quality is causal to student success. Certainly teacher preparation is the very foundation of that concept.

I am thankful I remained teaching. Even with all the challenges, teaching is one of the most rewarding professions out there. And I have my students’ academic growth and their changed life trajectories to show for it, which is everything to me.

As I look back, I wish I would have been better trained to be more successful on day one, rather than questioning what has become my life’s passion. Thankfully, I stuck around, but so many new teachers don’t. There’s no excuse for that.


Elizabeth Long - Middle School Teacher in Gallup, NM

Elizabeth Long is finishing up her 7th year of teaching. She is originally from Ohio, and her family moved to the Navajo Reservation when she was sixteen. Not only is she a passionate teacher, she also enjoys photography, nature, traveling, and spending time with her family and dogs.

The Real Championship Week

by Kayli Laney│Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

My students just finished our championship week—and I don’t mean for athletics.

This marks the second, and final, week of annual PARCC testing at our rural high school in Reserve, New Mexico. For me, that means that after roughly a dozen hours of test administration—or about two days of our 180 school days—all of my students have conquered their English Language Arts (ELA) PARCC for the year.

I teach freshmen-senior courses, including Advanced Placement. At my school we like to win, and I enjoy coaching my students to victory.


Championship week can be a stressful time for students and teachers. We practice, and we prepare physically and mentally, but we still get butterflies before the big game. That’s how it should be for something important. We want to do our best and show what we’ve learned.

Last week was a chance for my students to show off their hard work. All year long they studied big questions such as, “What is the relationship between censorship and war?” and “What is the American Dream and in what ways is it still relevant?” This has been an awesome “season."

That’s why suggestions of scrapping our state’s assessment system without an alternative already in place —one that satisfies the mandates of federal law—make me incredibly nervous. That some of our state’s leaders, from both political sides, continue to flirt with that idea from the sidelines during championship week disheartens me.

This is a fight for our future, not the least because we’re competing with the quality education that my students’ counterparts in other schools, districts, and states already receive.


SOURCE: Mathematic Policy Research


No assessment is perfect, and we may need to continue the search for an assessment that best fits the needs of New Mexican students, but PARCC provides teachers like me with valuable insights to better prepare my students for the future and improve my instructional practice. While proficiency-based standards and assessment hold promise, those are largely in piloting mode and not ready to scale up yet.

Nor can we afford to take an indefinite break from collecting student data or holding teachers accountable for providing students with the education they deserve while we search for a replacement. Frustratingly, an air of negativity still surrounds student data, and not just for PARCC. The same held true for the Standards Based Assessment (SBA).

The NMTEACH teacher evaluation system has been deemed punitive by some because it incorporates student data as 35 percent of the calculation. Student data, even when it reveals areas for improvement, does not carry a negative connotation for me. Instead, I view data as a tool that highlights my development and my shared responsibility with my students.


2017 School Grade for Reserve High School


Of course, no data paints the full picture of my efforts or the progress my students make, but assessments are an opportunity to find out what we’ve done well and what we can do better.

I know each of my students has the capacity to change the world. They are innovators, creatives, and activists. They leave my classroom and go into medicine, agriculture, politics, mechanics, business, and, yes, education. My students are much more than numbers, but it is difficult to get to any destination when we don’t know where we are starting, or how fast we’re going.

I cannot afford to lose time guessing what my students need. I want my students to leave school ready to use their talents and knowledge to be our future leaders. In order for that to happen, I need to make smart instructional choices. I need to capitalize on the brief time I have with them. Scrapping our assessment system, jeopardizing funding, and altering our ESSA plan helps none of these.

I ask our state leaders to not press reset on the progress we’ve made. We have the talent to go all the way, and we’re up for the challenge. My team and I are already preparing for next year’s championship week.


Kayli Laney - Teacher in Reserve, NM

Kayli teaches 9th through 11th grade English and AP Language and Composition at Reserve High School, the same school from which she graduated. Kayli serves as a State Ambassador for the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network and is a Teach Plus Policy Fellow.

My Daughter Is Taking PARCC for the First Time This Week; Why I'm Excited

by Hope Morales│Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

When I taught 3rd grade at Valley View Elementary School in Roswell, over 80 percent of my students were proficient on the state English Language Arts Standards Based Assessment (SBA) - and all but one student were proficient in math.

This was not by accident. My colleagues and I worked extremely hard to differentiate instruction and rotate students for interventions based on individual strengths and needs. All this in a district that is over 70 percent Hispanic and where more then 80 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.


Then SBA was replaced by The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, better known as PARRC. Suddenly my students would no longer underline or highlight their answer on the short story portion. Simple math strategies were no longer enough to solve a multi-step word problem. The bar was raised.

At first, I did not like PARCC. I had not been teaching to this level and felt it was unfair to teach standards that were assessed at such a high level. How would I teach my third graders to analyze two texts using context clues? Or to solve multi-step problems when they could only recognize one question within the statement?

I had to change who I was as an instructor. I could no longer teach how I had been taught as a student – or what I learned when I studied to become a teacher. I sought out more mentor teachers to “borrow” best strategies. I created resources that better met the needs of my students, because the scripted curriculum no longer cut it. I signed up for the new Common Core professional development my district offered. I continued to differentiate my instruction and push the envelope.

The culture within my classroom had to change as well. As a team, my students and I acknowledged the objectives were challenging, but committed to each other that we would all do our best.


SOURCE: Mathematic Policy Research


While my student achievement scores dropped from the high proficiency ratings I earned under SBA, I saw light at the end of the tunnel. The state system was no longer tracking only proficiency. Student growth now figured into the mix. Both mattered to me and my students.

My students’ proficiency ratings were still above the district and state average, but short of my expectations. I earned 74.8 percent of points for student growth on my teacher evaluation. I was on the right track, but continued to aspire for more.

Growth on this assessment meant my students were learning critical skills at high levels. Proficiency meant my students would be prepared to attend college or begin a career right after high school.

Although I am no longer in the classroom, I still get excited for this time of year. I remember marching down the hallway with my class chanting, “Who will rock the test? We will rock the test!” My students had no fear about taking the assessment. They understood the questions were challenging and were ready.


Hope Morales and her daughter Jayla


My daughter, Jayla, will take the PARCC assessment for the first time this year. She is a little anxious because, like me, she is a perfectionist. I like that she is a little nervous though, because this shows me how much she cares. And life is full of these challenges we must rise to.

Jayla is also excited. Military Heights Elementary has done a great job celebrating the hard work and effort students put into their learning this year. The teachers have become their biggest cheerleaders and planned a variety of activities to keep the students engaged and learning throughout the assessment schedule.

Many people are unaware that high-quality state assessments are required by federal law and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), of which New Mexico has the best in the nation. For my children, I prefer the rigorous and critical thinking questions of PARCC, rather than the basic questions of SBA.

The rigor of PARCC questions, and the type of preparation required, mean different opportunities are available to our students after high school. In a world where critical thinking and 21st century skills are requisite, this is a good thing. If we want to change the cycle for many families in New Mexico, we have to offer them more and teach higher.

So, for all the educators and school staff that help prepare students across the state for this assessment  - and for their future: Thank you!

And to our students, including Jayla: “Who will rock the test? You will rock the test!”


Hope Morales - Director of Policy, Teach Plus New Mexico

Prior to joining Teach Plus in 2017, Hope taught 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th grades in Roswell Independent School District and was the school’s Teacher on Special Assignment. She is a proud Roswell resident, wife to Jacob, and mother of three wonderful children.

Education as Liberation: An Albuquerque Family Is Rewriting Their Future

by Seth Saavedra│Sunday, April 17th, 2018

This post first appeared on The 74 Million and is republished here with permission.

In the South Valley of Albuquerque, a chaotic morning ritual familiar to many families plays out. “Luciano! Time to get up.” Bows in their hair, Milani, 6, and Jazalea, 3, are ready for the day ahead. They beckon their 10-year-old brother, Luciano, to hurry up and finish his scrambled eggs.

Monique Giovine orchestrates every minute of this intricate dance for her three children. She’s been up for an hour already, seeing her husband, Roberto, off to work before rousing the little ones.


The Giovine Family


Luciano rushes out the front door, catching the bus to the local elementary school, where he’s a fifth-grader. The girls hop into the family Honda to take Milani to school.

The difference in their departures tells another story familiar in New Mexico: Luciano’s education at the zoned neighborhood school stands in stark contrast to Milani’s.

Luciano’s school bus ride ends each morning at Los Padillas Elementary, part of Albuquerque Public Schools. The school, like the neighborhood where it is located, has struggled, and is in the midst of the state’s Most Rigorous Intervention process, or MRI.


Located in the South Valley of Albuquerque


MRI is a designation enacted by the New Mexico Public Education Department for schools earning five or more consecutive F grades. Besides Los Padillas, three other schools must reorganize under the program to improve student learning. All four had until today to resubmit their turnaround plans after their first proposals were rejected by the state.

That Los Padillas has languished for decades is well known in the neighborhood. In its most recent ranking, fewer than 10 percent of fifth-graders were proficient in reading, meaning only three of the students in Luciano’s class are at grade level. He’s not one of them.


His younger sister, in contrast, is doing well in kindergarten — she even helps her older brother with his homework — after her name was drawn in a lottery last spring for a charter school called MAS that her mother found out about by chance.

In fact, Monique wasn’t sure what she was hearing when she first learned of the school; it sounded like mas — “more” in Spanish. But MAS, Mission Achievement and Success, was recruiting students from Albuquerque’s South Valley, offering busing and a different approach to education. And that school with the funny name unlocked a newfound belief in what’s possible for the Giovine family and their children.

Founded in 2012, MAS has earned three A ratings in a row and unapologetically focuses on college and career preparation for all students. With student proficiency rates two or three times those of schools with similar demographics, MAS is defining new realities for Albuquerque’s most vulnerable students.

In a state where just over 30 percent of children under the age of 18 live in poverty, exceeding the national average by 11 points, schools play a vital role in breaking pernicious generational cycles. Yet, with 77 percent and 73 percent of New Mexico fourth-graders below proficient in reading and math, respectively, to be poor is to be poorly educated.

After her first visit to MAS, Monique was immediately sold. “I saw students excited about reading and focused on academics,” she said. She completed applications for Luciano and Milani, but only Milani’s name came up in the admissions lottery.

For Luciano, it meant another year of going to school near home, in a neighborhood with deep family roots — Monique’s mother’s family carried the Padilla surname, and she has spent most of her life there.


Originally named San Andres de los Padillas, the unincorporated town has a storied past: Diego de Padilla was granted ownership of the land in 1718, after his ancestors were forced to abandon it during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Many families have been there for centuries.

The first Los Padillas School opened its doors in 1901, predating New Mexico’s statehood by 11 years. With such a deep history and fierce independence, change can come at a glacial pace. Los Padillas broke ground on its first public water system only late last year.

For all the beauty found in the Rio Grande Valley, Los Padillas is not without its troubles. It has a reputation for tough characters, many of whom Monique counts as relatives. To grow up here is to have a chip on your shoulder and a stiff spine.

Doubted because of their last name or ZIP code, those from the South Valley must conjure an unshakable self-confidence. As is the case in many New Mexico communities, their margin for error is razor thin, with far too many coming out on the wrong side.

Monique’s parents worked hard to ensure she never attended the school bearing her family name just down the street. They gathered the few dollars they had for tuition at a small Catholic school before transferring her to a high school in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, the most affluent area of town.

She would love to do the same for Luciano, but that’s not financially feasible. Roberto, her husband, puts in long hours with the Albuquerque Water Utility Authority to make ends meet for the family of five.

But through their chance discovery of MAS and sheer determination, the Giovine family uncovered one of the best-kept secrets in the state.


Mission Achievement and Success (MAS) Receiving Another "A" Grade


Oum Duvall, Milani’s teacher originally from France, describes MAS as the best school she’s experienced in her career, one that spans Europe and the U.S. “There’s an incredible sense of culture and accountability,” she said. “We are laser-focused on supporting all students and helping them climb the social ladder.”

This in large part explains why MAS has similar demographics to Los Padillas but starkly different outcomes. Nearly 43 percent of MAS students come from the South Valley and 99 percent identify as low-income, compared with 71 percent statewide. Additionally, 23 percent are English learners, compared with 13 percent across New Mexico.


As the founder and principal of MAS, JoAnn Mitchell says plainly that there is no secret sauce to the school’s success. While students at MAS have academic growth rates well beyond similar schools in New Mexico, there remains a commitment to continuous improvement.

“As a leader, I share with staff and students alike that we always need to take a moment to celebrate our successes,” she said, “but we cannot linger in the moment for too long because we know there is more work to be done and, after all, each success simply provides us the confidence and the fuel needed to forge ahead to the next.”

MAS was recently approved to open a second campus in Albuquerque, the first charter school ever given the green light to do so. The second campus aims to open in the fall, providing relief to hundreds of families who, according to MAS, are on the school’s waiting list.

Meanwhile, Luciano continues on at Los Padillas Elementary, doing well in math but far below grade level in reading. Milani is nearly through her kindergarten year at MAS, excelling in all subjects tested on the district iStation assessments.


At a recent basketball game, Milani figured out the word “roadrunner” before Luciano, despite being four years younger. Milani rarely has her own homework; she helps her brother with his. At MAS, homework is rarely assigned because the school day is longer so more direct support can be provided daily.

The biggest difference Monique sees in her children is their passion for learning. “When I drop Milani off at MAS, she can’t wait,” Monique said. “There’s a unique joy and excitement for learning there.” Meanwhile she finds Luciano is disengaged or uninspired, particularly in reading, where he has struggled.

But next fall, because siblings are automatically accepted, Luciano starts at MAS as a sixth-grader (Jazalea will be automatically admitted as well), and he’s more excited than anxious. He knows there will be an adjustment period to the challenging classwork and longer school days. But he’s ready to rise to the challenge.

New Mexico NAEP: Stalled Out, With Some Progress

by Seth Saavedra │Thursday, April 11th, 2018

NAEPery Circus

This past Tuesday at midnight 2017 NAEP scores went public. Amidst the hullabaloo that accompanies this ritual is a predictable chain of events:

  1. Four hundred "What to Expect" pieces
  2. Accidental releases of embargoed information
  3. Late night Twitter stalking of #NAEPDay
  5. All too many all too hot takes
  6. Ambitious overreaches and alarmist shrieks
  7. Even more ambitious counter "think" pieces
  9. Level-headed commentary
  10. "Welp, what does NAEP actually tell us?"
  11. Next shiny edu-thing

Before I jump into the fray at stage nine, let's cover the NAEP basics.


Often called "The Nation's Report Card", NAEP is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the U.S.'s most comprehensive view of what students know in a wide range of topics. It is a low stakes, demographically representative, and minimally changing assessment that tracks academic progress over time. The National Center for Education Statistics, in the U.S. Department of Education, administers the project. For many, NAEP is our best barometer of how much students have learned, particularly in fourth and eighth grades.

Across the U.S.

The NAEP story of the past decade has been disappointing, particularly the past four years. Some have labeled this period "Education's Lost Decade". Beyond the dramatic rhetoric, the lack of movement in student learning is troubling.


SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics


The speculation and analysis about why, after fifteen years of upward progress, we have stalled runs the gamut. Experts point to everything from diminishing returns on education investment to hangover effects of The Great Recession to Federal Department of Education overreach.


As researchers dig further into restricted-use data over the coming weeks we'll gain additional insights about this great NAEP flattening. Meanwhile, us advocates, practitioners, parents, policy wonks, and business leaders must remain focused on bending the trend line upward again, especially for students of color and those from low-income backgrounds.

NAEP in New Mexico

While our sunsets in The Land of Enchantment are dazzling, our NAEP results aren't, often coming in last or next to last in the nation. This time around, only Louisiana and Puerto Rico consistently come in behind us.


SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics


It's important to note NAEP's very real limitations. There is a natural temptation to compare scores over time. However, because completely different cohorts of students get tested every two years, this is tricky. Rather, as Matthew Chingos and Kristin Blagg advise:

A better way to compare and talk about NAEP performance is to use adjusted NAEP scores that account for demographic differences across students in each state. These adjusted scores allow for students to be compared with their demographically similar peers using factors such as race, receipt of special education services, and status as an English language learner. These are factors we know can affect test results, yet they are not shown in NAEP scores. The interactive tool below brings those adjusted NAEP scores to life.
— Urban Institute

So, let's do that. When controls are applied for age, race/ethnicity, frequency of English spoken at home, special education status, free or reduced-price lunch eligibility, and English language learner status, New Mexico moves up slightly. Below, the yellow lines are raw, unadjusted scores while the blue lines take into account the factors above. 


New Mexico 4th Grade Math


New Mexico 4th Grade Reading


New Mexico 8th Grade Math


New Mexico 8th Grade Reading


As you can see, New Mexico bumps up a bit with controls applied - on average 12 places upward. In 8th grade reading, we move from dead last to 26th. And, in three out of four areas, New Mexico has moved upward since 2009, marking tangible progress.

As the New Mexico Public Education Department shared via email, "About 2,500 4th and 8th grade students from 150 elementary and 120 middle schools in New Mexico took the NAEP exam online, for the first time ever, in reading and math." That's one of the values of NAEP, that it takes representative samplings from each state.

Next, let's look at demographic differences in NAEP scores across the state:


SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics


As with the national results from the last decade, the results haven't changed much here. Though there are a few notable exceptions:

  • Since 2009, Hispanic students have grown in all areas;
  • African American students did not reach a statistically significant sample in 2015 or 2017, leaving out an important student population;
  • American Indian students remained flat in two areas, lost ground in another, and made growth in the fourth; and
  • White students saw growth in reading and backslid slightly in math in 2017.

What Does It All Mean?

My main takeaway for our 2017 NAEP results is two-fold: our Hispanic students are on the rise and we have a lot of work ahead. For all the ill conceived critiques of PARCC, NAEP is the antidote. It's low stakes. It takes a representative sample. It's every other year. It covers every state - and can control for demographic factors. And yet, New Mexico still falls far behind the pack.

Yet, we've made progress over the past decade, particularly for Hispanic students, even though it's stalled out recently. We have hard questions to ask ourselves. Where should our future investments in education be made? It's clear that "business as usual" only works for adults in the system, not our students. Where are our current bright spots and how do we scale them up? In districts such as Gadsden and Farmington, we see meaningful progress. How do we encourage more smart innovation in a sector that badly needs it?

And lastly, as Morgan Polikoff writes, "We need more rigorous investigation of these results to understand whether they can really tell us anything about policy effects." In other words, what impact do “college- and career-readiness standards” have on student achievement? What about the effects from so-called "community schools"? Much more research is needed here to better understand the early gains we made as a state and to get us moving upward again.