[12/19] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

This week I have a follow-up to APS's consideration of four charter schools, an updated rating for New Mexico's ESSA Plan, recognition for NMPED's teacher leadership programs, and emerging research about what makes some districts great and others not so much. As always, your feedback is appreciated. Here's this week's roundup:

[LOCAL: NEWS] APS Votes on Charter Schools. Last Wednesday, the APS Policy and Instruction Committee heard pleas from four charter schools. As I wrote about previously, this decision had become increasingly contentious. Counter to my suggestion for one-year, contingent approvals, the committee approved three schools for three year approvals. The three approved are all part of the Leadership High Schools Network. A fourth, The Academy of Trades & Technology, did not receive approval and is likely slated for closure.

While I'm not surprised by the decision, many questions remain. I am told 97 percent of ACE Leadership students are currently employed or pursuing higher education. And 40 percent are in college. So, 60 percent are not in college and 57 percent have a job of some sort. What are these jobs? How many are in architecture? Construction? Engineering? Are they making a living wage? These and other questions loom large. While the work of reengaging students is noble, so is providing measurable improvements to their lives.

What I've found most troubling is the eschewment of achievement data and graduation rates, by both the board and schools. By calling into question the validity of these measures, I have deep concerns about the commitment to improvement. No academic measure is complete or perfect, but some are better than others. The point of high school is to graduate ready for career and college. Thus, the rates at which students graduate matters a great deal. As do the rates at which those students read, write, and do math. To exclude any group of students from performance along these measures is dangerous.

As a high school dropout, I'm dumbfounded by the notion that somehow students like me can't learn. We too deserve a full education. Our backgrounds are not scapegoats for low performance. That's why it's essential these schools improve and become successful for more students. I'll be watching with cautious optimism and hope you do too.

[LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico Remains Highest Rated ESSA Plan. Independent reviewers once again give New Mexico high marks for our education plan. We received the highest rating of "5" in five of nine categories. Despite positive feedback, two areas for improvement emerge. First, ensuring all students receive a high-quality education - our so-called "subgroups". And second, identifying the exit threshold for schools identified for comprehensive support. New Mexico needs to track the performance of all kids, low- and high-performing. NMPED also needs clear exit criteria for schools identified for comprehensive and targeted support. Despite these areas for improvement, we should be proud of a plan garnering positive national attention. Thousands of stakeholders from around the state provided input on the plan. This shows again how vital community feedback is in transforming education, especially here in New Mexico.

[LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico Gets National Praise for Teacher Leadership Programs. After years of top-down changes, New Mexico teachers grew tired of change after change. In response, NMPED launched several programs to bring teachers to the table. In a recently released report, Chiefs for Change lauds these initiatives. While the programs are modest in scope, demand is high with more than 700 teachers applying for 50 ambassador positions.

The report concludes with NMPED's takeaways on establishing a meaningful teacher leadership system:

- "Teachers must lead from within." High-quality teachers should serve as a bridge between educators in the state and the state agency. They should both represent their peers and ask state education leaders tough questions.

- "Teachers must have opportunities to voice their feedback." When teachers have an opportunity to weigh in on initial plans, the rollout process needs to be smooth. That way teachers feel the education department is taking their concerns seriously.

- "Start somewhere—even if it feels small." New Mexico started with 18 teacher-leaders involved at the state level, and now about 650 teachers are doing work for the department.

[NATIONAL: RESEARCH] School District Performance Continues to Baffle. Mother Jones' Kevin Drum highlights the seeming randomness of school district performance. Using research out of Stanford I wrote about last week, he unearths wide variances in districts with similar levels of poverty:

"Obviously not all of this is the fault of the school districts. But surely some of it is, and it’s a national disgrace that the differences are so stark. However, what’s really striking about this chart is how random it is: third-grade performance is almost completely unconnected to growth between third and eighth grades. And it’s only weakly correlated with the income level of a school district."

District Achievement & Growth

As you can see in the map below, there is a lot of purple (bad) in the South. Except for Tennessee, which has tackled education reform the past decade. Tennessee is the green island in an ocean of purple. New Mexico might learn a lesson or two from a state that at one time was near the bottom of national rankings. Stanford researcher Sean Reardon concludes with this:

"The findings also suggest that we could learn a great deal about reducing educational inequality from the low-SES communities with high growth rates. They provide, at a minimum, an existence proof of the possibility that even schools in high-poverty communities can be effective. Now the challenge is to learn what conditions make that possible and how we can foster the same conditions everywhere."

[12/12] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

Perhaps providing us a preview of things to come in 2018's legislative session, these past few weeks have been jam packed with local and national education news relevant to New Mexico. I ramble enough below so let's jump right in:

[LOCAL: NEWS] Three APS Schools Designated for Rigorous Intervention. All three elementary schools (see table below) have received F grades for at least the past five years. I had a lot to say about this happening in the same week as APS Superintendent receiving a $250,000/year extension, so I wrote a post over at Retort.



APS Elementary Schools Designated for Intervention

APS Elementary Schools Designated for Intervention

[LOCAL: NEWS] Mission Achievement Success Approved for Expansion. In great news for students and families of Albuquerque, the Public Education Commission (PEC) has approved MAS for a second school site. I've gotten to know MAS's founder and principal, JoAnn Mitchell, over the past year and continue to be amazed by her vision and commitment. This groundbreaking decision by the PEC provides more students the opportunity to have the skills and experiences to be our future leaders. Here's more information on MAS:

MAS charter currently serves 785 students near the Sunport. The school primarily has students that qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, and the campus has a higher proportion of Hispanic and African-American students than the state and Albuquerque Public Schools. While a student population like this often leads to excuses and lowered expectations across the city and across our state, students at MAS are getting amazing results because the school’s educators accept nothing less. Students at MAS grow academically at rates far beyond that of other schools in the state, and read and do math on par with schools in more affluent communities like the Northeast Heights.
— Matthew Pahl - Executive Director, New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools (NMCCS)

     I'll also mention that at a conference for NMCCS this past weekend, Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski made an ill-informed remark about "Manifest Destiny" while also calling for more high-quality school options for all students. Yes, given our long history of oppression and colonization, it is a hurtful and misguided metaphor. Though let us not allow this misstep to detract away from his broader point about the need for us to do better by our students. I hope his comments about the need to have extended school days, honoring our best teachers (more on that below), and holding all schools accountable for teaching all students who walk through their doors are given equal consideration.

[LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico Teachers Bring Home Awards. Teachers across the state are being recognized for their tireless and impressive work. Melanie Alfaro, math department head at Deming Intermediate School, took home the prestigious Milken Educator Award for "incorporating assessments, collaborative projects, and parental involvement in her teaching strategies." Seven other teachers statewide, including four APS middle school teachers, garnered 2018 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching as recognition of remarkable work. Teaching is a tough, often thankless job that, when done well, truly changes lives. The more we honor and reward those who've mastered their craft the better.

[LOCAL: NEWS] Legislative Finance Committee Tackles Education Budget. Last Thursday I made the trek up to Santa Fe as the LFC took its first look at NMPED's proposed 2018-19 budget. The webcast recording is online here. A few highlights:
     - NMPED proposed a "flat" budget of $2,695,524,500 including the following increases:
          - $4 million for additional pre-k programs;
          - $2.5 million for instructional materials;
          - $1 million for STEM initiatives; and
          - $300k for K-3 Plus
     - There was a near-capacity audience of 100+ folks from across NM
     - NMPED attempted to include testimony from school/district leaders, teachers and parents but that was nixed by LFC Chairwoman Patty Lundstrom who said there wouldn't be time for everyone to speak
     - Testimony permitted included: Arsenio Romero (Deming Superintendent), Melanie Alfaro (Milken Educator of the Year mentioned above), Tommy Turner (Mosquero Superintendent), and Mike Hyatt (Gallup Superintendent)

[NATIONAL: RESEARCH] New Measure of School District Performance Yields Promising Insights. New analysis from The Upshot takes data (based on roughly 300 million elementary-school test scores across more than 11,000 school districts) from Stanford's esteemed Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA) for a fresh look how we think about school districts. By analyzing how scores grow or not as student cohorts move through school, Stanford researcher Sean Reardon argues that "it’s possible to separate some of the advantages of socioeconomics from what’s actually happening in schools."

I was surprised to see that places like Hatch and Gadsden, with nearly half the median household income of Albuquerque, achieve higher learning rates than NM's largest city. I've included some graphs for APS below, but please explore for yourself.

Trust, But Verify: Four Charters Seek A New Home in APS

Back on October 24th, I drove over to the twin white towers in Uptown that are APS headquarters. That evening was the public hearing for four state-authorized charters asking APS to take them in, despite disappointing results. The APS board was not in attendance so the proceedings were led by charter school director, Joseph Escobedo, Ed.D. In attendance were a variety of interested parties, including students, parents, teachers, and administrators of the four schools: Academy of Trades & Technology,  Architecture Construction and Engineering (ACE) Leadership, Health Leadership, and Technology Leadership. The latter three high schools are affiliated with the Leadership High School Network and the New Mexico Center for School Leadership, which also operates Siembra Leadership High School (F), which is already under the auspices of APS.

School Grades and Student Outcomes for the Four Schools

School Grades and Student Outcomes for the Four Schools

As you can see above, these schools have struggled to deliver on the promise of education for their students. (And, of course, school grades are not the entire story of a school, but they do help provide families and policymakers with a better picture of how schools are doing.) I know many hardworking, dedicated individuals who work for and lead these schools; people I respect. However, I believe that, particularly when it comes to our kids, we can’t protect the feelings of adults over the best interests of students, especially the vulnerable students who attend these four schools. Schools must be accountable to our kids and communities, regardless of their intent.

Among the many people speaking at the input hearing that October evening was a school governing board member who said, and I quote, “Our kids can’t function in other schools and bring down other students. And when they aren’t in our school they’re out there in gangs or getting pregnant.” My jaw dropped and my stomach turned.

Instead of seeing their students as assets to be developed, regardless of their personal circumstances, this “leader” was using their identities as reasons NOT to educate them. Let me be clear, such a deficit mindset about our neediest students has zero place in education. If your mission is to educate these underserved populations and you then use that fact as the reason less than five percent of them read or write on grade level, then please exit the building.

Yes, many of our students come from poverty and traumatic environments. This poses unique and significant challenges for schools. And yet, how are we to change that reality without schools embracing the challenge and fully committing to providing all students the best education possible so they become our future community leaders? Reading and writing matter, even for schools that offer a specialized or industry-specific education. How else might one become an architect or engineer if you don't graduate high school doing both on grade level?

This is also personal. As a high school dropout who got my GED after attending Freedom High School, which is an APS alternative high school (a “B” school), I was one of those students that typical high schools failed. I, too, had an IEP, grew up in public housing, and on food stamps. I’m sure I had teachers who wrote me off as “too troubled” to learn. What a shame. If I hadn’t had an instructor at TVI (now CNM) reignite that desire to learn inside me, I’m not sure where I’d be.

Oddly enough, APS offers several alternative high schools, including the aforementioned Freedom High, which are doing quite well in delivering those crucial results for children. Clearly, APS has figured out some effective alternative schooling models and can perhaps help improve instructional practices at these four sites. The opportunity for cross-pollination appears ripe for the picking. And if APS is looking to serve more "at-risk" students, why not expand the campuses and enrollment of the successful schools they already have?

APS Already Has Some Successful Alternative High Schools

APS Already Has Some Successful Alternative High Schools

My recommendation is that APS conditionally accepts these four schools. The board should allow for a one-year authorization for each school, contingent upon them agreeing to demonstrable and meaningful academic improvement. The mission and positive motivations of these schools is clear, and now the student learning needs to match those admirable values. If at the end of next school year little or no progress is made, then APS must commit to helping each student find an appropriate and academically successful school.

Comparison of APS SAMs Schools

Comparison of APS SAMs Schools

The APS board and charter school division must also grapple with the reality that by taking in these four schools, APS graduation rates will drop by a few percentage points overall, and particularly for female and Hispanic students. For a district already struggling with some of New Mexico’s lowest graduation rates, taking on these schools MUST be dependent upon a mutual commitment to significantly improve their results. As shown in the table above, APS already has seven plus similar schools with higher graduation rates. This would be a particular liability for a board and district under so much scrutiny to improve graduation rates.

I'll add that while graduation rates are incredibly important, I might be swayed if any of these four schools shared substantive data indicating their students are entering industry careers at prolific rates. For example, how many students leave school to take positions in engineering, health, or technology AND make living wages? I fully support any school that delivers these types of results for students and sets them on productive career paths. However, the onus is on each school to demonstrate they're achieving their stated mission.

Yes, the mission and vision of a school matters greatly, and so do results. Our students and city can’t afford to have one without the other. Let’s hold ourselves and our schools accountable.

[11/21] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

In this relatively light news period I have updates on APS's budget, the state of early childhood in New Mexico, and two national stories related to teacher equity and emerging insights into Millennials' views on education. As always, your feedback and shares are greatly appreciated. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] APS Budget Gets Boost. After some belt tightening this spring and summer, in anticipation of an overall reduction in state revenue, APS is putting nearly $7 million back into the 2017-18 budget. Buoyed by an anticipated bounce in oil and gas revenue, the extra money will be included in what's nearly a $1.4 billion annual budget. I'd like to see ALL that extra dough go straight to instructional support where teachers and students will benefit most.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] More New Mexican Students Need Pre-K. Coinciding with nearly sixty years of research indicating that high quality early-childhood education has long lasting effects on children, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee issued a report finding that many of our kindergartners come to school already below grade level. The report also found that "New Mexico students – especially from low-income families – tend to change schools often, which contributes to low test scores." This echoes a recent ECE report from the AERA which finds "access to early-childhood education significantly reduces students’ chances of being placed in special education or held back in school and increases their prospects of graduating high school."
  • [NATIONAL: RESEARCH] States' Receive Equity Grades For ESSA Plans. The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)'s issued analysis of states' plans for ensuring that low-income and minority students are not disproportionately taught by ineffective, out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Each state-specific analysis recognizes notable "strengths," or areas where a state's work is laudable, as well as "opportunities," or areas where improvement is necessary to meet the spirit and letter of the ESSA's educator equity requirements. New Mexico receives high marks for overall equity with a suggestion for us to redefine "inexperienced teacher" as a teacher who has taught two years or less, instead of the current definition of three years.
  • [NATIONAL: RESEARCH] Millennials Bring New Beliefs Into Public Education. Research firm Echelon Insights published a fascinating report on the views of Millennials regarding education. Long maligned for perceived narcissism and their rejection of traditional structures, at 75 million strong Millennials are now the biggest generation in the U.S. (and world), and beginning to reach positions of authority and power - with the oldest members about to turn 40.

    So whether you love us or hate us, Millennials are on the cusp of leading many more schools, districts, state departments, and elected offices. Thus, this report is a sneak preview of things to come over the next 30 years or so. I highly suggest you read the 20-page report. Here are some quick tidbits:

         - 68% of Millennials identify “having access to a quality education” as one of the most important factors to ensure someone has the opportunity to succeed
         - The most important factors to a "quality public school" are: (1) teacher creativity, (2) teacher flexibility, and (3) a positive and safe school culture
         - 74% of millennials think “schools today need big changes in order to create opportunity for students"
         - 65% of millennials think that being a public school teacher is more difficult “than it was twenty or thirty years ago"
         - 67% of millennials in rural areas support alternative pathways to teaching, saying it should be possible to teach without an education degree

[9/6] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

As a New Mexican native and education advocate, I know our thoughts on education are as varied and colorful as our sunsets. This holds true when it comes to our school letter grades as well. My thoughts are that letter grades are an imperfect but helpful tool that provide a glimpse into how things are going. They are also a rare opportunity for parents to see how their school is performing overall. A school grade is akin to a thermometer as it provides incomplete but indispensable information about what’s going on inside a complex body, whether it’s human or a school. Your temperature won’t tell you exactly what’s going on but does let us know whether we should be concerned and what to be on the lookout for.

Different from the letter grades we get as students, however, New Mexico school grades were designed from the outset to be transparent. I encourage all New Mexicans to head to the Public Education Department website to see for themselves. The report cards are quite easy to read, though of course I’d love for NMPED to continue to make the information as accessible as possible for all parents by including things like demographic information as well.

For "fun" I looked up the 2016 grades for the seven APS schools I attended as a child and found one "C", one "D", and five "Fs", which aligns with my personal experiences. The high school I eventually dropped out got an “F” last year but a “C” this year. Hmmmm, that sounds promising. Right there on the first page of the school report I see where the change comes from: in a category called School Improvement that asks, “Is the school as a whole making academic progress?” This appears to be the case of a school working hard to improve a specific category that increases their overall grade, which is precisely why teachers, and especially parents and students need school grades. How else do we know where we are doing well, or not, without first having the information about how students are learning?

One of the few things all New Mexicans agree on is that our public education system has yet to fulfill its potential, particular for poor and Hispanic students like myself. We cannot meaningfully address the issues of equity and access which haunt our state (and did so long before we had school grades) without first knowing the hard reality of now. What we find in the school report cards isn’t always pretty, but we owe it to ourselves and our future to look our challenges straight in the eye and confront them head on. Remember, every D or F school represents hundreds or thousands of students who aren’t acquiring the skills they need to be the future community, business, and civic leaders New Mexico needs.

As always, your feedback is welcomed, as are social media and other sharing. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico 2016-17 School Grades Released.  NMPED has shared the latest school grades and provides these highlights:

         Farmington has eliminated “F” schools and increased the amount of “A” schools
    In 2012, 6% of its schools were “F” schools, today the district has 0 “F” schools
            - In 2012, Farmington had no “A” schools, today 37% of its schools are “A” schools

         Gadsden has eliminated “F” schools and increased the amount of “A” schools
    In 2012, 9% of its schools were “F” schools, today the district has 0 “F” schools

         Alamogordo has eliminated “F” schools.In 2012, 13% of its schools were “F” schools and now has 0 “F” schools
            - The district has grown the number of “A” schools by 14%

         Unfortunately for APS students, the state's largest district is trending in the wrong direction:
            - In 2012, 11% of schools earned an “F”, now that number has jumped to 34% (that’s roughly 36 more “F” schools across the district)
            - APS has 19 of the 23 schools statewide that earned a participation penalty, for lack of students taking PARCC
            - The only two schools in New Mexico that have earned an “F” letter grade for six consecutive years in a row are Hawthorne Elementary School and Whittier Elementary School in APS
  • [LOCAL: SCHOOL] Using Data to Inform and Improve Teaching. One of the great dilemmas and albatrosses around the neck of public education is a “data-rich, action-poor” approach. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in a school as an adult will find reams of data, though the degree to which these data impact instruction or practice is hard to know.

    Changing this paradigm to great success is Mission Achievement & Success (MAS) here in Albuquerque. Founder and principal JoAnn Mitchell and her staff believe that their jobs are not simply about collecting data but "about using data to enhance teaching." Most importantly, this approach is resulting in great outcomes for students. MAS (where 4 out of every 10 students receives free or reduced lunch) has earned an "A" grade for the last three years, a testament to the hard work, dedication, and collective effort.
  • [NATIONAL: PODCAST] Keeping Teachers. Teachers matter more than anything else in a school. But schools are struggling to hold on to the teachers they need. Men of color and teachers in rural areas are in especially short supply, which has massive implications for us in The Land of Enchantment as there is strong, emerging evidence that having a teacher of color improves the learning outcomes and likelihood of being recommended for gifted classes for students of color.
  • [NATIONAL: RESEARCH] Time to Revive the Guild System? "After decades of pushing bachelor’s degrees, U.S. needs more tradespeople" is the headline coming from The Hechinger Report. In California, 30% of all job openings by 2025 — more than a million jobs — will require some post-high school education, according to the state’s community college system. In an environment where we tend to debate either vocational training or liberal arts, what employers really want is both. Students need the hard skills to take industrial jobs along with so-called “soft skills” - such as communication and conflict resolution - that foster teamwork and reduce stress.

Mission Achievement & Success: Focusing on Data to Help Students and Teachers

Here's what the nation's teachers look like.

[5/31] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

While the local education news scene is relatively quiet, things at the national level are loud and promise to be even more raucous as the Federal education budget weaves its way through Congress.

And while we slow the local news cycle a bit, I ask that you please continue to send this email/post to a couple of your colleagues and encourage them to sign-up for updates or to message me directly so I may add them to the subscriber list. Think of anyone you know who is interested in education and might find these updates helpful. All are welcome! Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] Due in large part to projected enrollment being down to its lowest levels in 15 years, APS predicts flat revenue for next year. Last week, the board approved the district's $1.3 billion budget though still expects a $13-24 million budget shortfall, which will be made up for primarily from reserve funds and cuts to central office staff. If the APS student enrollment decline of the past 6 years continues, and with a perpetually languishing state economy, we must continue to ask how we can better spend that $15,659 per student? Where do we need to modernize and improve district spending and governance to ensure all students get the education they deserve?
  • [LOCAL:NEWS] Real Clear Education recently published a telling profile of The Land of Enchantment. Education Rising in New Mexico documents the ups and downs of our attempts to improve public education and the many complications and missteps we've encountered along the way. We also read of encouraging progress being made in places such as Gallup-McKinley county which currently has zero "F" graded schools and has seen 509 more students become proficient in math and English-Language Arts over the past school year. For all the doom and gloom around New Mexico, it's important to remember that with high expectations and a focus on student learning neither poverty nor one's zip code is destiny.

    Whether you are a wholehearted supporter of the changes of the last six years, or have a skeptical eye towards the reforms we've seen, one thing we surely need to agree on in the article is this from Secretary Skandera: "It should not matter what zip code you live in for how prepared you are for life. People say maybe it’s not possible to have high expectations for all kids [and] there are tough circumstances – poverty, English as a second language – but we have the same expectations no matter the beginnings. We are going to make diplomas meaningful. We are going to make sure [students] are successful in life."
  • [NATIONAL: PROFILE] As I mentioned in a recent post, BASIS is a 20-year-old network of 27 public charter, private and international schools spanning five states in the U.S. They also run four of the top five schools in the country according to U.S. News and World Report's 2017 rankings, with those four schools in neighboring Arizona. This lengthy profile from The 74 Million provides insight into what makes the network tick and how BASIS combines high expectations, deeply knowledgeable teachers, international standards and test-based mastery to ensure all their students, regardless of zip code, graduate high school ready for college and career.
  • [NATIONAL: SURVEY] Letting our students speak for themselves is a foundational value for public education, and here's what they have to say: Nearly three-quarters of first-generation college students view education as the best pathway out poverty, according to a new survey by Students for Education Reform and Mercury. These students are a diverse group, with 62% receiving free or reduced-price lunches and 37% living in a home where a language other than English was spoken. Of those surveyed, 74% agree that families should be able to choose the best school for their child. More than half believe their educational experience would have been better with school choice, and 44% would have attended another school if it had been an option. But only 32% reported that their district offered school choice.
Students First NextGen Survey 2017

[4/25] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

This week I bring both saddening and maddening news from Albuquerque as well as instructive new research on what it actually means when we hear of recent "teacher shortages." I also share the latest U.S. public high school rankings and a helpful podcast about the forthcoming clarity coming to school finances.

I've taken the liberty of adding every email list recipient directly to the MailChimp listserv so you'll automatically receive an email anytime a new post is created. If you'd like to be removed simply click "Unsubscribe" near the bottom of the email or send an email to seth.saavedra@50can.org. Please continue to share the blog and these biweekly updates. Here's this week's round up:

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] With APS cutting both middle school sports and the much needed K-3 Plus program from 10 schools, we have to wonder how the district's $1.3 billion budget is being spent? Times are tough across the state and we're all figuring out how to tighten our belts. After rolling over nearly $8 million in Title I dollars and with $81 million in cash reserves, why is APS eliminating crucial services provided to the very kids we need to be our future community and business leaders?
  • [NATIONAL: RESEARCH] While national news reports of teacher shortages have surged as of late, Stanford's Tom Dee and the University of Washington's Dan Goldhaber have issued a recent report with a more nuanced view: “... these challenges appear to be concentrated in specific high-need subjects such as special education and STEM ... and in hard-to-staff schools.” As with most of our hardest to solve problems, we benefit from getting into the weeds on the issue and as specific as possible in developing solutions.
  • [NATIONAL: NEWS] The 2017 national public high school rankings from U.S. News and World Report are out. Here's what I found notable:
    • For the first time ever, a majority of the top ten high schools are public charter schools;
    • There's something special happening in Arizona with half of the top ten (and seven of the top 25) schools based next-door to New Mexico;
    • BASIS.ed, a public charter school network, runs the top three high schools in the nation and five of the top seven;
    • New Mexico doesn't have a school in the top 100, 200 or 300. The Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science (AIMS) is our top-rated public high school and ranks as #314 nationally; and
    • Of the 37 New Mexico schools ranked in 2017, two earned gold medals, five earned silver and 30 received bronze medals.
  • [NATIONAL: PODCAST] For all the undue focus we put on the inputs of education (training,, finances, facilities, etc.) we rarely get a clear picture of how dollars are spent at the school-level. Well, that's about to change thanks to a sleeper provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which requires state education agencies to report exactly what districts spend on each of their schools. Marguerite Roza, a research professor at Georgetown University and director of its Edunomics Lab, talks about this change which she wrote about in a recent post on the EdNext blog entitled “With New Data, School Finance is Coming out of the Dark Ages.”