[10/19] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

This week's roundup is heavy with local news and research, including the recent release of a school financing report from Think New Mexico. As always, your feedback is welcomed, as are social media and other sharing. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: RESEARCH] Think New Mexico Issues Report On Education Finance. As they do so well, the wonks at Think New Mexico have aimed their research acumen at the Gordian Knot that is education spending in New Mexico. While I anxiously await the arrival of my copy, here are some highlights from TNM's website: "Statewide, only about 57.2% of New Mexico’s education budget is currently dedicated to instruction.  [And] since about 90% of New Mexico’s operational education budget consists of state taxpayer dollars, the legislature and governor have the responsibility to ensure that the money is spent as effectively as possible." Here's additional coverage from the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico's Plan Highlighted in Congressional Testimony. Two weeks ago, three chief state school officers provided testimony to the HELP Committee in D.C. during their "The Every Student Succeeds Act: Unleashing State Innovation" committee hearing. New Mexico's Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski spoke on behalf of NMPED. As you've read on this blog, New Mexico's ESSA plan continues to be lauded as one of the best in the country. In fact, when ranking member Patty Murray asked Dr. Steiner, "... based on your understanding of other states plans, would you say other state's have put forward plans that are as strong as these three?" Dr. Steiner's response was "The chairman was correct in highlighting these three states. They are here, rightly because they are exemplary." FYI: New Mexico's portion starts at the 40 minute mark.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] NMPED To Rewrite Proposed Science Standards. In what should have been the approach from the start, NMPED will revise its original proposal for updated science standards that had omitted key statements related to evolution, climate change, and Earth's age. Thanks to the advocacy of educators, religious leaders, scientists, parents and many others - including a protest and "teach in" - enough public pressure was drummed up to correct what had become a painful misstep for the state. For me this has been a tangible reminder of the power of advocacy on behalf of our students, and also of the necessity and possibility for broad, citizen-led coalitions to demand student-centered education policies. Ultimately, what's most important here is that New Mexico adopts modern science standards which prepare our kids for science careers, particularly as the home to two large national laboratories.
  • [NATIONAL: OPINION] 10 Disruptions That Will Revolutionize Education. Nobody has a crystal ball, but everyone can see that the world is changing at warp speed. Through his research of blended learning and equity in education, Peter Cookson has heard many educators say that it's time to seize the future. Among his suggestions is one that would be powerful here in New Mexico: Students and families will become co-learners and co-creators wherein "participatory education means little if students and families are pushed to the side. Families will no longer be shut out of the learning process. They will be seen as full partners in their children's education."
Latinos Lag Behind For College

As a state with preponderance of Hispanics/Latinos (discussion of the distinction is for another day), the continued college gaps depicted to the left have important implications for our students and the future of our state. What are our policy makers doing to ensure we, as a majority minority state, are reversing these trends?

[8/15] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

August is back-to-school time and a reminder of the trust parents place in schools to provide safety and learning to their most valuable possessions, their children. I can't help but smile at the excitement (and nervousness) of students and teachers alike as they engage in the sacred ritual between educator and pupil. This week's news brings several stories from here at home as well as the latest results from one of the country's largest education polls. As always, your feedback is welcomed, as are social media and other sharing. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico's ESSA Plan Approved by Department of Education. Coming on the heels of receiving high marks for our focus on ambitious and attainable goals, New Mexico becomes the second state to have our plan approved. We should be proud of this achievement and the hard work that went into this roadmap for modernizing our education system. We've set a high bar for all our children with a special emphasis on our most vulnerable and marginalized students.

    We as advocates must work to build belief in our plan and hold policy makers accountable to those goals, which were set in partnership with thousands of people via the New Mexico Rising Tour. We must also counter the negativity and disbelief of those like Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque who incorrectly stated that "there is “widespread hatred and dislike of both the teacher evaluations and the school grades” [a claim debunked below] and who last month told an audience in New Orleans that “We don’t know how to teach kids from poverty. They come with no skills – well, they have street-fighting skills. They’ve got a lot of skills; they’re just not academic skills.” There is simply no room in our state for policy makers who don't believe in ALL of our students and the responsibility of public education to reach every one of them, regardless of income or home situation.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) Releases New Academic Master Plan. In a long overdue move, APS has updated and shared their overarching vision for the path to improvement for our state's largest school district. The plan outlines three overarching goals (early learning, college and career readiness, and developing the whole child) alongside a concept titled "Learning Zones" which divides the district into four geographically bound zones:

         - LZ-1 consists of Albuquerque, Highland and Manzano high schools and their feeder schools;
         - LZ-2 is made up of Atrisco Heritage, Rio Grande and West Mesa high schools and their feeder schools;
         - LZ-3 includes Cibola, Valley and Volcano Vista high schools and their feeder schools; and
         - LZ-4 consists of Del Norte (the high school I dropped out of), Eldorado, La Cueva and Sandia high schools and their feeder schools.

    While the ideas in the new master plan are sound and worth exploring, this (as with any policy/strategic initiative) will boil down to implementation and commitment to goals. And speaking of goals, you won't find many in the plan yet. None of the three goal areas provide any quantitative goals to speak of, which is troubling. I'm a believer in setting visionary, feasible quantitative and qualitative goals to drive actions, with benchmarks to measure progress along the way. Perhaps APS and Superintendent Reedy will revisit our top-rated ESSA plan, which garnered bipartisan praise for its ambitious, equity-minded goals, and incorporate the smart work already done there.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] Fort Sumner Student All Set for College. An inspiring story from NBC News shares the remarkable determination of 17-year-old Jazmin Regalado, who will be the first in her family to go to college. By accessing online study tools and zeroing in on improving her SAT score, Jazmin affirms that high standardized test scores are crucial not only for college admittance, but also to qualify for many scholarships available for low-income students. Of course, test scores can never tell the whole story of a student, but let's not lose sight of the reality that test scores matter in providing access and opportunity for all New Mexican children.
  • [LOCAL: LEADERS] Albuquerque Leaders Speak About Education. Improving education in New Mexico is necessarily a community and collective effort requiring strong local leadership dedicated to the cause. So it's with optimism I share statements from Albuquerque mayoral candidate Brian Colón and, the recently named Chamber of Commerce board chair, Meg Meister. Meister describes K-12 education as an “economic driver” as it relates to both educating the state’s future workforce and attracting residents of other states to the Albuquerque area.

    Meanwhile Colón states that, "As the new mayor, policies will be undertaken to improve the education that is provided within the City of Albuquerque. We can no longer accept incremental change and ineffective APS policies of the past. We can no longer accept mediocrity. I will work directly with APS by immediately appointing a CEO, a Chief Education Officer, who report to me on a regular basis. That person will be the conduit between the City of Albuquerque, APS, CNM and our flagship research institution, The University of New Mexico. It is imperative that the mayor’s office work directly with the APS Superintendent in reforming policies within the district. We must change the players at the table, demand innovation, and strive for excellence to create a first-class educational system, Albuquerque families deserve no less."
  • [NATIONAL: POLL] Education Next Releases Results of 2017 Poll. With its 11th annual poll, EdNext has become one of our most consistent and reliable sources for the collective thoughts of parents, teachers, and parents nationwide. This year's survey consists of "a nationally representative sample of 4,214 respondents, including representative oversamples of 2,170 parents, 669 teachers, and 805 Hispanics." Some quick highlights:

         - Accountability: As shown in the graphic below, there is overwhelming support (61%) for the use of state standards "to hold public schools accountable for their performance"
         - School Choice: "Public support for charter schools has fallen by 12%, with similar drops evident among both self-described Republicans and self-described Democrats. Meanwhile, opposition to school vouchers and tax credits to fund private-school scholarships has declined."
         - Teacher Policies: "The public is showing an increased resistance to change when it comes to policies affecting teachers. The percentages favoring merit pay, an end to teacher tenure, and increases in teacher salaries are all down about 5%. In each case, however, a plurality continue to support reform."
         - Parents’ Aspiration for Higher Education: "Two thirds of the public would have their child pursue a four-year university degree, while only 22% would choose a two-year associate’s degree at a community college, and 11% would choose neither.
         - Early Childhood Education: 51% of the public supports "publicly funded pre-school programs" as long as these "programs accountable for their performance", with 61% of Hispanic parents supporting this same question.
Accountability and State Standards

[8/1] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

The start of the 2017-18 school year is just a few weeks away, bringing both excitement and anxiety to students, teachers and parents alike. While new supplies are purchased and classrooms get rearranged, let us not forget that the start of every school year is a fresh opportunity to reinvest hope in our schools and for the potential of education to liberate and support our students to their best selves. Education remains our best mechanism towards the just and equitable Good Society. We can and should debate specific policies and practices, all with an eye towards the future and what's best for our students and their ultimate self-determination. As always, your feedback is welcomed, as are social media and other sharing. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico PARCC Scores Released Showing Slight Statewide Improvement. Last Monday NMPED released our statewide PARCC results which show marginal improvement over last year for the 214,870 students who took the exam this spring. Since 2015, the first year of PARCC, New Mexico has experienced growth of 2.2% in English Language Arts (ELA) and 2.3% in Math. The biggest gains in ELA are seen with American Indian students (+4%), female students (+3%), economically disadvantaged students (+2.9%) and Hispanic students (+2.4%). While the value in making personnel decisions based on test scores should be and is limited (to 30% in New Mexico as of this school year), one of the most important aspects of PARCC, or any statewide standardized exam, is the light shined on our most disenfranchised students. Without this information we don't know that only 23.8% of Hispanic students are considered proficient in ELA and on course for college. We also wouldn't know that only 21.5% of our low-income students are proficient and only 17.6% of our American Indian students are as well. This information is absolutely vital in working towards equity and any discussion of removing this data is not focused on our most vulnerable students and how we will serve them better. The results also show us that in places and districts where the inequity is tackled head on and reforms are embraced (whether though NMPED or not) that progress will be made, in districts such as Gadsden, Gallup-McKinley County and Farmington, which have all seen marked growth over the past two years.
  • [LOCAL: OPINION] Looking In: Helping Young People Of New Mexico. As New Mexico's ESSA plan continues to be lauded as one of the best in the nation, including The Collaborative for Student Success and Results for America, a select few have begun to criticize this achievement by attempting to discredit the work of the organizations who have issued the reports. A classic example of attacking the speaker instead of their argument. So it's great to see a letter from Scott Sagrad, the K-12 Policy Director of the Center for American Progress, reflect on his experience as a peer reviewer for state ESSA plans. 
  • [NATIONAL: OPINION] Together, Technology And Teachers Can Revamp Schools. The Economist warns us that the science of learning (research-backed, not unproven, pseudoscientific ideas such as “learning styles”) must be at the center of our attempts to personalize and digitize education.
  • [NATIONAL: RESEARCH] Data Show Charter School Students Graduating From College At Three To Five Times National Average. About a decade ago, 15 years into the public charter school movement, a few of the nation’s top charter networks quietly upped the ante on their own strategic goals. No longer was it sufficient to keep students “on track” to college. Nor was it enough to enroll 100% of your graduates in colleges. Now many of these charter school networks, which almost exclusively educate low-income and students of color, are seeing returns on these efforts in the form of their students graduating college at impressive rates that are 3x-5x the national average.
  • [NATIONAL: PODCAST] Where Teacher Evaluation Reform Was A Home Run. In this week's podcast, special guest Thomas Toch, director of FutureEd at Georgetown University, joins to discuss teacher reform in Washington, D.C., where big changes were made without nearly the same animosity and discontent we continue to see in New Mexico.
Disparities in Educational Attainment


A new report finds that while more Americans are attending and completing degree programs, “sharp divisions” in access remain “by income level, race, ethnicity, and geography.” The report calls on Congress to “close educational attainment gaps” to ensure “All Americans have the ability to find a good job that pays well and provides a foundation for their family… Making college more affordable, giving students access to better information about their options, and better preparing high school students for the rigors of college are all goals that Congress must pursue.”

Grading NM School Grades