[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