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.

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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 TeacherSpark.org

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 TeacherSpark.org to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.

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: https://www.nctq.org/review/search/state/NM

 

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: https://www.nctq.org/review/search/state/NM

 

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.

New Mexico Graduation Rates: Our Future is Hispanic

by Seth Saavedra │Wednesday, March 21st, 2018


This is the fifth in my series exploring graduation rates in New Mexico. Have topic suggestions? Shoot me a message or tweet.


Know Yourself

What does it mean to be "Hispanic" in these United States? In New Mexico? And what exactly is "Hispanic" and how do I know if I'm one?

I don't ask these questions to be rhetorical or cheeky. These have been, and are, the subconscious backdrop of my mind. As soon as I move past providing my name and address I know what's coming:

 

Source: U.S. Census Survey

 

Confusing me even further, I lived in California for a decade. Here I first became a Latino, then Latino/a, before being told I'm actually "Latinx". "Multi-racial" it is. I now embrace the ambiguity.

Fine, I'll be whatever you need me to be. Let me be your distorted reflection - the wavy image you recognize mostly for the parts that don't look like you. To my White friends, I'm definitely not White. To my Brown friends, not that Brown.

 
 

Now that I've moved back to New Mexico where nearly half of us identify as Hispanic, and even more of us, regardless of skin tone, have an "x" or "z" in our last name. A semantic genealogical party I'm excluded from.

 

Source: New Mexico's Indicator-Based Information System (NMBIS)

 

Keep the Family Close

With 61 percent of New Mexico's 337,485 public school students identified as Hispanic, they are our mean. As go our Hispanic students, as goes public education. Same with poor students, as 71 percent of students here qualify for free or reduced lunch.

 

2017 New Mexico's 4-Year Graduation Rates

 

The future well-being of The Land of Enchantment is quantitatively and intricately tied to the success of our Hispanic students.

Increasingly, this is the story of America too. With three times as many Hispanic students as teachers, both groups face headwinds. This reality remains: we can't make progress as a state without students that look like me doing better. 

 

Hispanic American Growth Abounds

Source: Pew Research Center

 

My Old Flex Is My New Flex Now

We know graduation rates are in imperfect proxy for student achievement. There are schools with 85 percent graduation rates yet have less than 5 percent of students on level for math - and less than 15 percent for reading.

Even so, graduation rates are a helpful measure in understanding how schools are serving their students. Diplomas still mean something as a signal to the employment market. For now. Let's see how our Hispanic students do in graduating high school.


First, Interact

As usual, I ask that you explore the data yourself. Below is a bar chart that includes every public high school with graduation data in New Mexico. Find the high school you went to. Look up the school your student, nephew, grandchild, or sibling goes to. Or the one your future child might attend. Don't be shy.


Chronic Underperformers

We have no fewer than 57 high schools with Hispanic graduation rates 10 points or more below the statewide average of 70.5 percent. In fact, we have 33 high schools that are 20 points or more under that average. This is injustice before our eyes. This is institutional racism in action.

 
 

Gadsden, Las Cruces, and Truth or Consequences Stand Out. Again.

With all their Hispanic students beating the statewide graduation average, these districts down south are getting impressive results. This should be no surprise as I've written about all three previously. My observation is that strong leadership plus a commitment to excellence for all students are shared traits.

 
 

Look What You've Done

Strictly by the current numbers of Hispanic students - much less their anticipated growth - our future is Brown. We as a state and country cannot improve educational outcomes without better reaching Hispanic students.

This will require more Hispanic teachers, high-quality dual language programs, culturally relevant curriculum, and higher expectations in and of Hispanic communities. We know it's possible and, given Mexican food's triumph over American cuisine, there is latent craving for our culture and people.



New Mexico Graduation Rates: The Duke City

by Seth Saavedra │Wednesday, March 6th, 2018


This is the third in a month long series exploring graduation rates in New Mexico. Have topic suggestions? Shoot me a message or tweet.


Oh, Albuquerque my hometown. For better and worse, you occupy prime real estate in the conversation about New Mexico education. With Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) as our second biggest employer (behind Kirtland Air Force Base) and with a $1.34 billion dollar budget, 142 schools, and 1 in 4 of the state's students, this makes some sense.

What makes less sense is that, instead of being the place where innovation thrives and scales, we are more often known as the place where good ideas come to die, or at least whither away. We are the place many of our best and brightest move away from. Despite all our beauty and diversity, we have a fundamental disbelief in ourselves.

These sentiments ring true in public education too. We lag the state average in nearly every graduation measure. A state average, mind you, which is often worst or second worst in the country. We struggle to get out of our own way. To define new paths and eschew failed ideas. We have four excuses for every problem.

 

APS vs. New Mexico Statewide Averages

 

Despite this, some of the best schools in the state and nation are in Albuquerque. Some of these standouts are APS schools. Many are state charters. Sadly, many more chronically underserve their students year after year. Below is graduation data for every public high school in Albuquerque:

 
 

Our Best High Schools Are Schools of Choice

Twenty three ABQ high schools outperform the state in graduating all their students. Out of this select group, 16 (!) are charters or other schools of choice. Even more astounding: nine out of the top ten highs schools in Albuquerque are schools of choice.

 

Top 10 Albuquerque High Schools Vs. The State Average

 

Charters Still Have A Ways to Go

Albuquerque is currently home to 51 high schools. Of those, 15 are overseen by the state (NMPED/PEC) and 12 by APS. That leaves 24 non-charter high schools in APS, ranging from specialized (College and Career High School) to re-engagement (New Futures) to traditional, comprehensive campuses most students attend.

As you see below, these three groups have quite varied results. Some of our best high schools are charters, as are some of the lowest performing. Variation in performance isn't surprising, as charter models are, by their very nature, diverse. What shouldn't happen is the continued operation of schools that fail to live up to their promise, griping about what's not possible, and proving it.

 
 

This dynamic shifts next school year as three of the lowest performing state charters (ACE Leadership, Health Leadership, and Technology Leadership – all part of the Leadership Schools Network) become APS charters. Two other state charters will see change with the high-performing Cottonwood Classical Preparatory moving to APS and Academy of Trades & Technology likely to shut its doors after being rejected by the state and APS.

I wrote about this previously (here and here) and my expectations are the same: ALL schools should prepare EVERY child for life, career, and/or college. We shall see if APS's willingness to take in these schools pays off for their students (as I hope it does) or is simply the placation of adults at the expense of students. We shall see.


Native Students Doing Well In Larger High Schools

The statewide graduation rate for Native students is a heartbreaking 61%. In APS, it's an appalling 54.6%. Despite this, there are eight schools in APS outperforming the state. Of these, five surpass the state average by double digits and beat the overall graduation rate of 71.1%. If you're the parent of a Native student in Albuquerque, you'd do well to check out one of the schools below.

 
 

Hispanic Students Learn Most At Schools of Choice

For Hispanic students, the statewide graduation rate is 70.5%, just below the "all student" rate. Again, Albuquerque comes in under the state average at 65.80% for Hispanic students. The good news: there are 22 schools here outperforming the state. Of those, 11 are above 80% for Hispanic students. A whopping nine of those 11 are schools of choice: charter or magnet schools of some type.

The terrible news: Nineteen schools are at least 20 points under the state average for Hispanic students - with 50% or less of them graduating in four years. All 19 are schools of choice. Let that sink in and then ask yourself: Do we really need 19 different schools (in a district that's 67% Hispanic) graduating less than 50% of their Hispanic students? Seems to me these schools create many problems and solve very few.

 
 

Similar Story for Economically Disadvantaged Students

Akin to Hispanic students, poor students are both best and worst served by schools of choice. In fact, the lists are nearly identical. How is it we have so many schools doing amazing things for Hispanic and poor students AND so many doing the exact opposite?

Whenever someone intimates we don't know how to educate these populations, pull up this graph and ask them how they interpret it. Are these schools incredibly lucky, or unlucky, year in and year out? Or have some schools risen to the challenge, moved beyond hurtful preconceptions, and tackled the opportunity head on?

 
 

There are many exciting high school options for students in Albuquerque. Many schools I wish had been here 20 years ago. Yet not much else has changed in the past two decades, or forty years. Instead of leading the state, we drag our feet.

And what's most painful isn't that, despite an annual budget of $1.3 billion dollars, we continue to trail the entire state. No, it's that we've already figured out some of our hardest problems. We have schools proving what's possible. Here. Already. What's lacking is the courage to fundamentally restructure systems.

We tinker at the edges, maintaining adult comfort as the top priority, instead of student learning. We are complacent. But our students don't have time to waste. Every lost day of learning matters. I'm optimistic, but furious. You should be too.


New Mexico Graduation Rates: What Rural Districts Can Teach Us

by Seth Saavedra │Friday, March 2nd, 2018


This is the second in a month long series exploring graduation rates in New Mexico. Have topic suggestions? Shoot me a message or tweet.


While I consider myself a Burqueño through and through, the full answer is more complex.

By and large I grew up in urban, multi-storied Section 8 apartments, provided by the Albuquerque Housing Authority. I grew up riding the city bus and trading food stamps for cash, the life of a city kid. Some summers, though, I went north to my step-grandpa's place in Aztec, New Mexico.

A sprawling ranch may spring to mind. The reality consisted of a double-wide trailer situated on an indebted (and eventually repossessed) few acres. To my wonderment, there was satellite television. The kind that streamed to an eight-foot dish parked like a Statue of Liberty replica in the front yard. Watching Nickelodeon felt extravagant.

I'd feed animals, shovel the resulting product, and spend countless hours wading through cattails on the ditch bank.

 
 

My grandpa was a poor roughneck from Estancia who spent innumerable hours in his pickup traveling between diners, rodeos, and tack shops. He was a no nonsense cowboy who saw the world in black and white - and who'd do anything for his family.

His casket fit snuggly into a horse trailer on its way to the cemetery. Playing at his service, Garth Brooks' Rodeo captured perfectly the joys and pains of his life.

After my parents separated we moved in with my grandparents for a bit and I attended school in Aztec. I remember wearing cowboy boots, wanting to fit in. Ropes and spurs were what the cool kids had in small town life.

This rural sort of scene describes more districts than not in New Mexico: Out of our 89 school districts, 51 have less than 1000 students. Nearly 40 districts have fewer than 500 students, or about 40 students per grade.

Use the interactive graph below to see where these districts are across New Mexico:

 
 

About 18,000 students live in these 51 districts. And while larger districts get more attention (and money), there is much to learn from smaller districts. Students in these places are often just as poor and diverse, bringing similar challenges to school as their urban peers. To wit, it is well-documented that America's opioid epidemic is ravaging rural communities.

Smaller districts face unique challenges with technology and transportation, with bumpy bus rides of an hour each way not that uncommon. Yet there remains an undiscovered beauty beyond our biggest cities with small town school boards and superintendents able to innovate in absence of the immovable bureaucracy that plagues Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

As I did with New Mexico's ten largest districts, below is what stood out as I dug into graduation rates for districts with 1000 students and less. These communities are quite diverse and different, but for my purposes I've grouped them together for analysis.


Overall Rural Districts Outperform the State

In the aggregate, and for most subgroups, these 51 districts are doing better than the rest of the state. For example, out of the 36 districts with enough Hispanic students to report (some districts don't reach the reporting threshold), 24 graduate a higher percentage. For poor students, its 31 of 39 doing better. See for yourself:

 
 

A Number of Districts Standout

As I touched on previously, there is clustering of "A/B" districts on the east side of the state. Many of these same districts are part of Regional Education Cooperative 6 and stand out for their graduation rates. These include Dora (252 students), Elida (138), Grady (134), Loving (535), and Texico (567). Some are single school districts while others have three and four schools.

 
 

Dulce & Magdalena Doing Well For Native Students

Despite having earned unimpressive grades of "F" and "D", respectively, Dulce and Magdalena graduate their American Indian students at 20+ percentage points above the state average. Both perform well across all categories but still struggle with low proficiency rates. Hopefully they can build on their success in graduation rates to improve student learning as well.


Twenty Three Districts Defying Doubt of Poor Students

Just under two dozen districts beat the state average for Economically Disadvantaged students by more than 10%. They disprove the myth that poor kids can't learn - or that "we don't know how to teach them". These districts prove demography mustn't be destiny. In fact, in a state with as many poor students as we have, we can't let this myth live on any longer.

 
 

Outliers for Hispanic Students Exist Too

Seventeen districts reach that impressive 10% above median range for their Hispanic students. Ranging from Springer to Hagerman, these districts reach beyond narrow, complacent views and demonstrate what should be obvious: all students are capable of learning, but not all schools are capable of teaching them.

 
 

It's time we move beyond outliers and expect that all districts in every part of the state teach every child every day.

Our rural districts span a wide range of diversity and size. We are remiss to ignore them. As I've found through this analysis, many of them get impressive results for ALL their students. And they might teach the behemoth districts along the river a thing or two about what it takes.


New Mexico Graduation Rates: What's Going On In Our Ten Largest Districts?

by Seth Saavedra │Wednesday, February 28th, 2018


This is the first in a month long series exploring graduation rates in New Mexico. Have suggestions for topics or questions? Shoot me a message or tweet.


What does it mean to graduate from high school nowadays? With increasing graduation rates nationwide, alongside declining proficiencies in numerous cases, many of us in education have wondered what earning a high school diploma means for modern high school graduates? What does a diploma signify in New Mexico in 2018?

There is meaningful debate about what it means (or should mean) to graduate high school, touching on everything from performance on standardized tests to practical demonstrations of learning. Less contentious is this unassailable reality: a high school diploma remains the primary gateway into the middle class, and to a life of rich opportunity. For better or worse, a diploma is the final demonstration of value created by K-12 education.

I say this as a person without one of those embossed pieces of paper. I left high school one and a half credits shy of the finish line. I meandered a bit for a few years before finally getting my GED and starting community college. Looking back, I wish I had graduated with my fellow Knights.

The path without a high school diploma is, without question, harder. Many jobs require a diploma. Colleges and universities too, or at least the equivalent. Perhaps more damaging, the sense of shame and discouragement I felt took years to recover from. I ultimately turned those feelings into a positive, but many never bounce back. They wear what is largely systemic failure as a badge of personal dishonor.

New Mexico's 2017 Graduation Rates

 

SOURCE: NMPED

 

Last Friday the New Mexico Public Education Department released statewide graduation rates for 2017. The highlights include:

  • The overall rate remained flat at 71.1% (the U.S. rate is 84%);
  • While Hispanic students have made progress, at 70.5% they remain 6% behind their White peers;
  • American Indian students lost ground since last year, coming in at 61%;
  • Economically Disadvantage students lag behind by 4.5% as well; and
  • The last seven years show significant progress in every student group, including double-digits gains for students with disabilities, English learners, Hispanic and underprivileged students.
 

SOURCE: Albuquerque Journal

 

As someone obsessive about equity in education, I find these persistent gaps troubling yet unsurprising. And while the merits of using high school graduation rates as proxies for learning is suspect, what makes them particularly useful at the state level is exploring variances in district and school rates.


Our Largest Districts

My first instinct is to see how our largest districts performed. With about 220,000 students in the ten largest districts, this accounts for about two-thirds of all students in The Land of Enchantment. If you're a student in New Mexico, chances are you're in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Gadsden, Gallup, Farmington, Roswell, Hobbs, or Los Lunas. Albuquerque alone is home to 1 out of every 4 students.

 
 

I'll spend time looking at our many, many rural districts in later posts but below is what catches my attention for these ten districts.


Gadsden Continues to Impress

Outperforming the state in nearly every measure, the southern bordertown continues to earn its reputation for doing great things for their predominantly poor and Hispanic students. The results are impressive.

 
 

Hobbs, Las Cruces & Rio Rancho Lead the Pack

These districts outperform the state on EVERY measure, deserving of high praise. Rio Rancho beats the state average for American Indian Students by nearly 20%. Las Cruces outpaces the state by double digits in every category but one. Hobbs stands out for graduating their Economically Disadvantaged students at a rate higher than the overall statewide average.

 
 

Albuquerque, Farmington, Roswell & Santa Fe Lag Behind

All four of these districts trail the state in all measures but one or two. Santa Fe's and Farmington's rates for Students with Disabilities and African American students are appalling. Albuquerque's neglect of American Indian students continues. In Roswell, it's White students trailing by 10%. These four enroll 130,000 students and underserve nearly all of them.


Gallup & Los Lunas Show A Mixed Bag

While Gallup-McKinley beats the state average for American Indian students by 4%, their White and Female students lag behind. In Los Lunas, Native students outperform by 17.5% (surpassing White students statewide), yet African American students and English Learners underperform the state.


Next I'll take a look at our more rural districts, differences we see in district and charter schools, and explore which schools and districts are doing the most for our traditionally underserved populations. And PLEASE send topic ideas my way.


When Newspapers Attack: What The Gallup Independent Gets Wrong About Our Students

This is a response to an editorial run by the board of The Gallup Independent on January 20th, 2018. The newspaper does not make most articles available online so the editorial can be found in full below.


by Lane Towery │Thursday, January 24th, 2018

Over the weekend, The Gallup Independent published an editorial titled “Let the teachers teach.” Therein the editorial board claims that public education is slowed and dumbed down by focusing on our lowest students. They write, “there are students who go to this district and every district in this country who are not smart enough or just lazy [sic] to be realistic candidates for college education.” Apparently, the Independent believes there are different “classes” of students and that it is an “impossible goal” to bring “slow or lazy” students to the level of college readiness.

As a teacher, I consider this argument threatening to our students. The paper focuses, without any justification, on what it believes some students can’t do. In this, it invokes an all-too-common refrain in American public education that says some students are less capable and, therefore, less deserving. This worldview has often been utilized in combination with classist, racist, and gender-based prejudices to justify inferior conditions and simpler curricula for the poor, students of color, and young women.

As a society, we have decided that efforts like Native boarding schools were a harmful practice to be ended. And yet, inequities persist in our current system. In Gallup McKinley County Schools (GMCS) last year, for example, only 24% of Native American youth were proficient in reading compared to 57% of white youth, according to the district report card published by the NM Public Education Department.

It is possible to read that data and conclude that Native youth are less smart or simply lazy, but that is fundamentally wrong. Rather, the data is reflective of hard-set, historic inequities in the system. It is also a false and perverse logic that ignoring struggling students will improve education. To perpetuate these untrue views is harmful.

As educators, one of our important obligations is to disrupt harmful narratives when we hear them. One that I have heard far too often is that Native youth and families don’t care about education — a narrative upheld by The Independent even though they don't explicitly mention race. In my varied experiences — from home visits as a teacher on the Navajo Nation to organizing families as a co-founder of Six Directions Indigenous School — I have honestly never met a family that didn’t care about their child’s future.

The burden is not on kids and families to prove that they are deserving of quality education. To the contrary, the onus is on schools to motivate and support all of their students. The Independent applauds GMCS for what they see as an attempt to segregate high-achieving students via McKinley Academy. But the editorial board has it wrong. The district, rather than give up on low-performing students, seeks to eradicate limits on who has access to dual enrollment programs in founding the school — an effort I laud.

The promise of equality in American society is undermined when public education relies on biased perspectives to decide who most merits resources and high expectations. Our communities are strongest when schools see the full beauty, dignity, and potential in each of their students. I wish the Independent saw it this way.


 
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Lane Towery - Co-Founder of Six Directions Indigenous School

Lane is a proud husband, father, and Teach For America New Mexico alumnus. He's worked as a teacher and instructional coach in and around Gallup. He also co-founded Six Directions Indigenous School, a charter school with a mission of equity and excellence through culturally responsive methods. 


 
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New Mexico Education Wishes for 2018

A new year fast approaches. Before jumping headlong into 2018, I asked educators from around the state to share their biggest wishes for 2018. I also asked them to transcend the well worn battle lines and think with optimism. The views shared below are as diverse as New Mexico's people, which is only appropriate. For us to move forward we must operate as a collective willing to conduct the long, hard work of modernizing our education system.

Here are my own wishes for education in New Mexico in 2018:
The world at large is changing at an unprecedented pace and New Mexico’s education system hasn’t kept up. Whenever I’m in classrooms I’m struck by how little has changed since my time as a student 30 years ago. It is time for us to move forward, together. Despite many great people and programs, far too many students in New Mexico remain uninspired by school and unprepared for productive civic life. We need our children to be lifelong learners who pursue extraordinary paths. We must prepare them at each step along the way to become meaningful contributors to our society and economy. Our young people need a diversity of world class learning experiences so they may develop intelligence, confidence, common sense, and direction.


Leanna Kiksuyapi Dawn - Educator at Kha’p’o Community School at Santa Clara Pueblo
Increasing visibility of Indigenous nations’ sovereignty is integral to reforming the education of our youth. Traditions of oral expression provide Indigenous students the opportunity to understand ancestral and community stories, and as a result, strengthens their identities. By considering the intersection of political and personal sovereignty, storytelling fosters Indigenous students’ self-examination and validation. While the role of educating Indigenous youth is complex, providing Indigenous students with the ability to self-create, self-share, and self-control their stories allows students to explore Indigenous sovereignty. This approach follows the wisdom of our ancestors and can be utilized more frequently in the educational landscape of our Indigenous youth.
 


Mike Hyatt - Superintendent of Gallup-McKinley County Schools
Although I believe there is room for improvement with funding equity and sufficiency in New Mexico’s public schools, I highly value the innovation and opportunities we have as educators in changing student outcomes in 2018. Funding plays a part in all our efforts, but I value the educators, schools and districts making tremendous gains in a complicated financial environment. Therefore, I look forward to further collaboration and partnerships as a pathway to improve education for our New Mexico students. We as educators need to stay focused this coming year on what we can accomplish while navigating our barriers in a productive and conscientious way
 


Hope Morales - State Policy Director at Teach Plus New Mexico
My wish for 2018 is to create a new norm of collaboration among educational stakeholders. Teachers are the single most important part of a child's education at school. Great teachers need to be invited to the table when important educational decisions are made. Educators share a unique perspective and experience that can contribute to ideas that are focused on students. Too often teachers are missing from the audience and the conversation, because they are teaching. A high-quality education requires planning and problem solving at every level. As these crucials conversations and debates occur, great teachers need to be part of the New Mexico team because teacher voice is powerful and essential.
 


Carmie Toulouse - Public Education Commissioner from Albuquerque
As a mother and grandmother I have watched the shifting scene of education delivery in New Mexico for over 40 years (well over 60 if you include my own personal experiences and those of my sisters and cousins). I am disturbed by today's over emphasis on data-driven results. A child is not a data point. Every child has interests and abilities that should be treated with respect and cultivated and that make the child unique. Instead, we emphasize reading and mathematics. While the ability to read and understand what is read is necessary for modern success, that plus an ability to do complex mathematical calculations, does not produce a well-rounded adult. We need to again make room for the arts & humanities in today's curriculum.


Lane Towery - Co-Founder of Six Directions Indigenous School in Gallup
With a gubernatorial election, 2018 will be a transitional year for New Mexico education. My wish for 2018 is responsible transition. Despite having some concern with past reforms, I ask us to proceed from what exists. Today, New Mexico has unprecedented access to information about the performance of its students. This evidence is critical for ensuring equity. My hope now is for greater empathy with the data and its human constituents. My call is for a transition from assessment for the sake of “accountability” towards an effort to support diverse schools’, teachers', students’ success.


Shiprock