[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.

[11/7] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

This week I have the final four for APS's District One board seat, a story of promise from down in Deming, reflections on New Mexico from our most recent Secretary of Education, and some surprising insights about STEM fields and nuances within the sector.

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

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] Four Candidates In Mix For APS District One. The names are in for APS's District One open board seat, which covers the South Valley/ Downtown area. The four applicants are: Claudia Benavidez, Jude Gene Chavez, Yolanda Montoya-Cordova, and Lee L. Romero. Each link will provider their respective application materials - including questionnaires, letters of intent, and resumes. The current board will select a new member on 11/13 after public interviews with all four candidates.

    Additionally, APS is hosting an applicant forum this Thursday, 11/9 from 6-7:30pm at Rio Grande High School (2300 Arenal Road SW Albuquerque, NM 87105). All four candidates will take questions from the public and Spanish-language services will be available. Questions about this forum, or any others, can be directed to boarded@aps.edu or 505-880-3729.

    District One covers an area that has over 20 APS schools, including some of the most culturally rich and diverse areas of town (and the famed Dia De Los Muertos Marigolds Parade). District One families and students deserve a forward-looking, hard-charging leader willing to buck the status quo in their name. Let's hold our district accountable for educating our babies.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] Deming Finds Support In Training Program. As reported in the Deming Headlight, school leaders and teachers there are finding optimism and value in Teachers Pursuing Excellence (TPE), a two-year NMPED program working with six districts and 294 teachers this year. Focused on providing teachers skills to elevate their craft, TPE also provides a mentorship component to strengthen peer-to-peer learning and collaboration. Let's hope more districts support their teachers in these ways, providing meaningful professional development - and stipends - to the hard-working maestros educating our students.
  • [NATIONAL: INTERVIEW] Former New Mexico Secretary of Education Reflects. In a wide-ranging interview, former New Mexico Secretary of Ed, Hanna Skandera, reflects on her time in The Land of Enchantment and where she sees us going from here. Whether you're a fan, a detractor, or ambivalent about the changes seen under her administration, I highly recommend reading the full interview. What's inarguable is her optimism for what's possible in New Mexico and the implications for our future:
    What’s at stake for New Mexico is our state’s future. We have chronically been at the bottom when it comes to economic and educational outcomes. If we want economics to change, educational outcomes have to change.
    We’re making progress, but we have work to do. We’ve reached a tipping point. What matters most is believing that all kids can learn and then never giving up until we deliver on that promise for every single child.
    If we do deliver on that promise, our educational outcomes will continue to rise, as will our economy and the future of our state. And it’s really no different for the country. We need to address the failed systems, and create systems that acknowledge students and parents are stakeholders. If we don’t do this, we fail the kids.
  • [NATIONAL: NEWS] STEM Boom? Not So Fast. With all the talk about dire shortages of qualified workers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields over the past five years, one would be forgiven for thinking STEM jobs are falling out of trees to anyone with training and ambition. Well, one would be wrong - depending on the specific field. As always, the devil is in the details as not all STEM fields are created equal.

    As shown below, those graduating in Life Sciences and Engineering face grim job markets, while those in Computer Sciences unsurprisingly are in high demand. So, before we spout the popular "STEM is supreme" talking point to schools and students, we must add the qualifier that, more and more, computer literacy is a crucial component to any career, STEM or otherwise.
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