[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.

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  • [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.”

[4/12] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

Spring has sprung, as has education news from across New Mexico and the country. This week I'm providing independent analysis and a summary table of U.S. News' recently released New Mexico school rankings. While there are certainly some highlights, the report is another reminder of the tough and necessary work ahead. Here's the latest round up:

  • [LOCAL] The governor and NMPED have made tough compromises on our statewide teacher evaluation system, NM Teach, including:
    • Doubling the number of sick / personal days teachers can take before it affects their evaluation from three to six;
    • Student test results now reflect 35% of a teacher's evaluation, down from 50%; and
    • Classroom observations are now 35% of a teacher's evaluation, up from 25%.

While the changes in and of themselves are common-sense and reflect the latest research on incorporating student data into evaluations, that our evaluation system remains unwritten into law is worrisome. We are well past the need to codify our approach into law and move the discussion forward to how we evolve the system over time, not whether we should have one at all.

  • [LOCAL] Leadership New Mexico member Scott Turner issues a call to action for New Mexico to expect and do better for our students.
  • [LOCAL] U.S. News has released their 2017 rankings of best high schools in New Mexico. While side-by-side comparisons must always be contextualized, the fact that 4 out of the top 10 schools are public charters is noteworthy. Especially in a state where there are roughly the same number of APS elementary schools as there are charter schools across the entire state. See below for a summary table I've created and some quick analysis:
    • There is large alignment between the rankings and our school grades with 8 of 10 being "A" schools;
    • The top three high schools are relatively small with enrollments of 614, 340 and 69 total students, respectively;
    • There are alarming gaps between low-income students and their peers; see the "LIC Proficient" and "Gap" columns; and
    • We still have far to go; only the top three schools have "College Readiness" scores of 50 or higher and only Cottonwood Classical is above 80.
  • [NATIONAL] Here's a nifty and brief reminder from The 74 Million, including a 2-minute video, explaining what exactly charters schools (publicly funded but independently operated schools that are open to all children and tuition-free) are and are not.
  • [NATIONAL] While we don’t all agree on the future of education and the best ways to get there, we must still interact with one another respectfully. That’s my view which is shared by a bipartisan coalition of two dozen education leaders who have published a white paper providing guidelines on how to forge a “productive dialogue” on race, social justice and education reform.
2017 New Mexico U.S. News High School Rankings