[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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[10/31] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

This week's newsletter issues another call for an exceptional leader to represent APS's District One on the school board and brings happy news about science standards in New Mexico. I also share research on chronic absenteeism, how to address it with a data-driven approach, and the latest thoughts from U.S. students on the teaching field. As always, your feedback is welcomed, as are social media and other sharing. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: ELECTION] APS School Board District One Opening. As I wrote about last week, the South Valley/Downtown area for Albuquerque Public Schools needs an exceptional school board candidate. In an area that has over 20 APS schools and covers some of the most culturally rich and diverse areas of town, district one students need a forward-looking, hard-charging leader willing to buck the status quo in their name. The deadline to submit a letter of intent and other materials (see link above for more info) is this Thursday, November 2nd.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] NM To Adopt Full Next Gen Science Standards. In a move I applaud and consider "better late than never" (I wrote about this previously here) the NM Public Education Department will use the full Next Generation Science Standards, with the addition of six standards addressing New Mexico–specific accomplishments and history in science and technology. The New Mexico STEM-Ready Science Standards take effect in July, and students will be tested on them starting in 2020, according to the Associated Press. Now let's hope advocates will continue to rally for other education policies and practices to advance the best interests of students, even and especially when in tension with embedded interests of adults.
  • [NATIONAL: RESEARCH] Chronic Absenteeism Remains Barrier For Schools. In a report titled "Portraits of Change: Aligning School and Community Resources to Reduce Chronic Absence", Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center writes what many of us know: "More than seven million students nationwide are chronically absent from school – missing so much school, for any reason, that they are academically at risk. It increases the likelihood that children will be unable to read well by third grade, fail classes in middle school and drop out of high school. Children living in poverty, from communities of color and diagnosed with a disability are disproportionately affected." In Albuquerque, roughly 25% of students in high school are habitually truant and New Mexico as a whole has a higher percentage of students with extreme levels of chronic absenteeism.

    All is not lost however and the issue is tractable: "What works is taking a data-driven, comprehensive approach that begins with engaging students and families as well as preventing absences from adding up. The key is using data as a diagnostic tool to help identify where chronic absence is a problem and target where additional resources are needed for prevention and early intervention." 
  • [NATIONAL: RESEARCH] High Achieving Students Don't Want to Be Teachers. Perceptions of the teaching profession continue to be relatively negative for U.S. students, where 52 percent of students expect to work in professions that require a university degree, but only 4 percent of those expect to work as teachers. This echoes a 2016 ACT survey of U.S. high school graduates, which found that only 4 percent of the class of 2015 said they planned to become teachers, counselors, or administrators. This is particularly concerning for STEM fields where high-achieving students are even less likely to go into teaching.

    Of course, changing perceptions about teaching is a long-run effort and requires more than increased salaries, restructured benefits (including portable retirement plans) and changed work environments (more time and on-site flexibility) - though those are crucial levers as well - if we are ever to change the view that teaching in the United States is a "second-choice profession".
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Albuquerque Public Schools Board Opening for South Valley/Downtown

As many of you likely know, there is a current opening for District 1 on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board. District 1 covers much of the South Valley/Downtown area (pdf map here) and includes 16 elementary schools, three middle schools, and three high schools. This is a critical opening on a board that oversees one of the largest school districts in the U.S., with more than 85,000 students and a budget over $1.3 billion.

We need strong candidates in the mix! Please think about and encourage anyone (even if it's yourself) in District 1 with a vested interest in Albuquerque education and who possesses an unwavering commitment to the success of our city and students. It is vital we have policy makers who are focused on the future well-being of our beloved city, have a new vision of what's possible in education, and who center their work on the best interests of students above all else.

The stark reality is that only 34% of APS students are reading at grade level, with only 20% performing at grade level in math. More alarmingly, Hispanic students like myself trail the district average by 6%. APS's economically disadvantaged students (also like myself growing up) fare even worse: lagging by 8% in reading (26% proficient) and 9% in math (11% proficient). The need for a board member committed to preparing every student, regardless of zip code, to reach their full potential is paramount, urgent, and personal. 

APS recently issued a brand new Academic Master Plan. This plan has good bones but needs a strong board to ensure the district's mission that "All Albuquerque Public Schools Students Will Attend High-Quality Schools Responsive to Their Communities" is delivered upon. Please consider this opportunity to serve Albuquerque's students, parents, and families. Our kids need you/us! 

The qualification requirements are that the person appointed must be:

  • at least 18 years of age
  • a registered voter in New Mexico
  • a resident of the Board of Education District 1
  • not a convicted felon
  • not an employee of Albuquerque Public Schools

Anyone interested in applying for the board seat and meets the qualifications listed above must submit the following information to the Board of Education Services Office no later than Thursday, November 2, 2017, 5 p.m. (Please note that this is the deadline for receipt of the materials):

Some important dates for which applicants must be available are (full timeline here):

  • October 24, 2017 – Informational meeting for interested applicants at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, Library at 6:00 p.m.
  • November 2, 2017, 5:00 p.m. – Applicant letters of intent, questionnaires and resumes that include references and contact information must be received in the Board of Education Services Office
  • November 9, 2017 – Facilitated community forum at Rio Grande High School, Performing Arts Center (Time in the evening to be confirmed). The format of the meeting depends on the number of applicants and will be predetermined and communicated to candidates in the confirmation letter to each applicant
  • November 13, 2017 – Applicant interviews with the APS Board of Education in the morning and early afternoon in the John Milne Board Room at the Alice and Bruce King Educational Complex, 6400 Uptown Blvd NE.  (Time will be confirmed after number of applicants is known)
  • November 15, 2017, 5 p.m. – Swearing in ceremony at the Regular Board of Education meeting

Lastly, please direct questions and documents to:

Board of Education Services Office, 100E
Albuquerque Public Schools
Alice and Bruce King Educational Complex
2017 Board of Education Applications
P.O. Box 25704
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87125-0704

Email: boarded@aps.edu
Phone: (505) 880-3731 or (505) 880-3729
Fax: (505) 880-2572 (Please confirm fax receipt at (505) 880-3737)
Physical address for hand-delivered documents: 6400 Uptown Blvd. NE, Suite 100E, Albuquerque, NM87110