Sonny Sapien Brings the First Coffee Break of 2019

I would advise parents to always remember that they are their child’s first and most important teacher. And even when their children head off to school, the learning that they do together will never stop. This is a significantly important concept to remember because parents are the support system that students need to teach them right from wrong, to teach them that character matters, and to teach them that striving for academic success is the necessary blueprint for making a remarkable life for themselves.

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Special Educator Shari Hicks Settles the Green Chile Debate Once and for All

I want students with special needs to know that their disability doesn't define them. I want them to know that they are special because of their talents, not because of their disability. Students with disabilities need to know that their academic weaknesses are also their super powers. Many students possess problem-solving skills they have developed because of their academic challenges.

I want families to know that their children are amazing blessings who I feel honored to teach and learn from. I enjoy seeing the light go on when they understand a concept. The best feeling I get is when, on their own, my students dig deeper into a lesson and discover something that even I didn’t know before.

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Coffee Break with 2019 Golden Apple Winner Brittany Behenna Griffith

The best teachers share great ideas with each other and tweak those ideas to meet the individual needs of their students. My partner teacher has great ideas and is constantly inspiring me with her creativity, making me think and causing me to raise the bar for my students. I wouldn’t be a Golden Apple teacher if it weren’t for strong collaboration with my peers and a vision for excellence instilled by my school administrator.

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(No) Coffee Break with New Mexican Renaissance Man Joe Dan Lovato

I also owe a great deal of my who I am to my grandparents; they were critical in my upbringing. My grandfather, and “cowboy legend”, Levi Garcia didn’t have much of a formal education and worked his fingers to the bone to find great success. Although he loved what he did, and was darn good at it, he valued a formal education. He wanted his kids, grandkids, and great-grandchildren to finish school and receive the education that he never had. Since I was a young man, my grandpa would always remind me that an education would allow me to work with my mind. Though he has since passed on from this life, this is where the root of hard work was instilled into me and where the constant quest for knowledge began.

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Coffee Break with Christopher Jones: A Burqueño Seeks Impact in His Hometown

Coffee for me is equally as important to my survival as water or oxygen. The first thing I do each morning is make myself a cup of coffee. I would have to say my favorite coffee drink comes from Starbucks, especially when I can enjoy it with my girls. Mocha Frappuccino with an extra shot of espresso for me please!

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Bringing a Passion for Science to the Classroom: Coffee Break with Jessica Sanders, New Mexico's 2019 Teacher of the Year

“I wanted to be just like my role models: engaging, connected, and passionate. I wanted to do for others what these fine professionals had done for me. I wanted to open the minds of my students by creating personal connections and engaging each student as an individual person and learner.”

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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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[10/19] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

This week's roundup is heavy with local news and research, including the recent release of a school financing report from Think New Mexico. As always, your feedback is welcomed, as are social media and other sharing. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: RESEARCH] Think New Mexico Issues Report On Education Finance. As they do so well, the wonks at Think New Mexico have aimed their research acumen at the Gordian Knot that is education spending in New Mexico. While I anxiously await the arrival of my copy, here are some highlights from TNM's website: "Statewide, only about 57.2% of New Mexico’s education budget is currently dedicated to instruction.  [And] since about 90% of New Mexico’s operational education budget consists of state taxpayer dollars, the legislature and governor have the responsibility to ensure that the money is spent as effectively as possible." Here's additional coverage from the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico's Plan Highlighted in Congressional Testimony. Two weeks ago, three chief state school officers provided testimony to the HELP Committee in D.C. during their "The Every Student Succeeds Act: Unleashing State Innovation" committee hearing. New Mexico's Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski spoke on behalf of NMPED. As you've read on this blog, New Mexico's ESSA plan continues to be lauded as one of the best in the country. In fact, when ranking member Patty Murray asked Dr. Steiner, "... based on your understanding of other states plans, would you say other state's have put forward plans that are as strong as these three?" Dr. Steiner's response was "The chairman was correct in highlighting these three states. They are here, rightly because they are exemplary." FYI: New Mexico's portion starts at the 40 minute mark.
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] NMPED To Rewrite Proposed Science Standards. In what should have been the approach from the start, NMPED will revise its original proposal for updated science standards that had omitted key statements related to evolution, climate change, and Earth's age. Thanks to the advocacy of educators, religious leaders, scientists, parents and many others - including a protest and "teach in" - enough public pressure was drummed up to correct what had become a painful misstep for the state. For me this has been a tangible reminder of the power of advocacy on behalf of our students, and also of the necessity and possibility for broad, citizen-led coalitions to demand student-centered education policies. Ultimately, what's most important here is that New Mexico adopts modern science standards which prepare our kids for science careers, particularly as the home to two large national laboratories.
  • [NATIONAL: OPINION] 10 Disruptions That Will Revolutionize Education. Nobody has a crystal ball, but everyone can see that the world is changing at warp speed. Through his research of blended learning and equity in education, Peter Cookson has heard many educators say that it's time to seize the future. Among his suggestions is one that would be powerful here in New Mexico: Students and families will become co-learners and co-creators wherein "participatory education means little if students and families are pushed to the side. Families will no longer be shut out of the learning process. They will be seen as full partners in their children's education."
Latinos Lag Behind For College

As a state with preponderance of Hispanics/Latinos (discussion of the distinction is for another day), the continued college gaps depicted to the left have important implications for our students and the future of our state. What are our policy makers doing to ensure we, as a majority minority state, are reversing these trends?