[5/31] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

While the local education news scene is relatively quiet, things at the national level are loud and promise to be even more raucous as the Federal education budget weaves its way through Congress.

And while we slow the local news cycle a bit, I ask that you please continue to send this email/post to a couple of your colleagues and encourage them to sign-up for updates or to message me directly so I may add them to the subscriber list. Think of anyone you know who is interested in education and might find these updates helpful. All are welcome! Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] Due in large part to projected enrollment being down to its lowest levels in 15 years, APS predicts flat revenue for next year. Last week, the board approved the district's $1.3 billion budget though still expects a $13-24 million budget shortfall, which will be made up for primarily from reserve funds and cuts to central office staff. If the APS student enrollment decline of the past 6 years continues, and with a perpetually languishing state economy, we must continue to ask how we can better spend that $15,659 per student? Where do we need to modernize and improve district spending and governance to ensure all students get the education they deserve?
  • [LOCAL:NEWS] Real Clear Education recently published a telling profile of The Land of Enchantment. Education Rising in New Mexico documents the ups and downs of our attempts to improve public education and the many complications and missteps we've encountered along the way. We also read of encouraging progress being made in places such as Gallup-McKinley county which currently has zero "F" graded schools and has seen 509 more students become proficient in math and English-Language Arts over the past school year. For all the doom and gloom around New Mexico, it's important to remember that with high expectations and a focus on student learning neither poverty nor one's zip code is destiny.

    Whether you are a wholehearted supporter of the changes of the last six years, or have a skeptical eye towards the reforms we've seen, one thing we surely need to agree on in the article is this from Secretary Skandera: "It should not matter what zip code you live in for how prepared you are for life. People say maybe it’s not possible to have high expectations for all kids [and] there are tough circumstances – poverty, English as a second language – but we have the same expectations no matter the beginnings. We are going to make diplomas meaningful. We are going to make sure [students] are successful in life."
  • [NATIONAL: PROFILE] As I mentioned in a recent post, BASIS is a 20-year-old network of 27 public charter, private and international schools spanning five states in the U.S. They also run four of the top five schools in the country according to U.S. News and World Report's 2017 rankings, with those four schools in neighboring Arizona. This lengthy profile from The 74 Million provides insight into what makes the network tick and how BASIS combines high expectations, deeply knowledgeable teachers, international standards and test-based mastery to ensure all their students, regardless of zip code, graduate high school ready for college and career.
  • [NATIONAL: SURVEY] Letting our students speak for themselves is a foundational value for public education, and here's what they have to say: Nearly three-quarters of first-generation college students view education as the best pathway out poverty, according to a new survey by Students for Education Reform and Mercury. These students are a diverse group, with 62% receiving free or reduced-price lunches and 37% living in a home where a language other than English was spoken. Of those surveyed, 74% agree that families should be able to choose the best school for their child. More than half believe their educational experience would have been better with school choice, and 44% would have attended another school if it had been an option. But only 32% reported that their district offered school choice.
Students First NextGen Survey 2017

[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.

I've taken the liberty of adding every email list recipient directly to the MailChimp listserv so you'll automatically receive an email anytime a new post is created. If you'd like to be removed simply click "Unsubscribe" near the bottom of the email or send an email to seth.saavedra@50can.org. Please continue to share the blog and these biweekly updates. Here's this week's round up:

  • [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