The Miseducation of Albuquerque Public Schools


 
 

When investigating exactly what ails Albuquerque Public Schools (APS), there is no shortage of opinions. Including from yours truly.

Spanning the full gamut from low expectations to wasted funds, there is plenty to criticize APS leadership for. In fact, the six-figure desk jockeys at City Center seem to be the only ones satisfied with the direction of the largest district in New Mexico. A district entrusted with about one of every four of New Mexico’s K12 students. Those with the most seem to do the least.

One topic that gets lots of air time but is rarely enacted upon in a meaningful way is the gaping disparities, especially along lines of race, in student discipline and opportunities for high-level academic experiences.

Tackling this issue head on, ProPublica built “an interactive database to examine racial disparities in educational opportunities and school discipline.” Using my favorite mode of data visualization, ProPublic created interactive graphs and tables to shed light on these disparities across the country.

Sadly, as I dig through the details for APS, the answer to the above question is an unequivocal YES. To be a Hispanic, Black, or Native student in APS is to be under-served and over-disciplined.

By every measure ProPublica shares, APS has massive gaps along racial lines. Let’s start with Opportunity:

 
 

  • White students are 2.5 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Native American students

  • White students are 1.6 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Black students

  • White students are 1.5 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Hispanic students

  • White students are 1.3 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as multiracial students

Next, Discipline:

 
 
  • Black students are 4.1 times as likely to be suspended as White students

  • Hispanic students are 1.6 times as likely to be suspended as White students

  • Multiracial students are 2.2 times as likely to be suspended as White students

  • Native American or Alaska Native students are 2 times as likely to be suspended as White students

And, finally, let’s look at Opportunity Gaps:

 
 
  • Black students are, on average, academically 2.1 grades behind White students

  • Hispanic students are, on average, academically 2.1 grades behind White students

To get a better sense of how APS compares to New Mexico as a state, ProPublica provides these:

And for a sense of the composition of APS’s teaching force of 5,600+, we have this:

All the above is district-wide data for APS, though you’ll find school-by-school tables here. Of course, when one asks APS how these dismal outcomes take place, you’ll get the same four-part response:

  1. “It’s not our fault, blame __________.” [INSERT: parents, teachers, families, NMPED, the NRA, middle school athletics, hurricanes]

  2. Give us more money and we’ll fix it. We’ll even hire more “zone superintendents” to do __________.” [???]

  3. “Don’t hold us accountable. Graduation rates, assessment scores, and school grades don’t matter. Only how we feel about things.”

  4. “Again, we told you it’s not our fault. Remember the hurricanes?” [Never mind the two weekend-long birthday parties.]

When it comes to equity, cultural relevance, and academic rigor, APS sure talks a big game, making a lot of promises. APS leaders try to say all the right things while doing nearly none of them.