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Editorial: 2 Districts Enact Own Education Reforms

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On the surface, three plans announced this week may seem like divergent paths for getting schools on the same achievement page.

In the East Mountains, an Albuquerque Public Schools elementary and middle school are merging to create a K-8 campus; in the Southeast Heights, an APS elementary will become a magnet school with an intense focus on teaching English language learners.

But both moves are centered on the district’s transition to Common Core standards, a set of national benchmarks adopted by most states that emphasize deeper understanding of fewer topics.

Combining A. Montoya Elementary School and Roosevelt Middle School is designed not only to eliminate duplicative use of resources but also to ease the transition from elementary to middle school while allowing older students to act as mentors to younger peers. Focusing on ESL at Emerson Elementary School is geared toward improving math and reading proficiency rates that are in the teens. As more than half the school’s student body is learning English, the move could also help address the achievement gap.

Also on the education reform front is Placitas Elementary, which received a “D” from the state Public Education Department and has been plagued by declining enrollment and complaints of less rigorous expectations. Bernalillo Public Schools superintendent Allan Tapia is having all eight of the school’s teachers reapply and interview for their jobs. “When teachers are in a school for a long time, they can get complacent and comfortable,” he says. “I wanted to shake things up. Sometimes a fresh start is healthy for the students and the teachers.”

It is. And New Mexico has been waiting for a fresh start for a long time.

Each project is a pilot of sorts and should be closely evaluated so that which delivers higher student achievement is replicated and that which doesn’t is abandoned. But the fact APS, one of the largest districts in the nation, and Bernalillo, one of the smallest, are moving forward with different education reforms shows officials understand two things:

One size does not fit all, and all students deserve the opportunity to succeed academically.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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