I want to give Gov. Susana Martinez a big ‘thank you” for attending the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools’ 12th Annual Conference and addressing the attendees. The governor’s appearance was a very pleasant surprise to nearly 500 charter school leaders and Governing Council members. Her speech to the group, which resulted in a rousing standing ovation, pledged her support of charter schools, their funding, and the creation of future quality charter school options for parents. Recognizing charter schools as an effective option for parents, Gov. Martinez presented several facts about charter schools using the new A-F grading system for schools:
♦ Four of the top 10 schools in New Mexico are charter schools;
♦ Forty schools in New Mexico earned an A. While comprising only 10 percent of the total number of schools, 10 of the 40 schools receiving an A were charter schools; and
♦ Charter schools closed the achievement gap between the lowest performing students and the highest performing students 20 percent faster than traditional schools.
While citing the successes of charter schools, the governor challenged the audience to continue to set even higher standards. She asked for charters to continue to be leaders in education reform and to challenge the status quo. The governor asked the attendees to join her in her efforts to improve education for students in New Mexico by supporting her reform initiatives.
By nature, charter schools, and the people who work in them, are reformers of education. Supporting initiatives aimed at improving education go hand-in-hand with the charter philosophy. Charters were created with the intent of changing the status quo. Thus, it makes sense for New Mexico charter leaders to embrace and support changes to an educational system that is rated among the lowest in the country. Charters schools, like the governor’s reform initiatives, started with the idea that with changes, improvement is possible. While success is not automatically guaranteed, reform is about taking a risk with the intent that trying something new, modifying that “something” along the way, and measuring the changes, that improvement will occur. What we do know is that if we do nothing, nothing will change.
Under the new A-F grading system for schools, four of the top 10 public schools in New Mexico are charter schools. The top ranking schools are: Southwest Intermediate Learning Center Charter, Alice King Community Charter School, and Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science in Albuquerque; and Sidney Gutierrez Middle Charter School in Roswell. Congratulations to these charter schools, and all the charter schools that are improving education in New Mexico, for “Making the Grade.”
New Mexico charter schools are leading education reform in other ways as well. While Sandia High School is getting recognition for starting an International Baccalaureate diploma program, Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School, a tuition-free public charter school in Albuquerque, already has a successful IB diploma program. Other charter schools in New Mexico offering IB programs include: Corrales International, The International School at Mesa del Sol, New Mexico International School, and Cien Aguas.
Additionally at the 2012 Conference, there were seven awards given to distinguished charter school and community leaders:
♦ The Public Academy for Performing Arts (PAPA) was awarded the 2012 Charter School of the Year;
♦ The 2012 Charter School Student of the Year was Noel Encinas;
♦ Ray Nance of The ASK Academy received the 2012 Charter School Teacher of the Year award;
♦ Cindy Montoya of the New Mexico School for the Arts received the award for 2012 Charter School Principal of the Year;
♦ Retiring Sens. Mark Boitano and Cynthia Nava, who have been instrumental in the creation and growth of charter schools in New Mexico, were presented with Distinguished Service Awards; and
♦ The 2012 Legislator of the Year Award was presented to Sen. John Sapien for his efforts to pass Senate Bill 446, requiring contracts between charter schools and the chartering authority.
Congratulations to these award winners for helping to reform education in New Mexico.
Bruce Hegwer, the executive director of the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools, writes a monthly column for the Journal.