What will you do?
That was the question posed to several of our students graduating this week. You can see what they had to say on the district website at APS.edu or on the giant screens at Tingley Coliseum, where the Class of 2013 is walking across the stage to pick up well-earned diplomas.
This is a diverse group of graduates with plans as wide and varied as their backgrounds, skin color and personalities. Some are continuing their education in prestigious universities hundreds of miles from home, while others will become Lobos or Greyhounds or Aggies on lottery scholarships. Some see themselves as lawyers and doctors and teachers, while others are already committed to serving their country in the military or law enforcement. And a few, admittedly, aren’t really sure what they’re going to do after high school. Their dreams will take them across the country or around the world or keep them close to home. Wherever they may end up, right now they all share a vision of happiness and success. We wish the same for them and are honored that we were able to provide an educational foundation to help them realize their dreams.
That’s what we want for all of our students, from the pre-schoolers just learning their ABCs to the seniors throwing their caps in the air. We’re doing a better job meeting that goal. When I first became superintendent five years ago, our graduation rate was abysmal. We all knew we had to do more – all of us: the Board of Education, principals, teachers, parents, community and, yes, our students. We set the goal of a 70 percent graduation rate. And we met it. Seven out of 10 of our students are now graduating in four years. Even more are taking the summer or an extra semester or two to earn their diplomas.
That’s progress. But it’s not good enough.
We recently set a new four-year graduation goal of 75 percent. I want three out of four kids earning their diplomas in four years. So, it’s only fair to ask, what will we as a school district do?
We’ll continue supporting students by extending the day at our comprehensive high schools and by offering programs like AVID at more than two dozen of our schools for students who have the potential to succeed, but need an extra push. We’ll continue small learning communities and advisories that allow teachers to work with smaller groups of students, and professional learning communities that keep educators communicating with and learning from each other.
We’re also offering more choices for our students and families. Our varied paths to graduation now include nex+Gen Academy, a project-based learning school with an emphasis on technology; the new dual-credit school at CNM that will require students to earn college credit along with their high school diploma; a new full-time virtual high school at eCADEMY; and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at Sandia High.
And we’re taking an active role in Mission: Graduate, an effort led by the United Way of Central New Mexico to add 60,000 two-year, four-year and graduate degrees above and beyond the norm to central New Mexico by 2020. We are partnering with several other entities that have a stake in the future of our community including CNM, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, UNM, the city of Albuquerque, Rio Rancho Public Schools, SIPI, Intel, PNM, the Albuquerque Journal and others.
This cradle-to-career effort aspires to provide seamless, equitable opportunities for all children and youth. It’s an ambitious project that benefits our students, their families and our community as a whole.
So, you ask, what will we do? We will do everything we can to help our kids – our future graduates – achieve their dreams of happiness and success.
Winston Brooks, Albuquerque’s school superintendent, writes a monthly column. Send comments or questions to superintendent@ aps.edu.