PED taps four schools for ‘rigorous intervention’

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico Public Education Department has placed four low-performing public elementary schools – three within Albuquerque Public Schools – on a list for “More Rigorous Interventions” that could include closure or relaunch as charter schools.

Hawthorne Elementary School, at 420 General Somervell SE, and Whittier Elementary School, at 1110 Quincy SE, landed on the list after receiving six consecutive F grades since 2012.

Los Padillas Elementary School at 2525 Los Padillas SW has earned five consecutive F’s, as has Dulce Elementary School, near the Colorado border.

Under PED’s mandate, APS and Dulce Independent Schools have until Jan. 9 to choose one of four options to improve performance.

Christopher Ruszkowski

The options are outlined in PED’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act – a 2015 federal law that gives states more control of education policy:

• Close the school and enroll students in other area schools that are higher performing.

• Relaunch the school under a charter school operator that has been selected through a rigorous state or local review process.

• “Champion” parents’ option to move their children into higher-performing charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning or homeschooling. This may also include the creation and expansion of state or local school voucher programs.

• Significantly restructure and redesign the school through steps like extending instructional time, changing the staff to include only top-rated educators or adopting state-selected curriculum approaches.

New Mexico Secretary of Education-designate Christopher Ruszkowski told the Journal that he imagines the districts will decide to restructure and redesign the four schools, rather than pick more drastic options like school closures or relaunching them as charters.

A full plan outlining the turnaround steps is due on Feb. 12. It must be approved by PED and will go into effect during the 2018-2019 school year.

If APS or Dulce Independent Schools fail to submit plans, the state will choose from the four options for them.

“For Albuquerque, this is a gut check moment,” Ruszkowski said. “Albuquerque talks a lot about equity and access, but when you have kids trapped in a failing school for six straight years, I don’t know what that means for equity and access.”

He questioned why APS hasn’t taken more action to improve these schools on its own, and said he expects the district will make excuses by citing the schools’ poverty rates and demographics.

In a message posted online and emailed to district employees, Superintendent Raquel Reedy said APS is “committed to making sure our students get the best education possible.”

Over the next few weeks, the three low-performing APS elementary schools will collect community feedback to come up with a plan, and Reedy stressed that the process will be transparent.

“No surprises,” she said in the message.

On Tueday, PED also announced two other categories of struggling schools, which are doing better than those on the “More Rigorous Interventions” list, but still need improvement.

The 86 “Comprehensive and Improvement Schools” – representing 32 districts and 15 state authorized charter schools – are in the lowest-performing 5 percent of high-poverty schools over a three-year average or have a graduation rate below 67 percent for two of the past three years.

If these schools don’t improve by 2021, they will be moved to the “rigorous interventions” category.

And 111 Targeted Support and Improvement schools could be doing well overall, but have at least one low-performing subgroup, such as English language learners or special education students.

PED is allocating roughly $50 million in federal money, available across four years, to support the turn-around efforts at the “More Rigorous Intervention” and “Comprehensive and Improvement Schools” schools.

Of the $50 million, roughly $14 million comes from a new ESSA direct students services grant that will fund targeted academic interventions for specific populations of kids.

The grant is available to all schools in New Mexico, but preference will be given to the roughly 200 low-performing schools classified as MRI, CIS or TSI.

Reedy said these schools “will be looking at ways to make significant changes to their educational approach so that students are more successful.”

“Whether your school is labeled MRI, CSI, TSI or another acronym, what matters most is that we work together as a community to improve the academic success of all of our students,” she said in the message.

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