PED rejects APS plans for three failing schools


Albuquerque Public Schools’ plans to turn around its worst-performing schools were denied by the New Mexico Public Education Department, but the state agency is giving APS one more chance to resubmit.

NMPED is giving the district three more weeks to submit more acceptable plans, telling the Journal APS’ submissions didn’t significantly redesign or restructure three schools needing “more rigorous interventions” or MRIs in every way.

Now, plans for Los Padillas, Whittier and Hawthorne elementary schools — all of which have received five or six consecutive F school grades —have to go back to the drawing board with feedback given by NMPED in mind.

The new deadline is April 11.

NMPED Secretary of Education Christopher Ruszkowski’s response letters to APS stated each of the applications “lacks the requisite urgency, clarity, and cohesiveness to dramatically improve student achievement outcomes.”

Ruszkowski sent three letters addressed to Superintendent Raquel Reedy about the three schools’ applications, outlining eight areas of feedback on which the schools need to focus. The areas range from teacher compensation and instructional time increases to revising budgetary requests.

“The plan does not fully prioritize the needs of our students,” Ruszkowski wrote about each school.

NMPED also recommended the suspension of the district’s collective bargaining agreement for the next three years for the schools.

” In an urgent school turnaround situation with our students’ futures at stake, the superintendent and school principal will need the freedom to manage all aspects of the district and school, and the freedom to make student-centered decisions pertaining to scheduling and staffing,” according to the letter.

APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the administration is “grateful for and appreciates the Public Education Department’s feedback” and “APS looks forward to meeting with the Public Education Department.”

Armenta said the Board of Education and Reedy will go over NMPED’s comments and meet with the principals to decide the next steps.

If NMPED denies this next round of applications, the agency will decide what happens to the schools, which could include closures.

And if the plans are accepted, NMPED will appoint an advisory council to make sure schools stick to the MRI plan and to provide oversight. The five-member council would be made up of educators “with a track record of substantial student achievement growth” including exemplary teachers and high-performing principals.

It’s been about six years of failing grades for these schools, which are also the state’s worst-performing. That’s enough time for a full cohort of children to complete an elementary program there.

“We can all agree that an entire generation of students has been underserved. I know that we all fundamentally believe that this need not be the case for any student in APS, or for any student across the state of New Mexico. It is a moral imperative that no student be underserved in this manner and for such a long period of time,” Ruszkowski wrote in his letters.

APS had four options when it learned of the MRI designations: close the school, restart as a charter school, “champion and provide choice” or restructure and redesign.

NMPED defines champion and provide choice as, “Champion a range of choices in an open system that focuses on new approaches to learning.” Those choices may look like public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning or homeschooling.

APS chose the restructure and redesign approach for all of the MRI schools, sending off plans to NMPED after two extensions were given during the process.

Dulce Elementary School, in the Dulce Public Schools district, also made the MRI list. Dulce’s application was denied and must be resubmitted by April 11 as well.

PED suggestions

Teachers: Bring in educators with highly effective or exemplary performances.

Compensation: Pay for teachers should be higher at the MRI schools than other schools in the district.

Instructional time: Amount of time students spend with high-performing teachers should increase and any time they spend with outside entities or consultants should be in addition to time with teachers, not in place of.

Principals: They should have multiyear track records of increasing student performances and be paid higher salaries than any other principals in the district.

Assessments: More evidence-based and state standard-alignment for assessments, curriculum and instruction, including utilizing state-approved assessments. Also eliminate any redundant or parallel assessment that duplicates efforts at the school and district level.

At the roots: Plans should “identify clear metrics for development of the whole child — academic, cultural, social, emotional, etc.” It calls for more resources to meet students’ needs and allowing innovative deployment of resources available to the community.

Budget: Budgetary requests shouldn’t exceed $100,000 for the planning period and $675,000 per implementation year for the school. And the schools should show all the ways state funds, federal funds, grant funds and all other funds are being utilized for this plan.

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