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Schools need turnaround plans

Whatever you do, please don’t let our schools keep failing our students.

That’s my urgent message to the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) on this April 11 deadline for Albuquerque and Dulce to submit their second-chance school turnaround proposals for Dulce, Hawthorne, Los Padillas and Whittier elementaries. For the sake of our students, I encourage community members to stand with me in sending this message. We can’t afford anything less than real transformation in our public schools.

NMPED rejected initial plans from both districts last month, pointing to a lack of urgency, clarity and cohesion in the strategies to dramatically improve the quality of education in each of the chronically struggling public elementary schools.

With so much at stake – from the trajectory of our kids’ lives to the future of New Mexico’s economy – I implore Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski and the NMPED to remain steadfast in their high standards for school turnaround strategies. Their decision in coming weeks will set a ground-breaking precedent: whether or not we allow failure to continue, what we expect from our public schools and how we intervene when expectations aren’t met. I hope both districts were able to thoughtfully and completely reinvent their plans in the course of three weeks. If they weren’t, the NMPED must say so and take immediate, bold action – because our kids don’t have time to wait.

Data from 2016 paints a picture that demands our attention. In the four schools identified for more rigorous intervention, on average, less than 6 percent of students were able to demonstrate proficiency in reading, English language arts and math on assessments by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. That means, of the 1,300 students enrolled in these schools, only 78 are mastering content at their grade level.

The four schools flagged for improvement have been failing on state-issued report cards, graded in part by student achievement, for five or six years in a row. That’s a child’s entire educational journey from kindergarten to fifth grade. Some of those young learners have been attending an F-graded school since their first day in a classroom. The result is a compromised foundation for continued learning and a potential inability to emerge in adulthood as the innovative, community-oriented leaders we so desperately need in New Mexico.

Albuquerque and Dulce may get a second bite of the apple, but our kids will not. What they learn in elementary school, they learn. What they don’t, they don’t. Now’s the chance for our community to ask ourselves how seriously we take the cornerstone years of education.

NewMexicoKidsCAN, The New Mexico Campaign for Achievement Now, is a local nonprofit organization that advocates for community-informed, student-centered and research-backed education policies. To learn more, visit www.nmkidscan.org.

 

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