Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Public Schools’ Hawthorne Elementary School, which was facing possible closure at the end of this school year after previously receiving six straight F grades from the state Public Education Department, improved its grade to a C for 2017-18 in the newest report released Friday.
Under the most recent PED-mandated proposal for the school, that C grade will allow the school to stay open through the 2019-2020 school year if APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy signs off on the improvement plan proposed by the state.
Reedy has refused to sign previously, saying she would not agree to close Hawthorne. A spokeswoman for the school declined to say Friday if the improved grade would change the district’s position.
The report also showed that one other APS school identified as in need of “more rigorous intervention,” or MRI, moved from an F to a C, as well. That school was Los Padillas Elementary School.
This year’s grades and future results are indicators of what will happen next at these schools, according to the MRI improvement plans.
That MRI effort by PED – which is the first time schools in the state have been categorized as in need of intervention by the state based on their grades and required to develop improvement plans – has sparked a monthslong process between Albuquerque Public Schools, the district with three out of the four MRI schools in New Mexico, and even legal action to finalize next steps at the schools.
Los Padillas has to earn at least a C on two of the next three annual report cards to exit MRI status, according to its improvement plan.
But Whittier Elementary School, APS’ third MRI school, received another F – making seven in a row.
“Whittier is the only school in the state to get a seventh F school grade,” PED secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski told the Journal.
According to Whittier’s MRI improvement plan, the school will move toward closure if it gets another F at the end of this school year.
Los Padillas and Whittier elementaries had their redesign plans, which aim to get them out of “more rigorous intervention” status, approved by PED earlier this year.
For Hawthorne Elementary, its initial redesign plan was denied by PED and instead the school was required to “champion and provide choice,” which requires APS to provide information to families about higher-performing schools their students may transfer to and to accommodate any transfers. The plan called for it to face closure at the end of this year if it received an F in this latest report.
Reedy had refused to sign the “champion and provide choice” plan due to that closure stipulation.
PED had been waiting for Hawthorne’s 2018 grade before it decided what would happen next at the school. Ruszkowski said the C grade means Hawthorne stays open through this and the next school year if Reedy signs the plan.
APS earlier appealed Ruszkowski’s decisions on Hawthorne, asking a judge to decide whether PED is overstepping its authority.
Ruszkowski said he would again ask Reedy to sign the same improvement plan. If she doesn’t agree, PED will pick another route for the school, which could include closure at the end of the school year, he said.
According to the “champion and provide choice” plan, Hawthorne must earn a C or better at the end of this current school year and the next to remain open.
If Hawthorne earns an F at the end of the 2018-19 school year, it will move toward closure at the end of the 2019-20 academic year, according to the plan.