The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education is starting 2023 off on the right foot. Setting concrete goals for improved student achievement in a district where just one in three students can read at grade level and fewer than one in four can do grade-level math is long overdue.
And in a state that ranks dead last in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math, it’s a step that not only other districts, but the state Department of Education, should take. (The shameful state of affairs is the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed just 21% of N.M. fourth-graders could read at grade level and 19% could do grade-level math. For eighth-graders, around 18% were proficient in reading and about 13% were proficient in math.)
Last week the board voted 6-0 to adopt five-year goals of 10 percentage point increases in third-grade reading proficiency and fourth-grade math proficiency over upcoming 2023 results for specific student groups, as well as increasing the percentage of high school graduates who earn credit in two or more Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual credit courses, or earn an industry certification or Bilingual Seal.
Including an industry certification and Bilingual Seal as options for the high school goals is crucial to preparing all our students for either a college or a career path.
It’s unfortunate the vote was not truly unanimous, as Board Vice President Peggy Muller-Aragón walked out of an earlier meeting when the goals were targeted to African American, Indigenous, economically disadvantaged, English learners and students with disabilities. While those groups make up the majority of all APS pupils, Muller-Aragón is correct that the district is entrusted with educating “all of our kids; (it) doesn’t matter what color they are or how poor they are, or how rich they are.”
APS taxpayers are funding, and the district’s middle- and upper-income Hispanic, Anglo and Asian students also deserve, an education that prepares all enrolled students for life after K-12.
But Board President Yolanda Montoya-Cordova is right, that setting the goals is “holding ourselves accountable. It’s like creating that North Star of where we want to go … we’re going to be successful, I think, the more focused we can be.”
And the more consistent. It is essential goals last longer than one board member or administrator’s tenure. Montoya-Cordova says the new five-year roadmap for the district will be passed onto future boards. It should be. The state has a record of changing the tests used to measure student proficiency and scaling back public access to any results, and a cynic would say this purposely makes apples-to-apples comparisons impossible. The APS board’s vote has the district on a positive track, and it is important it and all N.M. districts establish baselines on student performance, set concrete goals for improvement, institute curricula that helps students achieve them and regularly and publicly release results so students, parents, educators and taxpayers know if our districts and our state are finally making progress in K-12 education.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.