In education, it's about more quality time in classrooms - Albuquerque Journal

In education, it’s about more quality time in classrooms

At Public Charter Schools of New Mexico, we believe in a world where every student has their educational needs met because they have a choice of public school that best suits them. While our organization works to support and advocate for charter schools, the scope of our advocacy involves any issue with the promise to deliver better results for all students in the state.

One of the most pressing items under consideration this legislative session centers on extending the school year for New Mexico students. For years, groups like the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) and the Legislative Finance Committee have been exploring adding instructional days to the school calendar. This year’s proposals focus on a new standard of 1,140 instructional hours for both elementary and secondary students, a significant increase from current levels as set by statute. We feel that the charter school perspective needs to be kept at the forefront of this conversation due to the unique learning environments of charter schools and each community’s specific needs.

New Mexico charter schools have long recognized that more quality instruction provides better outcomes for students. That’s why most of our member schools around the state already meet the number of instructional hours established in the proposals. In fact, we’ve found our highest performing charter schools have longer school days, not longer school years, which allow instructors and support staff that much more time to provide quality instruction that is tailored to the individual student. In any proposal the Legislature considers related to an extended school year, we advocate for incentives that provide more instructional hours but not necessarily additional days, and for local control so each school district and charter school can freely create a school calendar that is best for them and their communities. We believe a proposal from the Governor’s Office does just this.

Of course, more time in the classroom is only beneficial if it is quality time. In their analysis of one proposal, the LESC rightly noted students in classrooms with high-quality, focused teachers with strong classroom management skills have better outcomes. We need to ensure we are providing the strongest educational experience possible in the hours we have with our students, something New Mexico’s public charter schools are delivering with their high-achieving educational programs.

The legislative proposals also mandate extra professional development time rather than traditional instructional time. Again, the proposals for additional professional development are already met by most public charter schools in the state. We support proposals that allow schools to make student-centered decisions to balance delivering academic content, tutoring and staff professional development. Our member charter schools prioritize staff development and empower their instructors to provide a dynamic student experience. We insist any new state policy allows that same environment for all public schools.

Public charter schools are delivering strong results for students in New Mexico because we’ve used our autonomy to create distinct academic programs that capture students’ minds and make decisions that are centered on their success. A proposal to incentivize more hours, not days, of quality instruction and allowing schools to balance the professional development needs of teachers alongside the needs of their communities will make public education stronger. We need to look no further than our public charter school environment for proof.

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