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Editorial: APS shows students where they stand – end of the line

The revised high school class schedule at Albuquerque Public Schools reinforces a simple concept: APS is a jobs program first, and student achievement comes second.

Under former interim Superintendent Brad Winter, the state’s largest district last year adopted a schedule used up the hill at smaller – and higher performing – Rio Rancho Public Schools. That six-class schedule ensured that students saw teachers in their core English and math classes more often, while still getting some longer 90-minute periods for things like science labs.

RRPS has higher test scores and stronger graduation rates – 84 percent vs. APS’ 63 percent. An added bonus is that the schedule saved APS $4.3 million a year, though Winter made a point of emphasizing the academic improvement goal.

It didn’t last long.

This week, the APS Board of Education dropped the six-class load, reverting to a five-class schedule that gives teachers not only their daily preparation period, but a free period every day for departmental planning in groups called “Professional Learning Communities.” It means students will get less time in core subjects, and taxpayers are on the hook for hiring 70 to 80 additional teachers and staff.

Not only is this not an investment in student achievement, it is counter to the notion of fiscal responsibility. The new schedule will increase the district’s projected shortfall from $5.2 million to $9.5 million and lead to bigger classes. Throw in that it creates a disparity with elementary and middle school teachers as well as central office and support staff – who don’t get an extra free collaboration period every school day.

There is absolutely nothing in this decision that says APS puts kids and the public first.

But then, the same goes for how the board treated Winter’s other signature reform attempt, aligning its poorest-performing elementary schools with a turnaround program from the University of Virginia – a program that would have cost APS nothing.

The board voted 4-3 against adopting it as a pilot last year, decrying the state government systems that allocated the funding and picked the struggling schools, as well as the fact it wasn’t a “local” program.

How about this theory as a driver for the board majority, consisting of David Peercy, Barbara Petersen, Lorenzo Garcia and Steven Michael Quezada: We sure don’t want a program in here run by a bunch of outsiders that shows kids can learn at higher levels.

Don’t forget APS is currently spending millions to build a duplicative and unnecessary employee health clinic while some of its schools are falling apart.

Sadly, the current administration and the school board have yet to walk their “kids come first” talk. Rather the order is a vocal teachers’ union and its handful of demonstrators first, with the 85,706 students and the taxpaying public in the rearview mirror.

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.