Last month, the Chamber’s 2019-2020 Leadership Albuquerque cohort took part in this year’s Early & K-12 Education Program Day, covering public education funding policy, new perspectives on the importance of early childhood education, the charter school ecosystem, and a changing landscape in accountability for schools, teachers, and students.
The cohort of business and community leaders began the day in the Albuquerque Public Schools Board Room, where they heard from APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy, who outlined how large Albuquerque’s school system is relative to others in the state — approximately 80,000 students in 143 schools spread across 1200 square miles. “APS is one of the few entities that touches nearly every life in this city,” noted Superintendent Reedy. “The city and the district are interwoven.” She also described teaching as “one of the most honorable and most difficult professions”, mentioning that while graduation rates are improving, the district still has roughly 100 teacher vacancies.
NMKidsCAN Executive Director Amanda Aragon then gave the Leadership Albuquerque cohort an overview of the state’s academic results and changes to the school accountability, teacher evaluation, and student assessment systems over the last year. Aragon emphasized the importance of keeping the state’s policies focused on ensuring the best results for kids and leveraging the state’s socio-economic and ethnic diversity as a benefit rather than using it as an excuse. Aragon also reiterated the importance of using the state’s large investment in public education — an increase of nearly $500 million in 2019 — wisely and strategically to improve student outcomes. “New Mexico has one of the most equitable school funding mechanisms in the nation,” Aragon said, singling out districts that have improved over the last several years with diverse student populations and high poverty rates such as Gadsden, Gallup, and Farmington.
The day continued with New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership Vice President of Policy and Stakeholder Engagement Kate Noble, who spoke about the significance of the “broad bipartisan support” for the establishment of the new Early Childhood Education and Care Department, which was strongly backed by the Chamber in the 2019 legislative session. Public Charter Schools of New Mexico Executive Director Matt Pahl then gave an overview of charter schools, emphasizing survey results showing broad public support for charter options — “We like the idea that families get to choose” — and the pairing of greater flexibility with greater accountability for charters.
NMKidsCAN Executive Director Amanda Aragon gives a presentation to Leadership Albuquerque members
on changes to New Mexico’s school and teacher accountability systems
The Leadership Albuquerque class then made their way to the Chamber’s Education Reform Signature Event with Public Education Secretary Designate Ryan Stewart before heading to Mission Achievement and Success Charter School (MAS), one of the top-rated K-12 public schools in the state and one of the largest charter schools in New Mexico. There, Legislative Finance Committee Deputy Director Charles Sallee gave a presentation outlining New Mexico’s unique public school funding system, the importance of energy development to that funding system, and enrollment trends across the state (for example, charter school attendance continues to increase as district enrollment declines). Sallee also spoke to program evaluations for programs showing promising results when implemented with fidelity, like the extended-year K-5+, and stated that such evidence shows that “poverty shouldn’t be an excuse for low performance.”
Finally, the Leadership Albuquerque cohort concluded a packed day with a tour of MAS from founder and principal JoAnn Mitchell, seeing for themselves the significance of strong school leadership, a commitment to high standards and data-driven instruction, and a belief that all children can succeed academically.