SUPERINTENDENT'S PLAN TO BOOST SCHOOLS: NEW 'SUPPORT ZONES' by Robert Nott, Santa Fe New Mexican, October 16, 2012
Superintendent Joel Boyd on Tuesday laid out preliminary plans for reforming and restructuring the academically challenged Santa Fe Public Schools by focusing largely on giving schools autonomy with regard to programming and funding.
Boyd titled his presentation during Tuesday evening’s school board meeting “Creating a System of World-Class Schools: Putting Every Child on a Path to College and Career Success” and described it as “a theory of action for systemwide reform with a snapshot of a few strategies.”
Boyd was hired roughly 75 days ago with a mandate to overhaul a school district battling low graduation rates, poor scores on standardized tests and divisions over how to address these and other problems.
In addition to seeking a way to get parents and others in the community to take more responsibility for helping boost student performance, he said the district will redefine the role of its central office and its roughly 25 schools by categorizing them into three zones. These would reflect the type of support the district gives to each site.
For instance, schools in the Innovation Zone would receive full autonomy to do what they think is best for their students in terms of programming and how they use funds. Schools in the Acceleration Zone would earn increased but not full autonomy, as well as coaching and guidance to support school-based decisions, and on-site monitoring to ensure they are improving. Schools in the Transformation Zone would receive frequent monitoring, more professional-development opportunities for teachers, targeted intervention programs for students and collaborative planning when it comes to the school’s budget.
The district compiled these zone designations based on data culled from various areas, including student achievement, relative achievement (how a school compares to similar schools within the state), relative growth of students within a school and parent engagement and feedback.
Wood-Gormley and Piñon elementary schools and Amy Biehl Community School at Rancho Viejo all earned high points and thus are considered Innovation Zone schools, according to the district’s score.
Another 16 schools, including Acequia Madre Elementary School, Ramirez-Thomas Elementary School, Capshaw Middle School and Santa Fe High School, fall into the Acceleration Zone category. Nine other schools, including Capital High School, Aspen Community Magnet School and the district-chartered Tierra Encantada, are in the Transformation Zone.
Boyd’s plan includes creation of performance compacts setting out specific goals for educators and administrators and annual evaluations based on those compacts.
In addition, his plan emphasizes “Seven Keys for College Readiness” to ensure students keep pace through middle and high school so they can move on to college. Among those keys: Scoring “advanced” in reading and math on the state’s Standards Based Assessments, completing Algebra 1 with at least a B by the eighth grade and completing Algebra 2 with at least a C by the 11th grade, and earning satisfactory scores on Advanced Placement, ACT and SAT exams.
“There is no silver bullet. … This work will be hard and steady work every day,” Boyd said. Concerning details, Boyd said he will release more specific findings during an Oct. 29 study session and then offer “a more clearly formulated and articulated” plan by the time of his State of the Schools speech, slated for Nov. 26.
The five school board members mostly praised the report, with Barbara Gudwin noting that it is “a tremendous step in the right direction.” But she and board members Linda Trujillo and Glenn Wikle asked Boyd and his team to take student leadership efforts and community involvement into account when measuring the district’s schools.
One possible move within the plan would be to create a ninth-grade academy and move all of the district’s 10th-, 11th-, and 12th-graders into another site. Boyd has made it clear that the district would have to gain community support and set this programming in place first before deciding locales for the two sites. But it seems the district would have little choice but to turn Capital High School into the ninth-grade academy and make the larger Santa Fe High campus home to grades 10-12. Boyd said this discussion is not about fusing two schools but about creating more opportunities for students.
Only board President Frank Montaño spoke to this issue. “I think there should always be Demons and that there should always be Jaguars,” he said, referring to the two schools’ mascots. “It would be a huge mistake to try to deny either one of those schools of their identities.”
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or email@example.com.
CHANGES FORTHCOMING FOR SANTA FE SCHOOLS - KOB/TV, 9/9/2012
There are some changes in the works for Santa Fe public schools.
Our media partners at the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Superintendent Joel Boyd has a plan that will look at leadership and academic proficiency in all schools.
There are three models each school can fall under: Transformational - ones that need the most help; acceleration - ones that have shown some improvement but need guidance; and innovation - schools that meet mid-to-high levels of expectation.
It is unknown when the changes will take effect.
BOYD EYES NEW PLAN TO ADDRESS PROFICIENCY IN DISTRICT SCHOOLS - by Robert Nott, SF New Mexican, 9/9/12
Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd told the school board Saturday that the district plans to gauge leadership and academic proficiency of all the schools, and then give the schools more autonomy, more resources or possibly both in an effort to create a systematic strategy for improving schools.
During a seven-hour board retreat held at Santa Fe High School Saturday, Boyd also shared with the board some of his own key findings regarding the district since taking office some 40 days ago. He said the district is not doing enough to engage parents and the community at large, and noted that many parents and school communities believe that the district does not treat them all equally. He also said the district is failing to use accessible data — or has failed to even compile data — to address problems and move the district forward.
“High-performance work has been happening in pockets,” he told the board, but this work is often being performed “by people who in some ways have found a way to work around the system.”
Within a month or so, he and his team plan to designate each school as one of three in-need models: transformational, meaning they need support, guidance and some input on decision-making; acceleration, meaning they can use some help moving up the academic ladder; and innovation, meaning they are already meeting mid-to-high level expectations and can benefit from more autonomy.
Boyd said it is too early in the process to say more about his plan, and acknowledged that these school designations may not necessarily follow the state’s new A-F grading system ratings.
Not all of the necessary resources to help schools will require financing, he said, but the district will continue to look for ways to free up operational funds and leverage federal money to address the issue.
This news followed about four hours of discussion about building and maintaining a strong superintendent/school board relationship in the retreat moderated by Joseph Wise, a former school superintendent and the co-founder of Atlantic Research Partners, Inc., a Florida-based institute that provides support services to educators. Wise is also one of six members of Boyd’s transition team charged with helping him create a 100-day entry plan.
Much of Saturday’s time was taken up with lengthy discourse about communication between both individual board members and board members and the superintendent. Boyd stressed that he expects the board to support his policy recommendations during board meetings, given they will have advance time to review pertinent materials and express any concerns or doubts to him before, as he put it, “We get out there on television.”
He said he realized he would not always garner a unanimous 5-0 vote of support on all issues — a point that was emphasized by board member Barbara Gudwin, who cautioned Boyd that he would not always expect full backing when it comes to board votes.
But he said it is “offensive to staff” when board members extensively question report findings or operational decisions that may not be immediately within board jurisdiction and he noted that such actions often lead to repetitious conversation and lengthy board meetings.
Board member Steven Carrillo probably put it best when he said, “We don’t micro-manage. We mico-inquire.”
Boyd also raised the issue of the need for confidentiality at times, and urged the board members to not give off the perception that they, and not he, are the bosses of district personnel. The board’s responsibilities primarily rest with hiring a superintendent, approving the budget, and making policy, though they are expected to respond to their constituents’ concerns and queries.
Wise said boards working within a “comfort” zone, unwilling to encourage and entertain disagreement and debate, often fail both a superintendent and a school community. He said based on his experience dealing with Santa Fe’s five board members — known as one of them put it, for “spirited discussion” — they have the making of a great board.
Gudwin noted that two of the board members’ tenures are up come next March and that new board members may well be sitting in those seats. Wise said the best thing the district can do is hold a similar retreat almost immediately to ensure that those members are on board with both Boyd and the remaining members.
Boyd said the retreat was designed to make sure that he and the board are on the same page as he takes on the task of turning the district’s schools around.
“I think highly of all five of them, and I hope they think highly of me,” he said.
The retreat was open to the public, although only one person — educator/parent Yvette Martinez — showed up to speak at the public forum. She thanked the assembly for putting time into the process of building a relationship but urged immediate intervention in the schools to help teachers and parents. She also asked the board to not close down any more small schools, as it has done in the past.
Boyd noted later that there is already a growing misperception that he is for closing small schools and said there is no truth to the rumor that he or the board plans to close either Tesuque Elementary School, which is dealing with declining enrollment, or Atalaya Elementary School, which was recently approved for infrastructure improvements.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LEARNING CURVE - SUPERINTENDENT REACHES OUT TO PARENTS by Robert Nott, SF New Mexican, 9/9/2012
Some six weeks into his new job, Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd said he is already pinpointing a number of obvious challenges: “It’s becoming readily apparent that no strategy exists around supporting our lowest-performing schools,” he said Friday. “There’s also a lack of an overriding strategy to engage parents.”
He will uncover more challenges, to be sure, but he’s taking a step to readily identify them so he can address them by reaching out to parents, staffers, students and interested parties in a series of community forums, with the first one scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Capshaw Middle School on West Zia Road. Nine forums in all are scheduled through early October at various sites around the city, and, to the district’s credit, both child care (for kids ages 4-12) and Spanish-speaking translators will be available for parents during these events.
“The idea here is it’s more about me listening than speaking,” Boyd said. “I want to listen to parents and hear from them what is working and what is not working, what they want changed and what they want the same.”
Boyd said he held one such informal session last Wednesday at Zona del Sol, moderated by members of the district’s Adelante Program for Homeless Students, with parents of immigrant children. Gail Herling, Adelante’s executive director, said by phone Friday that it was a “specific listening session with the immigrant families in our program. Generally speaking, people walked away from that meeting very excited because the superintendent was respectful of our families and what they are going through. He really listened to people who recounted extreme problems, and he said, ‘If you don’t get the response you need from your teacher and principal, come to me — that’s what I am here for.’ ”
Herling said she was also impressed with the way Boyd acknowledged that he has to take time to learn, comprehend and respect the various cultures within the district. “He said we have to work together to end institutionalized racism,” she said.
Boyd said the community forums are part of his 100-day entry plan, designed to gather data and get a strong sense of what is working within the district and what needs attention and work. His aides will keep detailed notes from each session and then analyze public response for trends.
He is aware that many parents may not trust the district or simply don’t believe that any investment in such forums will pay off. “I’ve been here 30 days, and I am perceived to be part of the system, a system that has failed many families,” he said. “The work of changing that perception relates to my actions and not my words. It has less to do with what I say than what I do after these sessions.”
These forums will also allow Boyd and his new chief of staff, Latifah Phillips (who worked with Boyd in The School District of Philadelphia), to recruit parents to participate in planning for the pilot of the Parent Academy set to open in the spring. The idea is to find out what parents and families want and build programming around those needs. Potential courses include some that would show parents how to better help their children in school, GED programs for parents, and arts and entertainment enrichment. (These are the sort of programs that Santa Fe’s Ramirez Thomas Elementary School, aided in large part by a federal Turnaround grant, has been building into its community-school model.)
Boyd said the district is working on providing trained Spanish-speaking interpreters at all school board meetings, too. “Many of our parents speak Spanish, so it is our job to communicate with them in Spanish,” he said last week. (Phillips speaks English, Spanish and, for the record, Japanese.)
Visit www.sfps.info and click on the “Community Forums” link to see a full list of forum dates, times and sites — in both English and Spanish.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or email@example.com.
NEW SUPER'S THOUGHTS ON TEACHERS, TESTS AND SFPS FUTURE, August 5, 2012
The June 2012 School Administrator magazine includes a chart and article on school superintendents’ political leanings. According to the chart, 55.3 percent of the nation’s superintendents describe their politics as moderate; 30 percent are conservative; and 14.6 are liberal, with the remaining 0.1 percent falling under the “other” category.
I did not ask Santa Fe Public Schools’ new superintendent, Joel Boyd, what his political ideology is, but over the course of a few days of discussions and interviews last week, I asked him a number of questions regarding his 100-day entry plan, social promotion/retention, the A-F grading system and so on. Here’s a selection of quotes from those talks:
On the work of educators: “This work is not about tests. … It is about making good teachers happen in every classroom every day.”
On A-F grades: “The idea is right on target. … The concern with the system is that people don’t understand what leads to those grades. The challenge before the state is helping people to easily understand what leads to an A or to an F. Right now, there is a lot of gray area there.”
Where he hopes to be at the end of his 100-day entry plan: “I intend to be up and running as if I have been here for a much longer time.”
On social promotion/retention: “Retention is a good move for some children, but you have to know the child. There are significant consequences for youngsters if you retain them without individual intervention — all we’ve done in some cases is retain them, and now they are a year older in the same grade.”
Of the demands of his job in relation to what he expects of his teachers, principals and staff: “If they do their job well, my job is easy.”
On the future of Santa Fe Public Schools: “I do believe we can be the best school district in the state.”
In response to a Santa Fe Public Schools’ staffer who asked Boyd how he intends to deal with the district’s teachers union and the sometimes contentious collective bargaining agreement between the district and union personnel: “It’s not just one party’s fault. We have to reflect on what we bring to the table and see the faults and challenges in ourselves first.” Teachers, Boyd said, “are not in it for the paycheck. They want what is right for kids.”
On his expectation of the school board: “The relationship between a superintendent and a school board is key to the superintendent’s success, and maintaining a positive relationship there is the key to sustaining positive results for the district.”
On whether he expects to still have enthusiasm and passion for the job in a year: “I am as I come. I only know one way to be. I speak with the passion that is me. It’s not fabricated. It’s not orchestrated. I would say it is a personal expectation that I will carry this passion with me throughout my entire career.”
Incidentally, at last week’s administrators’ retreat for district personnel, Boyd made a point of praising Wood Gormley Elementary School in Santa Fe for earning the highest ranking in the state (92.4 percent) in the recent A-F school grading system. So here’s a belated congratulations to Wood Gormley’s staff and students — great job, all.
Pecos Independent School District Superintendent Fred Trujillo informed me that he is inviting Gov. Susana Martinez and Secretary of Public Education-designate Hanna Skandera to a late August celebration of the district’s recently updated and upgraded grades. Pecos Elementary School and Pecos High School both earned B’s this time around. Pecos Middle School netted a C but was, as Trujillo points out, just a half-point away from garnering a B. Back in January, when the state released preliminary grades, Pecos Middle School got a D, and Pecos High School got a C. The elementary school received a B then, as well. Congrats, Pecos staffers, students and superintendent.
NEW SFPS SUPERINTENDENT DISCUSSES HIS BACKGROUND AND PLANS FOR THE FUTURE, August 1, 2012
At age 12, Joel Boyd wanted to be the catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies.
At age 22, he was teaching seventh-grade science in a Smyrna, Del., public school.
Now Boyd, who turned 33 in March, has taken on the superintendency of Santa Fe Public Schools.
He doesn’t see his rise as meteoric but acknowledges that others may view it that way. “In other industries, it’s not unusual to have an executive in charge at my age,” he said Wednesday, his first day on the job, noting that Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg is 28.
“I’ve held every position — teacher, principal, director of middle schools, assistant superintendent. Somebody somewhere has seen something in me and asked me to take on greater responsibility along the way,” Boyd said.
The Delaware native most recently served as assistant superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia before the local school board hired him (at $171,000 per year for a two-year contract period) to lead Santa Fe Public Schools. He and his wife, Keza, relocated to Santa Fe in late July, bringing their 10-year-old old Labrador, Cooper, with them.
Earlier that month, Boyd also unveiled his 100-day entry plan, detailed in Wednesday’s New Mexican and available online at sfps.info. That 10-point plan lays out his three-pronged approach of listening, learning and taking action after talking with stakeholders and collecting data about the district’s academic and graduation rates, finances and human-resources tactics.
Raised by a single mother, Boyd acknowledges he was not a good student — either academically or behaviorally — when he attended middle school. But the influences of both his mother, Vicki, a public-school teacher, and a wrestling coach named Harry Rigby helped turn his attitude around.
“[Rigby] invested himself in every aspect of my life, plus my mom pushed me academically,” Boyd said. “Between them, I was able to find a connection to school and get myself righted. Teaching goes beyond content; it’s about the interaction between the teacher and student around that content.”
Boyd earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at the University of Delaware in 2001 and has been continuing his education since. This week, Santa Fe Public Schools announced he has earned his doctorate in education from Harvard University’s Urban Superintendents Program. His dissertation, “Career Factors Which Lead to Success in Urban School District Leadership: A Cross-Case Analysis of the Prior Experiences of Traditionally and Non-traditionally Prepared Superintendents,” looks at the work of six successful urban superintendents who improved academic achievement among students.
“A lot of people misunderstand me when they see my Harvard pedigree and the stereotype of what that might mean,” he said. He stressed that he and his four siblings (three biological, one adopted) were considered economically disadvantaged. Their mother, who raised them by relying on government assistance, worked to ensure they received a good education.
He doesn’t like sitting on the bench, which is what happened once he began playing Little League All-Stars baseball. That’s when he gave up his dream of pitching for the Phillies and turned to wrestling and developed an interest in becoming a teacher.
He doesn’t wrestle anymore, but he’s contemplating taking up golf — a sport, he said, you can play with a team or play alone.
But he knows he can’t do his new job by himself. “A lot of people come in to new communities wanting to improve the system, but that’s not going to work unless you earn buy-in,” he said. “It has to be by the community and for the community.” As part of his 100-day plan, he said, he hopes to meet with “everyone who has an interest in our public schools.”
“Any kind of change is inherently going to create anxiety and questions about what may be lost. I recognize that they have been working hard here. … They have challenges to deal with, but they have successes, too.”
Boyd is slated to first address the district’s administrators and principals during an administrators’ retreat at Santa Fe High School on Thursday, Aug. 2, and Friday, Aug. 3.
Santa Fe Public Schools starts its fall semester Aug. 15.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WESITE MAKES IT EASY TO HELP STUDENTS - Terry Brewer, July 29, 2012
Santa Fe is known as a “quality of life” city, and is there any more important cornerstone of that “quality” than our public schools? How ironic then that our boast is hollow. Santa Fe continues to rank at or near the bottom in all categories of education in New Mexico.
Almost 50 percent of our students do not graduate from high school. We’re near the bottom in academic achievement of New Mexico school districts, while New Mexico is near the bottom of all the 50 states. The problems in our schools seem endless.
All of us would like to see that change for the better, yet our primary avenue for that change, attracting and retaining top public school teachers, has been grossly neglected.
Most of our teachers are dedicated educators who work long hours and sometimes in very difficult situations. In addition to dealing with overcrowded classrooms, insufficient support for English language learners, and children of families in poverty who often come to school hungry, teachers in many cases are paid less than an assistant manager of a fast-food restaurant.
Our teachers often pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets. In some cases, they don’t even have textbooks for some subjects; pages have to be copied from one book, which then serve as handouts for students.
Can there be anything of more importance than the education and training of our children? Apparently, the answer is “yes,” as money is allocated by our state Legislature to all sorts of projects and services that are deemed of higher priority than public schools.
Recognizing the unfairness and absurdity of this situation, and the mid- and long-term consequences for our city, two years ago, Pat and Michael French, with the assistance of local donors, created a nonprofit organization called Dollars4Schools.org, a unique Web-based platform that is easy to access and understand.
Dollars4Schools allows us to contribute to teachers’ classroom needs that were once included in state budgets, These programs range from math, literacy and athletics to enrichment, mental health counseling and social services.
Online, donors go down a list of programs and contribute to ones they find of interest.
The minimum donation is $25. One hundred percent of funds go to the teachers and schools. All nonprofits associated with our public schools can be partners on the website. To date, 120 programs have been funded.
I would encourage anyone in Santa Fe who believes in the urgency of rebuilding our public schools to take a look. We all deserve a brighter future.
Terry Brewer lives in Santa Fe and is a Dollars4Schools donor.
NEW SUPERINTENDENT GETS DOWN TO WORK - Santa Fe New Mexican, July 28, 2012
Like all of Santa Fe, we wish incoming Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd success and good fortune. The entire city wants the best education for the children of Santa Fe. His 100-day plan’s assertion that “Santa Fe is a world-class city which deserves a world-class school system” is right on target. All of that said, a few words of advice for our young superintendent. We welcome his energy and his enthusiasm, and look forward to the knowledge he brings — as well as thoughts from the advisory committee he established to help him get started. We don’t even mind that the entire committee has mostly out-of-state experience. He wants new ideas, fresh ideas. That’s fine.
However, as Boyd moves through his first 100 days as superintendent, he needs to reach beyond people he knows to understand this special place that he will lead. Quickly, he has to grasp New Mexico’s unique funding formula — how the state pays for its schools and how local property taxes take care of building needs only. He has to know the difference between native Hispanic and English-as-a-second-language students. Urban school districts in the East don’t often have sizable American Indian populations, either, another characteristic that sets Santa Fe apart. Too often, in the discussion of the achievement gap between Anglo and Hispanic students, Native students are ignored, and their work deserves attention. So much knowledge to soak in quickly, with the series of meetings and listening sessions Boyd outlines in his plan (online at www.sfps.info) a necessary first step.
Boyd must understand, too, that Santa Fe is a city of involved parents who will not be pushovers for any one-size-fits-all brand of reform. Education reform, after all, has to be about the student, not about enriching private corporate schools or big testing companies. We trust that our new superintendent will have different solutions for Santa Fe than many of those used in Philadelphia, and we also have faith that our parents will not stand for top-down reform. Consider this: One of the flashpoints in the battle to get rid of former Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez was the district’s adoption of the Houghton Mifflin Treasures reading curriculum — parents thought it wasn’t creative enough and resented standardization. We can’t imagine the outcry that would be sparked by a rigid curriculum for all subjects. Some education reform, urban-style, includes not only mandated curriculum but instructions in how each teacher will teach — no exceptions allowed.
This superintendent, though, is promising to listen and learn before proposing changes — and he has other experience on which to draw besides his work in Philadelphia, including his time as a classroom teacher and coach. Those experiences, we hope, will factor in his choices going forward. Remember, too, that the best way to reform education doesn’t necessarily come through bold gestures — whether firing half a school’s teachers or establishing a rigid curriculum or turning over even more public money to private companies. Instead, we support reform that empowers capable teachers, involves more parents and brings in the community (the Salazar Community Partnership is a great model). Listen to the people who are in the trenches but who still have fresh ideas (our small one would be to limit interruptions of the school day, whether because of announcements or assemblies). Seek out successes — Piñon Elementary manages to educate all sorts of students, despite being a large school by Santa Fe standards. Principal Janis Devoti is one person Boyd should speak to at length. Take the long view. While the school system must work hard to help students this minute, this year, the new superintendent also has to begin establishing systems that will improve education five and 10 years down the line.
In the end, education is too often a victim of the latest fad or the latest superstar educator. Reform can be flashy, or it can be substantive and lasting. We vote for the latter, and look forward to watching Joel Boyd’s first 100 days to see how he starts translating goals into reality.
EARLY START ON READING HELPS STUDENTS - Santa Fe New Mexican, July 26, 2012
An emphasis on literacy at the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten levels might lead to fewer students struggling to read by the time they reach third grade.
And retaining children who cannot read by the end of third grade doesn’t really pay off in terms of improving their literacy skills.
Those are two main points to emerge from a Legislative Finance Committee report presented to members of the committee and state Public Education Department Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera last week in Rio Rancho.
State and federal government support for pre-K programs — about $117 million a year — has helped improve third-grade reading scores, but in 2011, just 53 percent of the state’s third-graders were proficient in reading.
Reading proficiency is closely tied to economic status and whether a student is classified as an English language learner.
The committee asked for the report because the Legislature is considering whether to increase funding for pre-K programs and also is mulling a plan to retain third-graders who cannot read at their grade level by the end of the school year. Interestingly, the report found that only 8 percent of the state’s third-graders who cannot read at grade level would be held back once all the exceptions to the proposed retention rule are taken into account.
The report also notes that only 12 percent of students who were retained in 2010 became proficient readers by the end of the retention year.
“That amazed me,” said Rep. Rick Miera, D-Albuquerque, head of the state’s Legislative Education Study Committee, who attended the presentation. “Retention is not the answer. It’s not the silver bullet. It may even be the bullet that hurts kids.”
He said the report makes it clear that if the state wants to help students read proficiently at their grade level, “we need to start them with early literacy programs as soon as possible and not wait until we have tests indicating how a child is doing and then retain them. The data indicates that we should start earlier.”
Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming, who is chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, said, “There is still a mixed opinion from educators on what needs to be done and what doesn’t need to be done, and both the executive and legislative branch agree that there is just a small pocket group of students who need to be taken care of.
“The bottom line is that both the committee and the Public Education Department have indicated that the last thing they want to do is retain students. They want intervention in pre-K, kindergarten and the first and second grades to reduce the number that can’t pass.”
The report also notes that, once demographic variables are considered, students who have attended pre-K programs generally score better on standard reading tests than those who have not been in pre-K.
The state has increased its funding for such programs in fiscal year 2012 by 33 percent, the report notes. Yet the report also states that few at-risk students have access to early education to help them read.
Statewide, about 1,190 third-graders would have been eligible for retention in 2011 (some 590 from Santa Fe). Keeping them back another year would cost the state about $7,000 per student, adding up to more than $13 million.
The report utilized state, district and school-level student performance data and included on-site visits to a dozen elementary schools and interviews with educators around the state.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or email@example.com.
Santa Fe High Theater Students to Perform in Scotland - Santa Fe New Mexican, July 26, 2012
It has been eight years since students in Santa Fe High School’s theater department have taken one of their shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Next week, under the direction of Reed Meschefske, a dozen student actors, two student technicians and two adult chaperones will fly oversees to the fest to present a play that examines whether violent revolutions really achieve anything of worth if the people inciting those revolutions are unable to change themselves.
The play is Peter Weiss’ The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, and the title pretty much covers it all. As one of the actors in the piece notes to the audience early on as she refers to the character of Marat, “You are going to see him bleed.”
Marat — a journalist, philosopher and revolutionary — was indeed assassinated while he was bathing by one Charlotte Corday in July 1793, about six months after Louis XVI was guillotined during the French Revolution. In Weiss’ play, the Marquis de Sade, then committed to the asylum, convinces the institute’s director, François Simonet de Coulmier, to recreate the events leading up to Marat’s murder in a theater piece some 15 years after Marat’s death. The marquis, renowned for his philosophically free-thinking, erotic (and even cruel) writing, did indeed stage plays during his time in the asylum.
“Weiss’ play is a little bit on the edge. It has something to say,” Meschefske said after a weekday rehearsal at Santa Fe High this week. He said he worked with his cast to cut the play down to under an hour’s running time and to spotlight the characters and text rather than the absurd grotesqueness of the story.
“If you ever play anything for effect — or affect — it gets tired fast,” he said. “The message of the play can get overwhelmed by the images, the weirdness, the chaos of it all, so we tried to make it understandable to an audience.”
He chose the piece after considering some 150 scripts because, he said, it showcases an entire ensemble onstage almost the entire time.
None of the students involved in the show has visited Scotland or the festival, and Meschefske said he has never taken a student group there to perform. The troupe will perform four shows between Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, including an early-morning show and a near-midnight offering.
“It’s an experience just going to Europe, but this also involved an adventure … centering on creating a piece of art,” he said.
The teens are certainly excited. Student Liz Ryan, who plays the inmate portraying Corday in the play, said she still recalls hearing older Santa Fe High students talking about the 2004 Edinburgh trip spearheaded by Joey Chavez, who was then head of the drama department at the school.
“It’s as if they were movie stars,” she said of those young artists.
The notion of performing around professional theater artists (according to its website, this year’s Fringe Festival features close to 800 theater pieces, a combination of professional, semi-professional, amateur and school productions) is both scary and exciting to Santa Fe High actress Micalah Boddy, but she said the cast is up to the challenge.
“We’re all good,” she told the assembly. “You’re all so good.”
The trip itself will cost more than $100,000, including royalties for the play. Parents and students are chipping in for much of it, although the drama department did hold some fundraising activities that netted about a quarter of the cost, Meschefske said.
The troupe departs Tuesday after a few more rehearsals in town and a free public preview and kickoff performance at 7:33 p.m. Saturday at the school’s theater at 2100 Yucca Road. Meschefske makes it a tradition to open his plays at 7:33 p.m., though it’s clear he doesn’t have the weight to make that happen during the fringe fest.
Ryan believes the roughly 40-year-old play still resonates in this time of economic recession, the Occupy Wall Street movement and uncertainty about the country’s future. “You think the French Revolution was insane and that it couldn’t happen again today,” she said, “but 20, 30, 40 years from now, they’ll be looking back and seeing that things were pretty crazy now.”
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SFPS INCOMING SUPERINTENDENT MAPS OUT FIRST 100 DAYS - Santa Fe New Mexican, July 25, 2012
Boyd, who arrived in Santa Fe via car on Tuesday from Pennsylvania — “Only one flat on the way,” he noted — said the plan is “based on best practices for executives entering large organizations as a leader from the outside. It utilizes the expertise of professors, former superintendents and education specialists to help expedite the transition process.”
He said that within 100 days, he expects to gain “a thorough understanding of the ins and outs of the district” and develop a stronger sense of how to improve both teaching and learning.
The eight-page plan, which is posted on the district’s website at sfps.org, calls for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the district’s academic programs, its financial situation and its operational efficiencies and alignment. It also includes the establishment of a positive relationship between the superintendent and the five-member Board of Education and between the superintendent and district administrators, teachers and support staff.
The plan includes visits by Boyd to all of the district’s schools and one-on-one meetings with all of the board members as well as the establishment of small group meetings with community, business, political and faith-based leaders.
In addition, the document calls for collecting data such budget audits, enrollment figures, media contacts and graduation and dropout rates.
Boyd also announced that he has developed a six-member transition team to advise him in meeting these goals. This team will be chaired by Robert Peterkin, professor emeritus and former director of the Urban Superintendents Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The other team members are Almudena Abeyta, assistant academic superintendent for middle and K-8 schools in Boston Public Schools; Arlene Ackerman, CEO/President of the Ackerman Education Strategies Group; James Honan, senior lecturer for Harvard Graudate School of Education; Maree Sneed, a partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm Hogan Lovells who specializes in education law; and Joseph Wise, co-founder and chief education officer for Atlantic Research Partners and a former superintendent in both Delaware and Florida.
The 33-year-old Boyd previously served as the assistant superintendent of the Philadelphia School District. The school board hired him on a two-year contract at $171,000 per year starting Aug. 1. Interim Superintendent Tom Sullivan will remain on the job until at least that date and possibly longer if he is asked to help in the transition period.
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DISTRICT WANTS CLARIFICATION ON A-F GRADING SYSTEM - Santa Fe New Mexican, July 24, 2012
Lynn Vanderlinden, the district’s director of assessment and accountability, gave a presentation on the A-F grading system to the school board during a study session Monday.
Both interim superintendent Tom Sullivan and board member Glenn Wikle referred to the “value-added” model behind the grading system as “a black box.” When Vanderlinden said, “A lot of it remains unexplained,” board president Frank Montaño asked her if she had reached out to the Public Education Department for aid in understanding it all.
Yes, Vanderlinden said — and she usually receives an email response from PED stating, “We’ll get to it soon.” Sullivan said it is his understanding that many other districts within the state are receiving the same sort of vague response.
The Legislature passed the new grading system into law last year to provide clearer data on how the state’s schools are faring. In January, the PED issued preliminary grades for its roughly 830 schools using data from 2009-11. Overall, the state’s schools earned a C.
The system is based on three years of standards-based assessment test data. Schools can earn a top score of 105. The grade reflects how students performed in the most recent year (40 points), how the school itself has increased proficiency over three years (10 points), and whether the highest performing (20 points) and lowest performing students (20 points) at each school display improvement.
Schools can gain 10 points based on both attendance records and a classroom survey in which students rate how their school fares when it comes to fostering an environment that encourages learning. An additional five bonus points can be earned based on a school survey of student and parental engagement programs. However, parent/teacher association events designed to raise money to, say, pay for a part-time gym teacher or art teacher don’t qualify for those bonus points, as these activities are expected and do not go beyond the norm, Vanderlinden said.
Earlier this month, the state updated and revived those preliminary grades after changing some of the value-added elements and relying on test data from 2010-12. One Santa Fe school received an A, nine garnered a B, 11 earned a C, seven netted a D and one received an F. In a few cases, schools saw their grades jump or decrease by anywhere from one to three grade levels between January and July. Chaparral Elementary School, for instance, rose from an F in January to a B in July.
Wikle called Chaparral the “poster child in the instability and unreliability of the value-added model,” but Denise Johnson, the district’s former associate superintendent, who now runs the office of curriculum and instruction, noted that Chaparral used Title 1 federal funds to implement an intervention program to help its lowest-performing students make gains, which may have played a role in the school’s improved rating.
In June, Paul Aguilar, deputy director of finance and operations for the PED, told the Legislative Education Study Committee that the statistical models used to determine grades are so complex that “only a few people in the world” can understand them.
Montaño said the presentation is the first in a number of steps the board should take to “better understand the system.”
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SFPS UPDATES - JULY 19, 2012
Financial constraints resulting from the state’s waiver under the federal No Child Left Behind Act mean that Santa Fe Public Schools won’t operate School Choice buses 15 and 72 this coming year, the district announced. Parents of children who rode the School Choice buses will be responsible for transporting their children to and from school. The district estimates that about 40 students will be affected
School choice — in which parents of students attending schools designated as “School Improvement I” or beyond under the education law may request to send their children to schools that meet federal standards — is now a waived requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act, and thus the federal government no longer finances these bus routes.
SFPS opens new prekindergarten program
The Santa Fe school district is starting a new prekindergarten program at Chaparral Elementary School, 2451 Avenida de Chaparral, off Zia Road, for the 2012-13 school year. Morning and afternoon half-day programs are available for students who turn 4 years old by Aug. 31 and who are zoned to attend Chaparral Elementary School.
Registration for the free program is scheduled from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, July 27, at Chaparral. Following the registration, the district will hold a lottery for applicants. Registrants must bring two kinds of proof of address and the student’s birth certificate.
SANTA FE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER WINS FULBRIGHT GRANT
English language-arts teacher Zack Boatman of Santa Fe High School received a Fulbright Classroom Exchange grant to teach in Hungary for the 2012-13 academic school year.
He is one of about 75 teachers from the U.S. and other nations traveling abroad through the program this year. Recipients are selected based on academic and professional achievement. In exchange, Boatman’s Santa Fe High School position will be covered this year by Ilona Ferenczi of Hungary.
SANTA FE SCHOOLS SCORE HIGHER IN STATE'S NEW GRADING SYSTEM Santa Fe New Mexican, July 10, 2012 by Robert Nott
Santa Fe Public Schools received slightly higher grades Monday when Gov. Susana Martinez released official scores under the state’s new A-F system.
Only one of the district’s schools — Wood Gormley Elementary — received an A. On the other hand, only one, Tierra Encantada Charter School at Alvord, received an F.
Nine schools received B’s, 11 received C’s, and seven received D’s on Monday. Ten of the district’s schools jumped up by at least one grade level from preliminary grades released in January, and four dropped at least one level. Monte del Sol Charter School dropped from an A to a B, while the chartered Academy for Technology and the Classics held its previous B rating.
In January, three Santa Fe schools received A’s, seven received B’s, five garnered C’s, nine got D’s, and five were rated F.
“We are obviously pleased that there are no F’s on this particular report … except the one charter [Tierra Encantada],” said the district’s interim superintendent, Tom Sullivan. “Chaparral Elementary School jumped three letter grades, which is noteworthy. The fact that 10 schools improved by at least one letter grade is impressive.”
Though the vast majority of Santa Fe schools were within a one-grade difference of their preliminary score, there were a handful of surprises this time around besides Chaparral, which jumped from an F in January to a B. Atalaya Elementary School, which netted a D in January, rated a B this time. And Ramirez Thomas Elementary School, which received an F in January, now has a C rating.
“I think it’s indicative of the work and commitment teachers put in at Ramirez Thomas,” Principal Robin Noble said of the school’s new grade. “I was hopeful we would make a good jump this year. I’m so proud of the teachers, the students and the families. It’s been a team effort, and I am glad we are beginning to see the results.”
Of the state’s 831 schools, 250 received D’s this week, 275 C’s, 198 B’s and just 39 received A’s. The remaining 69 were rated F schools. According to the Governor’s Office, 65 percent of the state’s schools either maintained or improved upon their January grade. About 125 of the state’s schools had appealed their preliminary grades earlier this year, though it remains unclear whether those appeals had any impact on the new grades.
For instance, the state-chartered New Mexico School for the Arts, based in Santa Fe, received a C in January. The school’s officials argued that the school had only been open for a year and thus did not have three years of consistent data regarding its students for the state to take into consideration. That school received an A on Monday.
The governor made Monday’s announcement at Route 66 Elementary School in Edgewood. She said the new grades are “not only important to inform parents and students today about where their school stands, but they are helpful for teachers, school leaders and community stakeholders who want to take action to reform education in New Mexico and improve our schools.”
The grades are based on a variety of measures, including reading and math proficiency scores from three years of standardized test data, student growth in reading and math, attendance, after-school opportunities and parental involvement in schools.
Martinez and Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera have argued that the new system gives greater clarity to a school’s academic standing and holds school communities accountable for their grade. The A-F approach is gaining steam in other states, notably Florida (where Skandera worked as deputy director of education for two years) and, more recently, in Utah, Ohio, Oklahoma and Indiana.
But critics — both in New Mexico and other states that have adopted the plan — argue that the “how” of it all remains convoluted. Sullivan said Monday, “We are still not clear on how some of the grades are determined. There is something of a black box behind the calculations. We know the bulk of it is tied back to SBA [standardized test] results with growth as a factor, and that is what drove the improvement of a number of the [district] campuses.”
In June, members of the Legislative Education Study Committee questioned the method by which the state determines the scores. At that time, Paul Aguilar, deputy director of finance and operations for the Public Education Department, told that committee that the method is complex and that “there may only be a few people in the world” who understand the statistical model behind the grades.
Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, said Monday that he is supportive of schools being held accountable via a new system, but “the problem I have had from the beginning is that it [A-F] is too narrow of a snapshot of what schools are doing. It’s not giving a full indication of how schools are performing; it’s taken a very minimal snapshot. … The schools still have no idea where they can improve or how they can improve based on these grades.”
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SFPS TEST SCORES SHOW PROMISE Santa Fe New Mexican, July 8, 2012 by Robert Nott
While New Mexico saw a slight increase in students’ standardized test scores for both reading and math this year — about 1 percent — Santa Fe Public Schools hasn’t yet figured out exactly where it stands.
The Standards Based Assessment scores, which cover math and reading proficiency for grades 3-8 and 10 and 11, were released Thursday afternoon by the state Public Education Department. The numbers showed about half of the state’s students are reading at grade level, while about 43 percent were proficient or better in math. About 194,000 students took the tests last year.
Santa Fe’s interim superintendent, Tom Sullivan, said Friday that while the district received data regarding math and reading scores at each grade level, administrators haven’t yet been able to evaluate that data to see how the district compares to last year’s scores.
But, he said, “The trends are positive. Certainly there are some challenges and some gaps, but I think pretty much on any of our campuses there are pockets of good news and some areas the staff will target for intervention moving forward this year. I expect we will see increases, but until I see the district aggregated, I can’t say.”
Looking at some of the district’s schools on a case-by-case basis, Sullivan said it appeared that some low-performing schools showed up to a 20 percent increase in reading and math scores over a four-year period. Chaparral Elementary School, for instance, jumped to 56 percent from 45 percent in reading and to 48 percent from 37 percent in math between 2008 and now. (That school received an F when the state released preliminary A-to-F grades for each school this past January.)
Proficiency may be increasing for some Santa Fe students, but the numbers aren’t impressive — though they sometimes top the state average. For instance, across the district, overall third-grade proficiency in reading is at about 54 percent. In math, third-graders are hitting about 51.4 percent proficiency. At the fourth-grade level, about half are proficient or above in reading, and 39.3 percent of fourth-graders are proficient in math.
On the eighth-grade level, 48.2 percent of students are proficient in reading; 31.7 percent are proficient in math.
“The increases we’ve seen are promising, but small,” Gov. Susana Martinez said in a news release. “We know how far we must go to improve education in New Mexico so that every child is able to succeed inside the classroom and in life.”
The standardized scores were released this year separately from the usual Adequate Yearly Progress results, which are mandated by federal law under the No Child Left Behind Act. Some 87 percent of the state’s schools did not meet AYP last year — a point Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera has often made in her efforts to revamp the way New Mexico evaluates individual schools.
Under Martinez’s educational reform platform, Skandera was successful in convincing lawmakers to adopt a new A-to-F grading system that goes into effect this autumn. Though preliminary grades for the state’s schools were released in January, the Public Education Department plans to release updated, official grades sometime in July.
New Mexico is one of 11 states to receive a waiver from certain provisions of No Child Left Behind, which means it does not have to figure in Adequate Yearly Progress standards. In return, the state is expected to adopt Common Core standards over the next two years and retool its teacher-evaluation system by emphasizing the impact of student test scores, among other measures.
SFPS ANNOUNCES NEW SUPERINTENDENT Santa Fe New Mexican, June 29 , 2012
Santa Fe Public Schools’ board of education hired 33-year-old Joel Boyd, assistant superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, as its new superintendent Thursday night.
Board President Frank Montaño announced the news during a special board meeting. He said Boyd accepted a two-year contract at $171,000 a year and should start by Aug. 1.
All five board members voted for the move, and all of them displayed rarely seen expressions of joy as they spoke with optimism about Boyd’s potential to take the district in a new, positive direction.
Board member Steve Carrillo said he is “very excited for the future of Santa Fe Public Schools.” Board member Glenn Wikle said Boyd has made “a commitment to advance Santa Fe Public Schools to be among the top districts — if not the top district — in the state.” Board member Barbara Gudwin echoed those sentiments and noted that Boyd wanted to turn the district “into one of the best places to work.” She said Boyd made it clear that he would not accept poverty as a reason for low academic achievement among students here.
Board Vice President Linda Trujillo said Boyd also emphasized the need for professional development among school employees and displayed a commitment to dual-language learning.
Montaño said Boyd’s youth and energy “will allow him to hit the ground running.” He said Boyd rose to the top of the six semifinalists interviewed by the board over the past two weeks due to his charisma and his ability to “inspire our district to be a better district.”
During a short phone interview Thursday night, Boyd said he is “honored by the opportunity. I’m looking forward to joining the Santa Fe Public Schools team.”
Boyd is a Delaware native who holds a master’s degree in education policy and management from Harvard University and a master’s in school leadership from Wilmington College. As assistant superintendent, he has overseen 37 K-8 schools in Philadelphia and earns about $141,000. That district has a budget of about $2.7 billion and about 150,000 students, compared to the Santa Fe district’s enrollment of 13,000 students and an $84.6 million budget. About 42 percent of Philadelphia’s schools made AYP in 2010-11.
In brief interviews with The New Mexican, Boyd has stressed the need to address the district’s low graduation rate (about 56.5 percent) and improve achievement rates among students.
Thursday’s meeting drew fewer than 20 people, most of whom work for Santa Fe Public Schools. Only one person — Santa Fe’s NEA representative, Bernice Garcia Baca, spoke about the new hire during a public forum. Baca said that while some people criticized the board for moving so quickly with this decision, she felt that many district personnel believed it was not quick enough.”To have a stoppage of any kind would be really difficult to deal with,” she said.
She noted that many of the finalists, including Boyd, have elicited “a lot of negative reports on union relations” but said she and the district’s teachers want to put any doubts aside and work together to improve the district’s academic performance.
“We hope, we hope that things go well and that so many efforts we have put in will pay off,” she said.
Earlier this week, the board hired Tom Sullivan as interim superintendent to serve from Monday, July 2 until Boyd settles in.
In February, the board voted to buy out current Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez’s contract a year early. She officially stays in the position through Saturday.
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DOLLARS FOR KIDS - OPINION, June 24, 2012
Regarding the article about the effect of poverty in Santa Fe Public Schools, Sweeney Elementary wants to acknowledge
Dollars4Schools.org, which has funded six programs at Sweeney. These programs provided new Spanish books, field trips to the aquarium and Santa Fe History Museum, Cooking with Kids, Literacy Projects, Girls on the Run, storytelling with Joe Hayes and a schoolwide field trip to El Rancho de las Golondrinas (most of our kids had never been there). The history program was administered by Dollars4Schools through the city's 400th anniversary committee, the city and Mayor D