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APS Looking at Offering More Innovative Choices

"In Albuquerque Public Schools, we’re rethinking the way we educate our students; we have to if we’re going to successfully prepare them for the ever-changing, fast-paced global economy they’ll soon be a part of." Read Superintendent Winston Brooks' column that ran in the Jan. 14 Albuquerque Journal.

APS Looking at Offering More Innovative Choices

Superintendent Brooks at an IB pinning ceremony.

January 14, 2014

Innovation is one of the latest buzz words in education circles, and that’s not a bad thing. In Albuquerque Public Schools, we’re rethinking the way we educate our students; we have to if we’re going to successfully prepare them for the ever-changing, fast-paced global economy they’ll soon be a part of.

Innovative teaching is evident in our classrooms, where teachers are using the Common Core State Standards to help students think more creatively and critically. These real world standards are making learning more relevant, reflecting knowledge and skills our students need for success in college and careers.

We’re thinking outside the box in our schools, where we’re offering programs ranging from AVID for students in the academic middle to International Baccalaureate for high-achieving students looking for more responsibility and accountability.

At the district level, we’re putting even more emphasis on creating, communicating, collaborating, coordinating and implementing new schools and programs. In fact, this month we’re opening an Office of Innovation charged with providing more choices and opportunities in APS for students and their families.

Education is no longer one size fits all. Our students learn in a variety of ways and what works for some doesn’t work for all. Some of our students thrive in our traditional high schools where they have lots of friends, get involved in extracurricular activities and do well in large classes with kids from all walks of life. Others do better in smaller, more focused schools where students share the same interests and career goals. Still others would rather work independently, learning online and at their own pace.

Our challenge is to offer enough choices to meet the needs of all of our students and, honestly, to bring back those who left APS because they couldn’t find the right fit. The Office of Innovation and its director have been tasked with this job.

We found a fantastic individual to lead this charge. Katarina Sandoval is a longtime educator who co-founded one of the most successful charter schools in Albuquerque. She has degrees from Stanford and Harvard, but hails from our very own West Mesa High School.

We have high expectations of Ms. Sandoval and the Office of Innovation. Not only do we want to develop new programs and schools, we also want to make sure we get kids into the programs and schools that best meet their desires and needs.

This is a big district and sometimes just letting students and families know what choices they have is challenging, especially with limited dollars for marketing and publicity. So we’re asking for a little help. We encourage you to go to the APS website and check out the Schools of Choice page (aps.edu/schools/schools-of-choice). There, you’ll learn a little about some of the innovative schools and programs we already have, including:

  • College & Career High School, a dual-credit school on the main CNM campus.
  • eCADEMY Virtual High School that blends online classes with face-to-face instruction.
  • nex+Gen Academy that emphasizes project, technology-based learning.
  • The Career Enrichment Center that offers unique courses from a variety of career areas, including medicine, computers, engineering, languages and vocational.
  • Freedom High for students who prefer a personalized, small school setting.

You’ll see that we’re already pretty innovative. If you have suggestions for other programs and schools that we might want to consider, let us know. You can send me an email at superintendent@aps.edu. Our ultimate goal is to give students enough choices so they can find what makes them happy and successful.

Winston Brooks, Albuquerque’s school superintendent, writes a monthly column. Send comments or questions to superintendent@aps.edu.

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