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Posted November 11, 2014

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Supt's Column: Fair Aims to Help Find the Right Fit

Read Superintendent Brad Winter's column that ran in the Nov. 11 Albuquerque Journal.

Albuquerque Public Schools is about to enter uncharted territory. We’re hosting, in partnership with the city of Albuquerque, our first ever School Choice Fair from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have much choice when it came to what school we went to. Almost all of us went to our neighborhood school, the one closest to home.

That’s still the case for the vast majority of our kids. And that’s fine for most of them, too. But we’re starting to recognize that the neighborhood school may not be the best fit for all students. Sometimes, a child is more successful in a smaller school, a subject-focused school or maybe an online or an extremely academically challenging school. Some might do better in a school where they can earn college credit or work part-time or communicate in both English and Spanish.

Some just need a better fit.

We’ve been working in recent years on helping our students and their families find that right fit. In fact, that’s the theme – and the goal – of our School Choice Fair.

Think of it like transportation. All of our students are headed to the same destination – high school graduation with a solid foundation that’s prepared them for college and career. Why not let them have a say in how they get there. Many will choose to drive. Some will take the train. And others like to fly.

Whether trains, planes or automobiles, ultimately we’re getting our kids to where they want – where they need – to be.

If you have school-age children, or if you’re just curious about public education, I invite you to attend our School Choice Fair and check out all that we have to offer; you might be surprised. Many don’t realize just how many different types of schools APS has these days. Dozens of our schools will be represented at the fair, including our schools of choice, some of our traditional schools and the APS-authorized charter schools.

We’re especially excited to introduce to you two new options for middle-schoolers. Next school year, Garfield Mid-School in the North Valley and Hayes Mid-School in the Northeast will be converted into magnet schools, opening their doors to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders interested in science, technology, engineering and math (we call it STEM around here). These schools will take a different approach to teaching and learning, emphasizing minds-on/hands-on learning, real-world problem-solving, teamwork and community involvement.

And at Hayes, they’ll be doing all of this in both English and Spanish. Hayes will be the state’s first dual-language STEM middle school.

Why STEM and dual language? STEM is the future. A recent U.S. Labor Department study found that eight of the 10 jobs in most demand are in the science, technology, engineering or math fields.

And being able to communicate in two languages is a tremendous life skill that will help students in their future careers.

Our emphasis for next school year is on improving our choices for middle-schoolers because that is the age when we as a community begin to lose many of our students. But we also have much to offer elementary and high school students, too.

Thanks to the city of Albuquerque, we’ll have lots of space at the Convention Center for the fair, where you can walk around, talk to principals, teachers and students, and gather information about our schools and programs. Parking is free for our guests and concessions will be available. And we’re opening our transfer window early, so if you see something you like, you can get your application in beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

For more information, visit our website at www.APS.edu/schoolsofchoice.

Hope to see you at the fair; let us help you find the right fit.

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