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Posted January 31, 2014

Shout it from the Rooftops

Monica Armenta, executive director of APS Communications, recognizes some of our unsung heroes. This week: All of those in special education who helped increase the graduation rate for that group of students by more than 40% in 3 years!

Monica Armenta has been the executive director of the APS Communications Office for nine years. Realizing that some of the exceptional work that happens in our classrooms and at our schools often goes unrecognized, she's decided to highlight on a regular  basis some of the good things going on in Albuquerque Public Schools. Watch for her stories on, in APS News (our weekly community newsletter) and @ABQschools on Twitter.

Like most people I have a list of regrets. The older I get, the more effort I expend preventing that list from growing. I don’t want to miss any more opportunities to do anything that might matter.

That’s what this is about.

If you haven’t already heard, APS just hit a milestone. For the first time ever our public school district has an official graduation rate of 73.3%.  I know, some think it’s nothing to brag about. I’m not one of them.

I’ve come to understand that calculating graduation rates is tricky business. The 73.3% only captures the kids who graduated on a seamless four-year schedule. It doesn’t account for those who need an extra semester, year or even more to finish high school.

There are lots of people in New Mexico who really need public education to work. I want to single out one group of students who will forever hold valuable real estate in my heart – those in special education.

APS saw gains in the graduation rate in every demographic sub group, but the biggest gains came from those students with disabilities. The graduation rate for that group increased more than 40% in three years!

The increase is from 44.9% in 2011 to more than 63% in 2013. That rate jumped 14 percentage points in just one year. This is remarkable. Really.

I want to personally thank every special education teacher, educational assistant and support staff we have. For me, this is personal. My brother was an APS special education student until he was 21. He lived to be 23. I’ve always said there is no way to ever express the gratitude my family has for those individuals who take jobs few want, give more than most can imagine and rarely get the credit they deserve.

This is a very small attempt to shine the spotlight on some of the most challenged and deserving. There’s more to come; this is my start.

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