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Superintendent's News

Posted: February 23, 2024

Next Year's Calendar and the New Graduation Requirements

In his weekly message, Superintendent Scott Elder discusses the school calendar approved by the board on Wednesday and new graduation requirements that have been signed into law.

Superintendent Scott Elder at College & Career High School's graduation ceremony.

Superintendent Scott Elder at College & Career High School's graduation ceremony.

It’s been another busy week at APS with the board approving a calendar for the upcoming school year and staff sorting through legislation approved by the Legislature to determine how it will affect us and our students.

Creating a calendar is always a heavy lift because there are so many competing interests to balance, from state mandates and budget constraints to union contracts and family preferences.

In December, we asked students, families, staff, and community members to tell us their priorities for next year’s calendar, and 13,261 of you weighed in, about twice as many as last year. To everyone who took the time to participate in the survey, I thank you. Our calendar committee relied heavily on that input as it developed its proposal for the board.

On Wednesday night, the board approved a slightly modified version of that proposal, opting for a later start to the school year and a shorter Thanksgiving break.

Among the highlights of the approved calendar:

  • School staff will return to work on Aug. 1, while students begin on Aug. 7. The last day of school will be May 30, 2025.
  • Thanksgiving Break will be three days instead of a full week, while Spring Break will be one week instead of a week and a half.
  • It adds two parent-teacher conference days for grades 6-12.
  •  And it adds two instructional days to the calendar while shortening the instructional day by 15 minutes for elementary, middle, K-8, and high school students to make time for teachers to provide before and after school supervision of students.

No calendar is perfect, but APS did its best to come up with one that works for students, families, and staff. I appreciate the calendar committee's hard work, and I particularly want to recognize Chief of Schools Channell Segura and Patricia Salaz, our director of school scheduling design and system support, who spearheaded the calendar effort.

As for the legislation we’re sorting through, one of the big ones is House Bill 171, which overhauls state high school graduation requirements. It was one of the first bills signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this year.

APS supported the legislation.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about HB 171, so here’s my attempt at addressing those. The new requirements go into effect for high school students beginning ninth grade in the 2025-2026 school year. Graduation requirements will not change for students currently in high school.

The bill:

  • maintains the current requirement of 24 units to earn a high school diploma (APS currently requires 25 credits to graduate, and that will likely continue.)
  •  drops Algebra 2 as a math requirement, but requires high schools to continue offering it
  • requires that personal financial literacy be embedded into a social studies course
  • requires school districts and charter schools to set two of the required units for graduation
  • allows additional courses in career technical education and work-based learning to count toward core academic requirements
  • requires districts to offer Financial Literacy, computer science, student service learning, career technical education courses, and a sequence of languages other than English as electives
  •  adds half a unit in health education that may be earned in either middle or high school 

Many of the new requirements dovetail with our goals, particularly our efforts to ensure that we’re preparing our students for college or to pursue the career of their choice and that they graduate with the skills, habits, and mindsets they will need to be successful in life. I welcome the enhanced focus on career-connected learning.

The new law also requires us to develop a locally-driven graduate profile. These profiles must be specific to each community and articulate the core competencies and subjects that are key to a graduate’s success after high school. We’re a little ahead of the game on this requirement.

APS held listening sessions as the district was setting its goals. As part of that process, our community told us what skills students should have when they graduate to set them up for success in life. Among the things they told us is that they want APS to help students develop perseverance, self-regulation, self-efficacy, and social awareness.

The new law also mandates changes to the next step plans that students develop at the end of eighth grade by requiring that the plans include options such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, honors, dual credit, distance learning, career technical education, and work-based learning courses or pre-apprenticeship programs, which aligns with our post-secondary readiness goal.

We have a team working to provide additional guidance and support to schools and the community on how these requirements will be implemented at APS. More guidance will be provided to schools in the near future.

HB 171 was sponsored by Rep. Andres Romero, D-Albuquerque, Rep. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, and Senate President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque. Romero teaches at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School.

That’s it for now. Have a great weekend.