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Superintendent's News

Posted: March 10, 2023

Sharing Our Story and Building Strong School Leaders

In his weekly message, Superintendent Scott Elder emphasizes the need for consistency and the intensive coaching APS principals are receiving.

Superintendent Scott Elder speaks with business and community leaders after addressing the Economic Forum of Albuquerque on Wednesday.

Superintendent Scott Elder speaks with business and community leaders after addressing the Economic Forum of Albuquerque on Wednesday.

As superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools, I’m often in the community sharing the work we’re doing in our schools. This week, I had the opportunity to address Economic Forum of Albuquerque, a non-partisan group of business and community leaders focused on the regional economy.

I talked about our amazing Selfless Seniors, the ambitious new goals adopted by our board and the realigning of resources that will need to happen to achieve those goals. But I was also honest about the challenges we face, including school safety and the sad reality that we’re seeing more instances of students bringing guns to school.

Understandably, that part of my speech got a lot of attention.

But I also highlighted another challenge that every school district in the state is facing: the lack of consistency in education policy. As I shared with them, I’ve been in education long enough to remember when Gov. Bill Richardson came in and shook up the education system. He pushed to change how public schools are governed, scrapped the assessment tests and took New Mexico in a different direction because he realized how important public schools are to our state.

Every governor since has followed suit, scrapping the assessment test and taking schools in a different direction. I understand the impulse. Each one of them realized how important public education is to our state’s success, and they took the steps they felt were necessary to improve it and do right by students.

But in the process, schools haven’t had a lot of consistency. If we want to move the needle on student achievement we need to figure out a plan and stick with it.

I want to make it clear that APS isn’t throwing up its hands as a result of that inconsistency.

We’re working hard to boost student outcomes and we’ve launched several initiatives in that quest. One such initiative that I’m especially proud of is the work we’re doing to support our principals and give them the skills they need to improve outcomes at their schools. This work is particularly important at APS because of our demographics.

Of the 70,000 students we have, more than two-thirds come from low-income families. Twenty-two percent have disabilities and 19 percent are English learners. Two out of three of our students are characterized as at-risk, and at-risk students tend to lag behind their peers.

Given this, it’s clear that all of our school leaders need to be trained with skills to address this reality.

We’re investing in our school principals’ professional development by training them in such areas as data analysis, school continuous improvement based on our 90-day plan process, talking to families, and holding people accountable in supportive ways.

Part of this training includes intensive coaching. Coaches work with principals on site-based data analysis, alignment of school initiatives to district goals, and crafting specifically tailored feedback based on classroom observations. For example, after each observation, principals describe to their coaches what they saw in the classroom and what they would do to address any issues. Coaches then share what they noticed and assist our principals in supporting our classroom teachers with targeted and measurable feedback that is centered on enhancing student outcomes.

Beyond making our principals stronger leaders, this type of coaching will help calibrate the feedback teachers are getting throughout the district and ensure that all teachers are providing appropriate grade-level instruction that meets state standards. This is critical if we’re going to move the needle on student achievement. We aren’t going to remediate our way to higher student achievement.

This doesn’t mean we want teachers in classrooms reading off scripts. Teaching is an art and there are going to be variations in how teachers approach lessons. There’s nothing wrong with that so long as they’re providing grade-level instruction.

I am really proud of the effort and energy our principals are putting into their training. I thank them for their dedication to becoming the best school leaders they can be.

Until next week.