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Grad Rates on the Rise

Posted: May 5, 2022

eCADEMY Magnet School, On the Rise

The Class of 2021 at eCADEMY, the district's online high school, had a graduation rate of 70%, a gain of 16.6 percentage points in a year.

Transcript

[ Albuquerque Public Schools Graduation ]

[ APS celebrates an 80.3% graduation rate for the Class of 2021. ]

[ The APS graduation rate has improved for six consecutive years to 80.3%. ]

[ 80.3 percent ]

[ Ten of the district's comprehensive high schools saw improved graduation rates in 2021, as did four of its six magnet schools. ]

- (Erin Easley, Principal:) It really, you know, the adage, "It takes a village," is always in the back of our mind here. It does take all of us.

[ eCADEMY High School graduation rate is 70%, that is an increase of 16.6% ]

- (Erin:) It takes the parents, the community, the teachers, we all have to support the students to make sure that we keep that momentum and that graduation rate up so that we can then move into the workforce and have a successful generation that moves into the next phase of the workforce.

[ 16.6 percent. How was this accomplished? ]

- (Erin:) An increase in numbers, obviously, was part of that because we were the online option for the district due to the pandemic. But I think with that came ... an understanding and a responsibility felt by our teachers, and our coordinators, and our deans, and everyone, the counselors, to really put into place some better supports, so layers of kind of safety net, support systems because we don't see our students in person. They don't come here every day, and so the team really stepped it up in terms of the supports we were able to provide.

[ At eCADEMY, what works for students? ]

- (Erin:) Most students come to us because they need something different. For whatever reason, something just wasn't clicking with their traditional school. So we find a lot of our students, just this is what they needed, kind of a reset, a refocusing. We try to provide opportunities first, you know, we do have a student council. We do have art club. We do have eSports. We do offer motivational Monday, career Mondays.

So we do try to offer things to let students kind of interact. But we also have a lot of students that come to us because they have serious medical conditions or, you know, just they need to be in a smaller space, a controlled environment. Or, we have a lot of students who are traveling athletes, you know, or for whatever reason their parents' work schedule takes them out of town a lot. So, it really, the void we fill, the hole we fill for families looking for just an alternative setting is typically just what they need.

[ What about the basics? ]

- (Erin:) I think, you know, some of these support systems we've put into place with different layers of support, with advisory teachers, and coordinators, and counselors, and the different kind of programs we have implemented, and the ways that we communicate with our families are definitely something we're refining.

We're looking at, you know, working to provide more of that in the upcoming years, trying to connect students more with each other.

[ How important is communication? ]

- (Erin:) The amount of communication that goes out from this office is incredible. So, just really stepping up the way that we work with families, what we have to offer in the virtual world I think was really a contributing factor to our success.

[ Dedicated staff. Layers of support. Online education. Personal attention. ]
[ And, flexible schedules! How can you keep this momentum going? ]

- (Erin:) We're kind of flexing our schedule next year a little bit to accommodate more of our students with health needs or our students who have work schedules, pairing more with CNMs. I think just providing a wide range of opportunities for students is probably the most important thing that we wanna do to keep that momentum, to keep them engaged, keep them looking towards that next goal after graduation.

[ Any advice to future graduates? Senior Perspective ]

- (Angelique Salazar:) Try so many different things, and find what you're good at, find what you're not good at. I would say to use your resources. There are teachers, especially at eCADEMY that just wanna help you and see you succeed, not only academically, but as a person.

[ Congratulations to eCADEMY High School and all graduating seniors! ]

- (Erin:) You know, eCADEMY, the staff here has pulled an incredible weight over the past couple years with being that online option for the district. And we support our full-time students that have come to us, but we also support the concurrent or the part-time students that enroll with us to support the graduation rate at the other high schools. And I think, you know, I'm the one here doing this, but I am only a representation of the many people on my staff that have done incredible things over the past couple years to make sure that we were able to support the district and support the families that needed us.

Learn More from eCADEMY's Principal & Students 

Students attend eCADEMY for a more personalized approach to learning or need flexible schedules to accommodate work, frequent medical needs, or other extenuating circumstances.  “We support our full-time students who have come to us,” Principal Erin Easley says, “but we also support the concurrent or part-time students who enroll with us to support the graduation rate at the other high schools.”

Multi-Layered Support Systems 

“There was a point where I was definitely struggling with my grades, and I failed a couple of classes,” says eCADEMY senior Angelique Salazar, “but with the help of my teachers and mentors, I was able to get back on the right track, and now I’m graduating.”

Statements like Salazar’s have become pretty standard within Albuquerque Public Schools in the last few years, with teachers and administrators ramping up multi-layer support systems and finding new and improved methods of helping students succeed, even before the pandemic. This investment has translated to a significant rise in the graduation rate. APS’s eCADEMY, a magnet school that is primarily online, has seen its graduation rate increase from 36.9 percent to 70 percent in just a few years.

“Most students come to us because they need something different,” says Easley. “For whatever reason, something just wasn’t clicking with their traditional school. We find that for a lot of our students, this is what they needed, kind of a reset.”

A More Personalized Approach 

Salazar attended two other high schools before enrolling at eCADEMY her junior year. “I feel like academics were so much easier here because teachers were so much more hands-on,” she says. “They want to see me succeed. They know me personally and help me expand my strengths and grow from my weaknesses.”

While some students transfer to eCADEMY earlier in the high school journey, Easley explains many others arrive toward the end to catch up and graduate on time. “We get a lot of students who are one credit or two credits away from graduation for whatever reason—life got in the way—they couldn’t finish up at their comprehensive traditional school, so they come to us, and we’re able to get them across that finish line.”

Online Option During COVID 

The magnet school became the primary online option for the district during the pandemic and saw its enrollment quadruple. Already accustomed to a student body with diverse needs, eCADEMY worked even harder to serve its expanded population through the additional challenges wrought by COVID-19.

“I think with the pandemic came an understanding and a responsibility felt by our teachers, coordinators, deans, counselors, and everyone to really put into place some better supports,” Easley says. “So layers of safety nets, support systems. The team really stepped it up in terms of the supports we were able to provide.”

Social Interaction in the Digital World

Although eCADEMY’s classes exist mostly in the digital world, the school strives to provide students with opportunities for social interaction and bonding in the digital classroom, throughout the school, and in the broader community. Student council, art club, esports, and Career Mondays keep students involved with one another and the school, and teachers have strategies for their individual classes, as well. “The teachers are so wonderful and put on these different activities for us to get to know each other over Zoom,” Sanchez says.

“Providing a wide range of opportunities for students is probably the most important thing that we want to do to keep up that momentum,” Easley says, “to keep them engaged, keep them looking towards that next goal after graduation.”

Building Relationships 

Building relationships among students and staff in a digital environment certainly has its challenges. Still, Easley says she’s seen it pay off as students feel like an important part of a greater whole. “There’s a sense from the students that ‘I’m part of this big, amazing district too, even though I went to a school that was a little nontraditional. My education is valued, and I got a good education, and I’m one of the many wonderful seniors graduating from APS this year, too.’”

Principal Easley has guided many of the initiatives to support her students and raise the graduation rate but is clear about it being a group effort in which the entire staff has been invested. “I am only a representation of the many people on my staff who have done incredible things over the past couple of years to make sure that we were able to support the district and support the families that needed us.”