What We’ve Been Up To: Start-of-School 2020 News

As we begin the new school year amid a global pandemic, we continue to work closely with our partner school leaders and other local education entrepreneurs to ensure that all New Mexico children have the opportunity to lead healthy, meaningful lives. Our focus on backing leadership teams that design and operate equitable, excellent schools – especially right now, when at-risk students may fall months, if not years, further behind – will not waver, and this commitment is reflected in our work and our outcomes below.

Meet our Newest Partner Schools!

Voz Collegiate Preparatory Charter School – Albuquerque

Voz Collegiate Preparatory Charter School is a grades 6-8 middle school that will open in Albuquerque in August 2021. Voz Collegiate was founded by Isaac Rivas-Savell (below), a native New Mexican and lifelong educator. After graduating from Eastern New Mexico University, Isaac launched his education career in Roswell, teaching both 3rd and 4th grades, before moving to Eunice, where he taught 5th, 6th and 7th grades. In Eunice, Isaac also served as an instructional coach, a district mentor to incoming staff and an assistant principal.

After over a decade in the classroom, Isaac served as Teacher Liaison for the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED), where he designed and delivered professional development for teachers statewide. Post-PED, Excellent Schools New Mexico made an initial grant to support Isaac’s participation in the highly selective BES Fellowship, which trains skilled educators to build and lead high-achieving, college preparatory urban charter schools. We then made a follow-on grant to help fund Voz Collegiate’s startup costs after the school was authorized. Notably, Voz Collegiate is authorized by Albuquerque Public Schools (APS), making the school the first new charter school that APS has authorized in years. We commend Isaac and his founding board for their perseverance and their work thus far, as well as APS’ board and Office of Innovation for their continuing support.

Sidney Gutierrez Schools - Roswell

Sidney Gutierrez Schools launched in 2001 as Sidney Gutierrez Middle School, a grades 6-8 public charter school located in Roswell. Sidney Gutierrez Middle School has long been one of the highest-performing schools in the state, currently ranking first among all New Mexico public schools in math proficiency and ranking among the top fifteen schools statewide in reading proficiency. Just as important, the school remains very popular among Roswell parents, ranking among the top 10% of all New Mexico public schools in PED’s family and student satisfaction survey results.

In response to strong community demand for the school to serve more students, the Roswell Independent School District – Sidney Gutierrez Schools’ authorizer – approved the school’s expansion from grades 6-8 to grades K-8. Excellent Schools New Mexico made a grant to catalyze this growth, which will increase the school’s enrollment by 200%. Despite the challenges of launching a new school during the COVID pandemic, Roswell families have shown up – Sidney Gutierrez Schools began the school year at full-enrollment in every single grade.

At full-scale, our current portfolio of partner schools will serve nearly 4,000 students annually across New Mexico and will collectively enroll a student body whose demographics mirror those of K-12 students statewide.

Revisiting Our Impact

The New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) recently replaced our state’s “A-F” school accountability system with a series of school dashboards, intended to evaluate schools and student success more holistically through an expanded set of measures. This summer, PED evaluated our state’s public schools for the first time using this new accountability system, and as we highlight on our website, our partner schools have continued to show what’s possible when entrepreneurial educators are paired with strong boards and a bit of startup capital:
  • 83% of our partner schools have been deemed “Spotlight Schools” by the PED, ranking among the top 25% of public schools statewide in overall academic performance. Only 17% of all Title I (economically disadvantaged) schools statewide achieved this distinction.
  • Just as important, 80% of our partner schools rank in the top 10% of public schools statewide in PED’s family and student satisfaction surveys, demonstrating that academically rigorous schools and joyful, family-centered schools are not mutually exclusive.

Perhaps most important, PED’s dashboard data shows that our partner schools have begun to close “Opportunity Gaps” statewide. Although this data is still early-stage data, low-income students and students-of-color in our partner schools significantly outperform all students statewide in both Reading and Math, closing “Opportunity Gaps” with white students and more affluent students.

New Mexico State Assessment Proficiency %

August 2020 Newsletter Slide.pptx (1)

In 2018, a New Mexico district court ruled that the state was not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide sufficient educations to all students, based largely on subpar student outcomes and persistent “Opportunity Gaps.”

Over the past two-plus years, local stakeholders, our legislature, and PED have proposed numerous remedies to improve our statewide education system, but to our knowledge, “growing schools that work” has not been one of these remedies.

In neighboring states, policymakers continue to provide more autonomy to proven school leaders and have allowed successful charter – and district – schools to expand, realizing that this is one proven tool to provide more opportunity to students who need quality educations the most. In New Mexico, we continue to fight this battle, illustrating the gap between what policymakers continue to propose and what everyday parents who are desperate for better options – and who fill the waiting lists of our partner schools – continue to choose.

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