Rio Grande High School: APS and its "Toxic Assets"

As the largely unnamed financial crisis (and why doesn’t it have a catchy, “Great Depression II” kinda name yet?) has unfolded, those in charge of “solving” the crisis have changed their mind about what to do about “toxic assets” more often than a middle school girl changes best friends.

Over the years, the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) has performed the same vacillations when it comes to its own most toxic asset: Rio Grande High School. Continually beset by high drop-out rates and low test scores (even back when nobody really gave a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) damn about test scores), Rio Grande has been a veritable Petri dish for various experiments in educational “fixing”

Over the years APS has switched principals, instituted some weird four principal system, and created and un-created so many new teaching programs I can’t keep them all straight. At the same time, residents of the South Valley have thought about, talked about, threatened and urged feasibility studies around the idea of seceding Rio Grande and other SV schools from APS altogether.

It’s politically easy to mess with a school like Rio Grande because RGHS is a “bad” school. And bad schools can be experimented upon with impunity. In fact, it’s encouraged especially in a time of NCLB.

Superintendent Winston Brooks and the District’s latest idea is to “fix” RGHS and nearby Ernie Pyle MS by changing principals, having all teachers sign a loyalty oath toward “making improvements” and possibly paying those signatory teachers $5,000 more. There’s also vague mention of these schools becoming “International Baccalaureate” schools.

Will these changes make any difference? I don’t know. We all do know a few things, however.

  • One: There is no chance in Hell these, or any, changes at RGHS will be successfully fought. A bad school has no bullets in the gun. A bad school doesn’t even have a rock to fight with. RGHS is “bad”, and can be punched, kicked and scratched at will.
  • Two: Any teacher with any sense is going to avoid teaching at RGHS like five-day, sitting in the sun potato salad. $5,000 huh. Well, if a teacher can get that much money, or more, a year just for becoming “National Board Certified”, what do you think the average teacher will do? Write a bunch of seemingly important essays on their “practice” to get National Board Certified, or teach at some Petri dish high school like RGHS and get treated like a Science Fair experiment?
  • Three: Any principal willing to work at RGHS deserves both cautious praise and uncautious admittance to an insane asylum. There’s a bunch of reasons, but let’s just close with just one. Very, very few people in education have any respect for the test scores of NCLB. Superintendent Brooks himself has derided the improvement requirements of NCLB, and has instituted smaller, realistically attainable, goals for improved student achievement. Yet when push comes to educational experiment shove, Brooks and APS end up using those same derided “poor test scores” and NCLB terms like “Restructuring 1” as the ultimate rationale for making changes at RGHS. Who among us thinks RGHS will “make scores” this year? What about next year? What about five years after that? As constructed, NCLB requires 100% student proficiency in Reading & Math by 2014. That’s only five years away now. Who’s gonna make that 100% goal? Nobody. And who’s going to continue to play the District scapegoat for that and all the other problems of K-12 public education in Albuquerque? Rio Grande High School, that’s who.

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11 thoughts on “Rio Grande High School: APS and its "Toxic Assets"

  1. If anyone really wants to fix RGHS, or any other failing school, the place to start is student discipline.Oddly, student discipline; its width, its depth, its causes, its effects, accurate and honest statistics,never seem to make it to the table.The first forum of school board candidates meets at 6 pm tonight.A majority of the board is up for election – we are at a fork in the road.Two candidates, Marron and Robbins are willing to put student discipline, and every other legitimate topic, on the table for open and honest public discussion – no one in the current leadership of the APS will make that commitment. So far, neither will any other candidate for the board.Perhaps if enough people went to the forum to ask questions, at least a few might get answered.

  2. Ah poor Rio, the whipping boy of APS.Just last fall, Brooks was praising the 25% gain in test scores, and that NCLB was unrealistic. Until Veronica Garcia slapped his hand. So Veronica wins, Rio looses, and everyone goes home with empty pockets and pointless promises. I would ask the towers of power, to show us the results of the last big principal shuffle that the Journal called refreshing. Where are the statistical improvements? Oh, you don’t have, or don’t want to share those? Probably shows something you don’t want us to know. God forbid the media does it’s job and investigates.One final question, what idiot decided to anounce this shake up right before testing this year? With morale the way it was before this announcement, you can imagine how seriously any one is going to take this testing cycle. There goes the AYP! Karma

  3. We’re not going to change anything until we break the cycle of poverty. It amazes me that APS still thinks that if you put an International Baccalaureate school in a poverty area those kids are going to jump at the chance to sign up. Just like the AVID program in the Highland Cluster … college is a major mind set change for these kids. College would mean making new friends in addition to illiciting supportive family responses. WIth the economy in the toilet, I’m sure most low income families would just like them to get a job and help support them. Why can’t the administration see that a jobs program with ties to the trades would be the logical thing to do. But unfortunately we still march on, one flavor education – you’re either headed to college or you’re out on the streets causing trouble.

  4. Did you see the NYT article over Christmas about how New York is trying a new way to handle welfare/medicaid? They are setting up accounts for families at a bank and giving them coupons. They earn their money by their children having good attendance in school, by going to parent teacher meetings, taking their kids to the Dr. for physicals, attending classes on how to help their kids in school, etc. etc. Perhaps something like this would work in New Mexico and or Rio Cluster. Maybe the parents would actually start to value education and pass that on to their children!!! Trying to track parents down to discuss misbehaving/underperforming /truant students is becoming increasingly difficult this year.

  5. GIVE ME A BREAK! THE WHIPPING BOY OF APS? Take a look at the history of these two schools and who has run them into the ground. The so called “south valley community” who are SO CONCERNED is a select group of people of have been riding the free ride for SEVERAL YEARS now. The Free Ride is Now Over! Now comes the time for Real Work, REAL Learning and Real Principals and other administrator who are not corrupt and who have the REAL Students’ education and best interest in mind. To the “Real South Valley Community”, be careful what you read and hear because these select few who call themselves “the south valley community” have their own personal agendas and ulterior motives for hatching lies and sabatoging Brooks choice for the job. To the parents, I say, these people are jeopardizing your childens future. Keep your mind open, trust the superintendant who has many years of expertise and who has layed down his career for this job. Get Involved with the schools your children attend. Go to Open House, go to Registration, meet the teachers. Set up Parent/Teacher Conferences to check up on his behavior in classes and his attendance. Make sure he is not one of the MANY who wander the high school campus doing absolutely nothing but getting in trouble. All this is in Your Control. Brooks is not picking on these two schools. They just happen to be on the very bottom of academics, attendance, testing, dropout for many, many years and that is why he is starting at these two school. We want the best for our children. We want them to succeed in life and be able to do whatever and go wherever their educated minds will take them. I say, “Hooray for Mr. Brooks! Stay the Course”.

  6. I agree Rio is the guinea pig of APS. It is abuse to push the latest scheme right before testing especially when children, parents and teachers worked so hard to raise their test scores last year. 25point increase where else has that happened. And the people hating on the south valley community at the school deal with it-they are the parents of the children attending Rio Grande. However, many people make a good living out of pushing these nitwit ideas on a captive audience (education reformers that scoop up on federal grants to “try out” some theory). Some of them have been family members of APS administrators. We call them poverty pimps. You wouldn’t see them near a school if there weren’t big bucks attached. We also know that APS has to keep the average test scores for the district at around 50%, hence the need for a low performing school. Let’s just let the poverty pimps loose to disrupt things again and that should keep the scores down. But you need a principal who will open the doors to such nonsense. I give you the latest dumb idea in education reform-the new principal with a rocky background everywhere she goes. Dang them admistrators in the twin towers-they is brilliant!

  7. GIVE ME A BREAK! THE WHIPPING BOY OF APS? Take a look at the history of these two schools and who has run them into the ground. The so called “south valley community” who are SO CONCERNED is a select group of people of have been riding the free ride for SEVERAL YEARS now. The Free Ride is Now Over! Now comes the time for Real Work, REAL Learning and Real Principals and other administrator who are not corrupt and who have the REAL Students’ education and best interest in mind. To the “Real South Valley Community”, be careful what you read and hear because these select few who call themselves “the south valley community” have their own personal agendas and ulterior motives for hatching lies and sabatoging Brooks choice for the job. To the parents, I say, these people are jeopardizing your childens future. Keep your mind open, trust the superintendant who has many years of expertise and who has layed down his career for this job. Get Involved with the schools your children attend. Go to Open House, go to Registration, meet the teachers. Set up Parent/Teacher Conferences to check up on his behavior in classes and his attendance. Make sure he is not one of the MANY who wander the high school campus doing absolutely nothing but getting in trouble. All this is in Your Control. Brooks is not picking on these two schools. They just happen to be on the very bottom of academics, attendance, testing, dropout for many, many years and that is why he is starting at these two school. We want the best for our children. We want them to succeed in life and be able to do whatever and go wherever their educated minds will take them. I say, “Hooray for Mr. Brooks! Stay the CourseThank You Mr. Brooks.

  8. Can we come up with new comments and not just reprint the racist ideas of someone that hates the south valley and it’s community. This school is a gold mine for federal money for APS, this school has been ignored by APS except when admin. needs to prove it does something other than go to casinos and porn shops and we (the south valley) need to wake up and get out of this stupid APS structure that will not let Rio succeed. The test scores were raised 25+ points last year-oops can’t have that so Sheriff W. Brooks brought in his gunslinger Linda Torres with her taser to do the job. When are we going to be allowed to form our own district. Rio Rancho was allowed with no trouble at all, but they don’t provide millions of federal dollars for the district. What’s wrong with this picture. Time for your walking papers Brooks, APS board and in fact the whole structure-find someone else to experiment with!

  9. TIME FOR AN “EXPERIMENT IN RECALL” (for board member Dolores Griego) She is board member in name only-her actions prove she doesn’t care and her comments prove she is dumber than dirt!

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