American Graduate Education Town Hall

New Mexico PBS presents
AMERICAN GRADUATE EDUCATION TOWN HALL
Thursday January 16, 2014 at 7 p.m. on KNME-TV, Ch.5.1

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Discusses Solutions to the Dropout Crisis
Initiative Builds on Resolutions Drafted at Community Conversations Held in
Albuquerque, Gallup, Santa Fe and Las Cruces

Heated debates and harsh words about teacher evaluation…Controversy over the idea of social promotion…And, of course, our lingering dropout crisis…

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Education Reform is one of the most crucial issues facing New Mexico today.

Everyone wants to see change, but there’s little agreement on what the best course of action should be. It’s time to bring educators, parents, administrators and students together for a candid and progressive conversation about how to transform and reform New Mexico’s education system.

Important conversations have begun in communities across New Mexico… in communities like Albuquerque (on 10/16), Santa Fe (on 10/30), Las Cruces (on 11/6) and Gallup (on 10/24). Opinions and suggestions from those meetings have already led to a new statewide resolution outlining the goals and aspirations of a successful school system. Now it’s time to move that conversation forward, as we search for clear, concrete changes that will accomplish those goals and take our schools from failing to flourishing.

The AMERICAN GRADUATE EDUCATION TOWN HALL, held at the New Mexico PBS Studio on Dec. 7, focused on three topics: Class Size, Testing and Teacher Evaluations. Each topic was be followed by a discussion focused on solutions. Among the resolutions that grew out of these conversations are smaller class sizes, emphasizing teaching and learning over testing and more highly-qualified teachers who develop creative lesson plans and student-centered instruction.

The AMERICAN GRADUATE EDUCATION TOWN HALL was held in conjunction with American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) that explores solutions to America’s high school dropout crisis. New Mexico PBS partnered with Keep the Promise to bring together a broad group of community stakeholders with the goal of identifying the challenges New Mexico students face beyond the classroom, improving outcomes of student learning, and moving toward an action plan in developing community-based solutions that support students’ success in school.

Approximately 50 educators, students, parents and community members were in attendance, along with special guests.

The public is invited to watch the archived 90-minute AMERICAN GRADUATE EDUCATION TOWN HALL at www.newmexicopbs.org and clicking on the Town Hall link (when available). An online archived version will also be accessible on the Keep the Promise webpage – www.promisefornewmexico.org

Topics Addressed:
1.) CLASS SIZE
Resolution: Well- maintained, inspiring classrooms with small class sizes that encourage and foster a strong student- educator relationship.
Question: How are we going to solve the issue of class size?

2.) TESTING
Resolution: Supportive state and local education leaders that promote student- and educator-friendly policies that value prioritize teaching and learning before testing.
Question: Are students being tested too much, too little, or just enough? What does testing tell us?

3.) TEACHER EVALUATION
Resolution: Well-paid, highly- qualified and experienced educators who develop creative lesson plans and student- centered learning opportunities.
Question: Is this current evaluation system fair to teachers? Will it keep them engaged in the profession? Is it a positive or detrimental to the educator work force?

New Mexico PBS’ AMERICAN GRADUATE EDUCATION TOWN HALL event builds upon the success of a similar program last year by American Graduate, which held Teacher Town Halls across the country. This year’s town hall brought together a broader group of community stakeholders, including businesses, parents, students, intervention and faith-based organizations in a town hall setting.

New Mexico PBS is working closely with the PBS NewsHour on production of the town hall, which is one of many being held around the nation including: Nine Network in Saint Louis, MO; WHRO in Norfolk, VA; WTTW in Chicago, IL; WFYI in Indianapolis, IN; PBS SoCal in Los Angeles, CA; WHUT in Washington, DC; WNPT in Nashville, TN; CET in Cincinnati, OH; DPTV in Detroit, MI; WFSU in Tallahassee, FL; and WNET in New York, NY.

“Public media is committed to providing access to lifelong learning for all Americans. Through the American Graduate initiative, we are working with over 1000 local and national organizations to help communities understand and address the high school dropout challenge,” said Pat Harrison, CPB president and CEO. “The numbers of young people who fail to graduate from high school every year has a negative impact on families, communities, and our country. Through America’s public media stations – on-air, online, and in hundreds of communities – public media is telling the dropout story through the voices of teachers, students, parents, business and community leaders, and educators. By working together we can help our young people stay on the path to a high school diploma. American Graduate town halls are helping to amplify both the challenge and real solutions.”

Results from New Mexico PBS’s Town Hall will also be utilized to inform a final national report of recommendations for local and national action plans to lower the dropout rate.
Recently, American Graduate released the findings of a survey supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and CPB based on responses of over 2,000 teachers in communities across the country who participated in last year’s Teacher Town Halls. As a result of these American Graduate Teacher Town Halls, teachers confirmed they were equipped with a greater range of strategies for improving graduation outcomes in their schools and changed their beliefs about education reporting with a new perspective about public media’s role in building forums and including the teacher’s perspective in this important discussion. The full report, “Teacher Town Halls: A Summary of Findings and Impact,” is available on AmericanGraduate.org.

The new town halls will allow stations to engage additional key community stakeholders — businesses, parents and intervention organizations alongside teachers – to offer a collaborative view of how to keep students in school and on the road to graduation.

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