Our son and one daughter graduated from D-graded public schools. Our other daughter graduated from a private school. I thank their schools and those hardworking teachers for nurturing our children and making them “college and career ready.”
I teach at one of those former D schools — Monte del Sol Charter School. Our school has earned A, B, C and D grades over the years. Who cares? Does Monte del Sol Charter School prepare students for college and/or careers?
You’d have to ask our former students — some who are Duke University, New Mexico Tech, MIT, NMSU, Occidental, UNM, Santa Clara, Santa Fe Community College, St. John’s College or Goucher College graduates. Ask Monte del Sol’s former students who are now at Princeton, Loyola Marymount, St. Edward’s University or Ohio Wesleyan. Ask former students who are plumbers, electricians, mechanics, construction workers, and those who work at retail stores, restaurants, grocery stores, fast food chains, state government or Capitol Hill.
Success is self-motivated and relative; it’s not dependent on a bogus grading system.
Former Gov. Susana Martinez and former Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera took pride in humiliating public schools by publishing school grades. True educators would say the public notification of grades is the antithesis of best practice. The Public Education Department spent millions of dollars to determine what any educator can tell you free of charge: Test scores mirror socio-economic status and demographic shifts.
Many students who perform poorly on standardized tests attend Title I schools. Some students are English learners — wealthy with bilingualism and deft with code switches, but those skills aren’t measured. Many students do not have books in their homes or state-of-the-art access to information. Some students have learning disabilities. Other students come from middle-income and affluent families; their parents are college-educated and choose private schools. In order to inflate their diversity, those private schools provide financial aid to high-performing lower-income students. Those schools and students are not included in our public school assessments, but they’re ours.
Some Santa Fe students thrive at charter schools. The school district should welcome them. Charter schools don’t compete; they complement. Capital High School has a brilliant honors and AP program. Santa Fe High: same; Monte del Sol: same.
When I attended Santa Fe High’s commencement in 2016, I was highly impressed by the student speakers and the announcement of colleges many of those graduates would attend: Stanford, UNM, NMSU, Pomona, Bard, University of North Carolina, Goucher College and many others. Santa Fe has good schools for those who take full advantage. Unfortunately, our schools are also attended by those who don’t know how to navigate the system. And schools have also become sanctuaries for many who squander the opportunity of a public education.
In our effort to provide traditional, progressive and experiential learning, Monte del Sol students participate in hiking and camping trips — Mount Taylor, Bosque del Apache, Monte Sol, Chaco Canyon, the Pecos Wilderness and more.
When civil rights icon Dolores Huerta spoke at the debut of her biographical film, several Monte del Sol students and teachers, as well as the school’s founder and former board president attended. Many Monte del Sol students and staff members have participated in the DACA, Pride and the women’s marches, as well as the Climate Strike. Monte del Sol hosted a student-led mayoral candidate forum.
Monte del Sol celebrates the National Day on Writing. Monte del Sol has piloted mentorship programs in Santa Fe. Without facilities of its own, Monte del Sol has made the state playoffs in several sports. At Monte del Sol we have super scholars, super athletes, award-winning teachers and a strong community.
Would we send our own child to Monte del Sol Charter School? Yes — we did.
Alfredo Celedón Luján is from Nambé. He’s a teacher at Monte del Sol. Luján is a Golden Apple Fellow and incoming president-elect of the National Council of Teachers of English.