Grantee Corner  |  Albuquerque Public Schools

Three students stand around a desk constructing something out of cardboard while a teacher looks on
Garfield Middle School students work on finding solutions to four physics questions during the Scientific Method Project

A male student controls a robot
Garfield Middle School student competes in the Sea Perch challenge, which involves building an underwater robot

A male student holds a green archery bow
Garfield Middle School student at a leadership archery competition.

A female student holds up a drawing of a gopher in a rocket
Garfield Middle School student winner of the Garfield STEM throwback t-shirt contest honoring the school’s past mascot, the gopher, poses with her drawing

A group of adults pose in a classroom
Mission Avenue Elementary, Garfield Middle School, and Valley High School Instructional Councils from Engineering the Future attend launch training

Deborah Elder, APS Project Director

Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is the largest district in New Mexico, serving 84,000 students in 142 schools across nearly 1,200 square miles covering Albuquerque, Corrales, Los Ranchos, Bernalillo, Sandoval, Isleta, and Laguna. APS is Albuquerque’s largest employer, providing jobs for more than 12,000 people, including 6,000 teachers. Two-thirds of APS students are Hispanic, and 15 percent are English language learners. APS serves a community with high needs: 70 percent of students qualify for the federal Free and Reduced-Price School Meals program, and more than 70 percent of schools have been identified as high-poverty Title I schools that qualify for federal funding.

The Albuquerque community is a hub of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurial efforts in the Southwest. APS’s Academic Master Plan includes the growth of quality innovative choices for students and families, and the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP) grant supports that goal. The MSAP grant enables APS to create its first science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) magnet K-12 pathway. 

The goal of the MSAP project in APS is threefold: to increase student learning, increase enrollment, and increase the diversity of the student population. This aligns with the district’s plans for expanding school choice by
  • creating a systemic portfolio of options that meet the needs of students, families, and community; 
  • building toward geographic equity and accessibility to K-12 pathways; 
  • building a culture of innovation and an entrepreneurial approach to designing educational opportunities; 
  • developing demonstration sites that support the elevation of professional practice districtwide; and 
  • promoting diversity.
Garfield Middle School began implementing its STEM magnet program with a focus on project-based, multidisciplinary learning prior to receiving the MSAP grant. Since converting to a magnet school, Garfield has seen a substantial increase in citywide student transfers; a third of the school’s grade 6 class comes from outside the attendance area. To build on Garfield’s success, Mission Avenue Elementary and Valley High School are also implementing STEM magnet programs. This magnet pathway will enable students to take STEM courses from elementary school to high school.

Engineering habits of mind and design-thinking processes are woven into a multidisciplinary approach at all three schools and unify the K-12 pathway. All grade levels feature engineering and computer science learning through Project Lead the Way. Extensive professional learning is an investment in the most important change agents in education: teachers and principals. 

A core group of industry partners from higher education, economic development, and local STEM employers demonstrate innovative industry engagement through their partnerships with the MSAP schools. Supporters and partners include Sandia National Laboratories, New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering, Explora, and the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.

The APS MSAP team is part of the district’s Office of Innovation and School Choice, headed by Executive Director Deborah Elder. Prior to taking this position, Elder served as principal of a technology and communication-themed magnet school. She has presented nationally on creating innovative school cultures.

The APS MSAP team also consists of Senior Director Francesca VerPlough; Professional Learning Coach April Requard; and three Implementation Coaches who include Helana Greenblatt, Abel Abeita, and a high school assistant principal. All team members have extensive experience in innovative teaching and learning. APS Associate Superintendent Yvonne Garcia fully supports the transformation of her schools.