Meeting student needs in the Southwest.
Emerson Elementary sits in Albuquerque, the nation's 13th largest school district, like a kind of education United Nations -- some 20 languages and cultures are represented in the school. Nine out of ten of its 800 students qualify for the free lunch program, and the school has to cope with an annual student turnover as high as 90 percent.
In Albuquerque, 90,000 children attend public schools. It is one of the growing number of "majority minority" districts in the United States. Forty-eight percent of enrollment in the Albuquerque schools is Anglo; 42.4 percent is Hispanic; 4.7 percent is Native American; 3.1 percent is African American; and 1.8 percent is Asian.
In 1986 the Albuquerque schools, including Emerson, adopted a "year-round" schedule because the burgeoning school population was putting a strain on strapped budgets, classroom space was at a premium, and school officials saw the potential for improving instruction by adopting a new calendar. The year-round program seems to be working well in Emerson, which operates a 12 week on, 15 day off, multitrack schedule with the entire school on vacation for three weeks in July. During the 15-day breaks, the school offers special programs to provide remedial or enrichment classes for about 150 students.
By 1992, 26 Albuquerque year-round schools enrolled 15,000 students. According to Assistant School Superintendent Geraldine M. Harge, the year-round schedule offers significant advantages:
In three evaluation cycles, Albuquerque teachers and students have reported more learning and higher teacher morale. The 1992 North Central States evaluation team reported "more curriculum being covered due to less [post-summer vacation] review time needed" and "greater retention among low achievers."
But, Harge told the Commission, year-round education did not come easily to Albuquerque. "Tradition is strong," she said, and the "mythology of summer vacation is so pervasive that it takes precedence over educational values for some people. Facts and figures from experts make few inroads when family or social traditions are threatened." Despite these difficulties, Harge supported year-round education as an opportunity for education restructuring, an opportunity that can be realized only "when teachers, students, and parents use their learning schedule framework as part of a conscious educational improvement strategy."
To meet the needs of its diverse student population, Emerson has developed a special focus on school readiness. It operates a child development center for about 40 preschool children (one of six programs in Albuquerque). The center is particularly proud of its emphasis on parent participation and reports high rates of involvement in parent workshops and monthly parent-child activity days.
For additional information:
Anna Marie Ulibarri
Emerson Elementary School
620 Georgia SE
Albuquerque, NM 87108