Everyone knew it wasn’t going to be good.
Public education in New Mexico was at the bottom of the state rankings before the pandemic, and that’s where it remains after.
Test results released by the state Department of Public Education this month, the first comprehensive results since 2019 due to COVID-19, indicate that just over a third of students are proficient in the arts. language and a quarter are in mathematics.
Which brings us to the question: when will the “education moonshot” promised by the governor four years ago take off? Additional spending has certainly increased – $3.8 billion in fiscal 2022, compared to $2.75 billion in 2018. But we are still expecting positive results in this crucial launch.
Matthew Goodlaw, director of research, evaluation and accountability at DEP, puts it mildly.
“From a high performance lens, these results are not satisfactory, and we are not claiming that they are,” he said.
They also don’t hold up to a low performance lens.
One of the biggest problems is that New Mexico’s 318,000 K-12 public school students were already lagging behind their peers, and the persistent achievement gaps aren’t improving.
This is the case even four years after the landmark Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit revealed that the state failed to follow its constitution to provide Indigenous students, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students, and people with disabilities. , the programs and services necessary for them to learn and grow.
The new Student Achievement and Achievement Measurement test administered to students in grades three through eight and juniors showed significant gaps in results among several subgroups of students. For example, only 24% of third-graders eligible for free, reduced lunch were proficient in language arts and about 16% were proficient in math — significantly lower results than their NM classmates.
Test results in public schools in Albuquerque, the state’s largest district, roughly mirrored the results of the overall statewide assessment.
APS officials acknowledge the “heavy impacts of the pandemic” but say progress will take time.
And we would say that while we appreciate that, our students only get one chance each year, and the pandemic generation of students has no time to waste.
APS Superintendent Scott Elder said: “We will use this information to establish new foundations for student success and focus on the challenges exacerbated by the pandemic to ensure students get the support they need. need to catch up and excel”. It must happen as soon as possible. In contrast, Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, the governor’s third education secretary, insisted that “New Mexico has come a long way to serve the most underrepresented students.” But he acknowledged the obvious: “We have a long way to go.”
We certainly have a long way to go. As NewMexicoKidsCAN Executive Director Amanda Aragon says, the new data just confirms what everyone expected. “The reality is that we are failing to prepare the majority of our students with the skills we know they need to succeed.”
The quality of our education system goes far beyond the classroom. We frequently hear from business leaders how detrimental the state education system is to economic growth.
“(I) here in New Mexico, we must commit to transforming underperforming schools, growing our high-quality public charter schools, and better training principals to become school leaders. processors,” Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, says.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham campaigned on “a moonshot for public education” and made it a key point in her first state of the state address. She delivered on her promises to dramatically increase teacher pay, but the pay increases that made New Mexico’s teacher pay levels competitive with other states came without any additional teacher expectations.
Additionally, on his third day as governor, Lujan Grisham dropped the Partnership for Assessing College and Career Readiness tests that allowed New Mexico to compare its results to a consortium of other states. . She also stopped using student academic improvement to help assess teacher effectiveness and, along with the legislature, rejected the state’s AF school grading system, eliminating the public’s ability to rate higher. easily the performance of the school in his neighborhood. And under her, the PED saw a revolving door of leadership.
The governor ran in 2018 on improving education, and she could get a second chance at her moonshot if elected to a second term.
But three and a half years later, these latest test results show little movement off the launch pad. They are proof that more money alone has not improved education. And the vague response to the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit – pages of goals with no explanation of how to achieve them – is not encouraging.
The state has provided funding for programs to extend school days and the school year. Unfortunately, most districts and schools have yet to accept. At what point do legislators continue to make this type of necessary change optional? And PED points to a reduction in teacher vacancies and the state literacy training program for elementary school teachers as progress.
We cannot continue to present poverty, drugs or the pandemic as general excuses for the poor performance of our schools. Yes, we have challenges – more than many other states.
But 49th or 50th can no longer be acceptable.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the editors.