A 50% increase in K-12 English and math scores by the 2025-26 school year may seem like a stretch, until you realize where New Mexico is starting from. At last count, before the pandemic, only one in five NM students mastered math and one in three mastered reading. If these numbers were still accurate – questionable with the learning loss inflicted by distance learning – meeting these targets would mean that only one in three students will be able to do math and only half will be able to read at level school.
But especially given the landmark Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit that said New Mexico was failing to provide sufficient education for students, especially minority and at-risk students, our public education department has to start somewhere. Unfortunately, the draft action plan released in May begins and ends with aspirations. Nowhere in the 55-page report are there details of how districts, schools, teachers or students will achieve them.
And so we end up with some general goals, including:
• A 15% increase by 2025 in graduation rates for Indigenous people, English language learners and low-income students. Commendable, but degrees should be worth the paper they’re printed on and prepare graduates for college, vocational training, the job market, the military, or adult life.
• A 20% increase in Hispanics, a 7% increase in Native Americans, and a 3% increase in the representation of African American teachers, all by 2025-2026. First, about 34% of educators in New Mexico identified as Hispanic in 2016-2017, more than four times the national average, and 3% identified as Native American/Alaska Native, according to NewMexicoKidsCan. With approximately 22,000 teachers in the state, that goal is approximately 1,500 additional Hispanic teachers and 46 additional Native American teachers. It takes four years to graduate. Are these teachers-in-training in the pipeline? If not, how will PED achieve these goals? Meanwhile, it takes so much more to be an exemplary teacher beyond identity politics, and in our majority-minority state, role models of the same race, ethnicity and gender identity can make schools a reliable and safe space for students, especially those at risk of dropping out.
• Lower the state’s average counselor-to-student ratio from 426 to 1 to 250 to 1 by 2026-27 and ensure that every high school has at least one fully certified counselor. The increase in educational support staff is also commendable, but budgeting for hundreds of new counselors, social workers and occupational therapists is much easier than hiring them, just ask Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque, which have been trying to bolster civilian response teams with similar hires for years.
Perhaps most worryingly, the plan concedes that there is no way to compare student results over time because “benchmarks are not available”. That’s because Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s very first act as governor was to abandon the standardized testing method, the PED removed student scores from teacher assessments, and the legislature killed grades. FA, which easily explained how a school met the academic needs of different student populations. . Lujan Grisham’s administration has yet to release partial results of the new standardized tests in the spring of 2021.
So instead of detailing what’s in the K-12 toolkit to ensure student success, we get 55 pages of goals and self-congratulatory mentions of how the administration of this governor has provided significant salary increases for teachers and new social studies standards for the first time in two decades – progress yes, but not really the point of the lawsuit or this exercise, which is to ensure that every NM student receives an adequate education from K-12.
Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus hails the proposed Martinez/Yazzie Action Plan for Discussion as “not just a blueprint for the future; it also reflects all the work that has taken place since the start of this administration, and it challenges us all with strong performance goals to advance key student outcomes. OK but how?
Lujan Grisham’s administration has been three and a half years since a state judge found the state violated the constitutional right to an adequate education for socioeconomically disadvantaged English language learners, Native Americans and students with disabilities. The court said that students had unequal access to qualified teachers, quality school buildings and lessons tailored to their cultural background and needs.
“It’s now been four years since the decision, and I think that’s enough time for our state to really start making these changes,” Wilhelmina Yazzie, a mother of three who has lived most of her life in the Navajo Nation and original plaintiff Yazzie, the Journal told.
Laurel Nesbitt, senior counsel for Disability Rights New Mexico, is correct when she says the draft action plan is a “disconnected and scattered approach,” lacking cohesive connections and a “true vision for change.”
Melissa Candelaria, a member of the Yazzie Group’s legal team and director of education for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said education advocates were hoping for “a comprehensive plan, with timelines, staffing needs , measurable, short-term and long-term goals. long-term action plans” and “multi-year financial investments”.
Instead, they have amorphous targets for Native children, English language learners, children with disabilities and those who come from low-income families, who collectively make up 70% of New Mexico’s public school students. And no detailed or action-oriented way to achieve them.
Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest school district with more than 70,000 students, also appears disappointed. Officials wrote in a response “the draft plan is currently a collection of initiatives created by the New Mexico Legislature and NMPED. In its current form, it reads like a prescriptive list, rather than a visionary roadmap for districts. »
And without a roadmap, it’s easy to get lost. Especially when your starting point is at the back of the pack.
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.