Countless children across the nation are not receiving the education they deserve. Thankfully, that is not the case in New Mexico, where the commitment to help every child learn is paying off. This year, New Mexico is proving what we know to be true: students, teachers, and schools rise to the expectations set before them.
In recent years, New Mexico education policy and spending has targeted specific areas to improve student performance. Governor Susana Martinez and her administration have focused on preparing all children to read at grade level and have introduced new accountability measures – including increased cut scores in high school and requiring students to demonstrate an understanding of core subjects before graduating. This strong leadership has helped increase expectations and achievement for New Mexico’s students.
Results from New Mexico’s 2013 Standards Based Assessment show that the state has reversed a three-year trend of declining reading scores in third grade. Hispanic, African-American, and Native-American students made significantly higher gains than their white counterparts, and English Language Learners (ELL) increased their scores by nearly three times more than non-ELL third graders.
In high school, New Mexico’s 11th-grade class increased proficiency rates for reading by nearly 10 percentage points. And, these learning gains build on last year’s achievements: As a class, this year’s 11th graders have increased their reading proficiency rate by more than 20 percent and math proficiency rate by 12.7 percent in the past two years. And, once again, we see Hispanic, African-American, and Native-American students making notably greater proficiency gains than their white counterparts.
Demography doesn’t determine destiny, and this is great news for kids everywhere. New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said it best:
“As the Governor has often said, education reform must be rooted in the belief that every student can learn, and must be motivated by a willingness to target our investment in education on proven efforts to improve the achievement of our struggling schools and students. We have an incredibly long way to go when it comes to raising the reading skills of our 3rd graders, and we should not be satisfied by modest gains. Our high school students are demonstrating how targeted reforms can yield results, so there should be no excuses for why we can’t expand successful efforts to every student in every grade in New Mexico.”
These significant high school gains were reflected in the 2012-13 A-F school grades that were released just yesterday. While schools showed improvement across the board, with over 70 percent of schools improving or maintaining their previous grade, high schools showed the greatest improvements with not a single high school in the state earning an F grade. With a statewide increase in schools earning an A or B and a decrease in schools earning a D or F, it’s clear that targeted reforms are working and students are being better prepared for success in school and in life.
New Mexico’s leaders are doing the hard work it takes to improve the futures of the children in their state. The state is raising the bar for education, and I look forward to seeing how these and other targeted reforms—like the new teacher evaluations and increased opportunities for students to take Advanced Placement courses—will impact the trajectory of K-12 education in New Mexico. I hope we see more states follow this inspiring example of strategic vision and political courage.