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Editorial: School districts should welcome at-risk data

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In New Mexico, just seven of 10 students graduate high school. We can all agree that’s not acceptable. And we should all be able to agree that a new initiative by Gov. Susana Martinez to improve those numbers is a good one.

Martinez and Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera are taking a program statewide that identifies at-risk students and has proven results in Rio Rancho — at V. Sue Cleveland High School 87.3 percent of students graduate in four years.

It involves identifying kids at risk of dropping out through $500,000 worth of number-crunching and data analysis by the state that covers everything from truancy rates and failed core courses in middle school and ninth grade, to a history of disciplinary problems, to a student’s third-grade test scores in reading.

“We already gather this data, but we don’t put it to use,” Martinez says. “We will now, because we know it will help us identify kids who need the extra help and intervention, and will help schools funnel resources directly to these students.”

At no cost to districts. This is simply data that should help them be more effective at helping kids graduate.

Even the most vocal critics of the Martinez/Skandera education reform effort should be able to acknowledge this is a student-centric, holistic approach that gives educators as many data-driven tools as possible, from school grades to results-based teacher evaluations to an emphasis on K-3 reading. Skandera says “when we see success, we want to replicate it, champion it and make sure other districts have the same tools.”

Districts should welcome having this level of information accompany the students who enter their doors. And they should make the most of it to improve those students’ chances of graduating.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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