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Editorial: Data show why N.M. needs education reform

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Nationally, the education establishment has loved to hate the federal No Child Left Behind act since it was adopted in 2001. More than a decade later, the same attitude unfortunately applies to New Mexico implementing the necessary reforms to make NCLB’s rigid standards go away in favor of new ways to boost and measure student achievement.

Despite federal waiver requirements to adopt a new school rating system, teacher evaluations linked to student achievement and Common Core standards, unions, many New Mexico legislators, and some educators and their administrators have fought the reforms tooth and nail. Even though the reforms are teacher-designed, student-focused and data-driven.

And even though New Mexico:

• Has fourth-graders ranked 49th in reading and 48th in mathematics, according to the Nation’s Report Card from the U.S. Department of Education;

• Ranks 47th in K-12 achievement according to the Quality Counts survey;

• Gets barely half of its students able to read at grade level and just 43 percent proficient in math, according to the most recent Standards-Based Assessment; and

• Ensures only seven of every 10 New Mexico high school students graduate, with almost half of those who go on to college requiring remedial coursework.

This week U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan reiterated the need for reforms now by announcing more states have been granted waivers to NCLB. As he explained it, “37 states and the District of Columbia can’t wait any longer for education reform.” Eight other states as well as several California districts also are seeking waivers, joining a movement to put student-centric change before status-quo comfort.

New Mexico public schools chief Hanna Skandera led the charge to get a waiver for the state and is pushing to implement the kinds of reform Duncan is urging – despite entrenched resistance to change a system that has kept New Mexico near the bottom of the education rankings in key categories.

The data show why New Mexico has to move forward with real education reform. The question is, will some in the Legislature and the state’s education establishment ever get it?

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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