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Editorial: NM can learn lessons from ’13 NAEP results

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If the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress scores show anything, it’s that a year of partial reforms is not enough.

Not enough to get New Mexico’s fourth- and eighth-grade students competitive with their peers in other states, much less competitive on a global level.

The NAEP, administered by the U.S. Department of Education and called the “nation’s report card,” showed scores rose slightly across the nation but remained flat or declined a bit in New Mexico. In fact, the state’s fourth-grade reading scores tied with the District of Columbia for last in the nation; eighth-grade reading and fourth-grade math scores were third from the bottom.

But D.C.’s last place should not obscure the fact the district made huge strides, recording more improvement than nearly every state. Tennessee recorded the largest growth – 22 points – for any state in a single testing cycle since the NAEP started a decade ago. And those states’ improvement coincides with reforms New Mexico’s education status quo continues to struggle with:

  • In D.C., a growing charter-school movement, new academic standards and evaluations that link job security and pay to student test scores.
  • In Tennessee, tougher coursework standards for students, tougher teacher evaluations linked to student test scores, merit pay and a new pay scale that puts less emphasis on a teacher’s degrees and years of experience.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says “where we’re seeing huge progress is where people have taken on really tough work … whether investing more in childhood education, adopting higher standards or having a laserlike focus on teacher effectiveness.”

Yet clearly as the D.C. and Tennessee examples show, “investing” doesn’t simply mean throwing more money at a system that doesn’t deliver. Remember, the Obama administration pumped more than $70 billion into education programs under the Recovery Act of 2009 yet overall NAEP scores have barely inched up.

It is important moving forward that New Mexico pay attention to these recent NAEP lessons and emulate the successes there, rather than continuing to defend/excuse the failures here.

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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