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Gov. Thanks Obama for Help On Education

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ROSWELL — Gov. Susana Martinez thanked President Barack Obama on Wednesday for supporting reforms that will help improve New Mexico schools and said she wants to continue cooperation on education issues.

The Obama administration last month granted New Mexico a waiver of No Child Left Behind Act requirements that will allow the state to push for measures like teacher evaluations, school grading and improved student literacy.

“The reaction I received from him was very positive,” Martinez said of her exchange with Obama on their shared goal to improve student performance. “He was well aware New Mexico received the waiver. He said he was going to continue to work with our administration on reform.”

Martinez and Obama spoke for several minutes after his arrival at Roswell International Air Center before the president went on to Maljamar, where he addressed U.S. energy policies.

The Republican governor said she and the Democratic president “speak the same language” on school reform and the effort to end the status quo in schools, despite the influence of special interest groups.

“There are policies where we can work together to make (an) enormous difference when it comes to our kids. We’re not going to agree on everything … but this is one (issue) that’s extremely important,” Martinez said of what she described as the state’s cooperation with the Obama administration on education reform. “We need to move the politics out of it and make a difference for our kids.”

New Mexico is one of 11 states that were granted waivers from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Because Congress has not reauthorized the 2001 law, the Obama administration is allowing states to apply for waivers, in exchange for state reform policies the administration favors.

No Child Left Behind requires schools to reach ever-increasing targets, and would require 100 percent of students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014.

Specifically, states seeking waivers are expected to hold schools accountable, adopt high academic standards and evaluate teachers based partially on the academic progress of their students.

New Mexico’s waiver application rests largely on the reform agenda of state Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera.

Skandera’s new A-F school grading system is a key part of the waiver, as are her efforts to overhaul New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system.

Although her teacher evaluation bill failed in the recent legislative session, Skandera has said she will use administrative rules to pursue an overhaul of the teacher evaluation system.

Journal education writer Hailey Heinz contributed to this report.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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