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PED highlights student transfer option from F schools

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Public Education Department is publicizing a little-known law that allows families to pull their children out of habitually failing schools.

On Wednesday, PED sent out a news release about the law, which states that students can transfer from schools that have earned two F grades in the past four years.

“We want every parent to be in the driver’s seat of their child’s educational experience,” Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski said in a statement. “Part of the American Dream is having freedom and choices – and families deserve to have the ability to choose a great school regardless of their socioeconomic status or background.”

Ruszkowski, who announced 2017 school grades in August, highlighted the growing divide between districts that have improved and those that continue to struggle.

While Alamogordo, Farmington, Gadsden and 53 other districts no longer have any failing schools, 34 percent of Albuquerque’s schools received an F in the latest state report, up from 25 percent in 2016.

APS is also home to two elementary schools that have received six straight failing grades – the worst performance in the state. Across New Mexico, 13 schools have earned three Fs in the past four years.

The transfer option has been available since the school grading system began in 2012. A PED spokeswoman said the department does not know how many students have taken advantage of it. Each district tracks its own transfers.

PED’s release encourages parents to be “advocates in their child’s educational experience.”

“New Mexico provides a wide array of public school options – both traditional, charter, and virtual,” it states.

Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, New Mexico has more leeway to address chronically low-performing schools.

The state ESSA plan outlines a number of options for these schools, including outright closure and “restarting” them as charters.

“It cannot be ignored that schools in this category have failed generations of kids,” the plan states.

The state’s school grade system is controversial, particularly its strong focus on test results.

Test score growth is the largest factor in the grade, but PED has shifted the grading criteria over the years to weigh academic proficiency more heavily.

Stephanie Ly, American Federation of Teachers New Mexico president, said the grades fail to “capture the unique needs of the students we serve and the communities in which they live.”

“We strongly oppose the NM PED’s continued desire to label public schools as ‘failing,’ a practice no longer required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and are especially concerned with the PED’s overtures that long-term ‘failing’ schools could be subject to a state takeover,” she said in a statement. “Leadership is more than just labeling a school, and it is impossible to shame our way to success.”