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Reviewers: NM education plan top in the nation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico is leading the nation on education reform, according to independent reviewers.

Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success ranked New Mexico’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan No. 1 in the spring when 17 states had submitted documents to the U.S. Department of Education. Now all 50 state plans have been reviewed, and New Mexico is still on top.

“I’m so proud that New Mexico has once again been recognized as a national leader in education reform,” Gov. Susana Martinez said in a statement. “I will not stop fighting for reforms that will prepare our students for the future.”

Last week, New Mexico unveiled a $50-million support package after identifying more than 200 struggling schools ā€” a centerpiece of the State Plan.

The four lowest-performing schools ā€” Hawthorne Elementary, Whittier Elementary and Los Padillas Elementary in Albuquerque and Dulce Elementary near the Colorado border ā€” must submit turnaround proposals to PED.

Their options are outlined in the ESSA plan: closure, relaunch as a charter school, significant reorganization or “championing” parents’ option to transfer students to other schools.

The State Plan also pledges to expand the Teacher-Leader Network, create a Student-Leader Network, strengthen required tribal consultation, hold teacher preparation programs accountable, expand Pre-K services and include STEM-Readiness in school grades.

The group of bipartisan reviewers from Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success specifically highlighted New Mexico’sĀ  strong rationale for goals, clear accountability system and extensive stakeholder engagement.

They gave the State Plan the highest possible marks in five out of nine categories.

A separate review from Data Quality Campaign praised PED’s school grading system for providing clear ratings, allowing users to “quickly gauge school performance.” The grade reports are also easy to find in Spanish, according to Data Quality Campaign.

The state’s teachers unions are less impressed.

“At the end of the day, the NM PED can praise itself all they want, but the fact remains that, so far, all they have utilized this plan to do it threaten school closures, bully districts through reduced funding for early interventions, and scare parents into believing New Mexico’s hardworking educators are failing their students,” said Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico.

Charles Goodmacher, spokesman for the National Education Association of New Mexico, argued that the PED plan is “so very out of touch with the direction of most states, and moves away from the practices of the highest performing education systems in the world.”