Struggling schools that received a D or F grade under the state’s new grading system will have a chance to participate in a University of Virginia-based program known for dramatically improving math and reading scores, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Tuesday.
Speaking to a workshop for troubled schools, the governor said the program, known as School Turnaround Specialist Program, and $3.5 million in state funding will help the underperforming schools with leadership training and professional development. She said the goal is to improve student achievement at the state’s schools, some which have been struggling for years.
“We need to build more leaders in New Mexico,” Martinez said, referring to educational administrators. “Because once you turn around a school, you’ll be needed at another school.”
The University of Virginia’s School Turnaround Specialist Program has earned praise nationally for helping schools dramatically improve math and reading scores with its intensive intervention and leadership development focus. The program has been adopted by Louisiana schools and some in New Mexico.
Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera said that all schools that received D or F grades can apply to participate in the program. Under the new education grading system, 310 schools received a D or F.
The grading scale is a cornerstone of Martinez’s agenda for improving education in the state, which consistently ranks near the bottom nationally.
The new system allows the state to consider more than just annual student test scores when gauging whether schools are meeting standards as mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind law. The grades were developed after the state won a waiver from the federal government to include others factors, like past test scores, academic growth, attendance, graduation rates and college and career preparedness.
But the grading system has drawn fire from critics who said the formula is too complex and small changes could result in unreasonable grade swings from year to year.
Teachers unions also have opposed the governor’s proposals for a new evaluation system for teachers that would be tied to school grades.
Martinez acknowledged Tuesday that some of her reforms still face resistance from some educators. But she asked them to join her in trying to reform the state’s educational system.
“I don’t want to be at odds with you,” Martinez told a room of educators. “Because at the end of the day, the only ones who will lose are our children.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal