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Editorial: Education Reform Too

What was that lesson about practice making perfect? Here’s to having it translate into a better education system for New Mexico.

In her first Roundhouse session, Gov. Susana Martinez was able to get one plank of her reform package through the Legislature — A-F grading of schools, though report cards have yet to go out. This month she will take another run at improving the state’s abysmal record of low grade-level proficiency (in the 30s in many classrooms), poor high school graduation rates (students have just better than a 60-40 shot at a diploma) and high utilization of remedial coursework to get into college.

In addition to renewing the push to end “social promotion” and require third-graders to show reading proficiency before moving them on to fourth grade, her $4.2 million education package adds short-cycle tests that will give teachers the information they need to assess student “progress throughout the school year, so they can quickly adjust their instruction to make sure every child learns and isn’t allowed to remain lost or discouraged or fall behind in the class.” It also would cover having all 10th-grade students take the PSAT college aptitude test and advanced placement course testing for low-income students as well as help offset textbook expenses for high school students taking dual-enrollment college courses.

Given the limited time teachers have with students, it is vital that only tests with real value for students are administered. And while every student who wants to go to college should be given the tools to try to do so, requiring every 10th-grader to take the PSAT may overshoot that — more of the one-size-fits-all public school approach that has parents and students voting with their feet and choosing charter and private schools instead.

New Mexico also needs to revisit its three-tiered licensing system that rewards teachers for education and longevity, not performance. The current teacher evaluations have 99.9 percent of teachers rated satisfactory, with excellent educators going unrecognized and ineffective teachers getting no help. Reconsidering the data on the value of small schools is also appropriate.

The upcoming session is a short, budget-centric one. But Martinez is right to tackle education reform again — this school year New Mexico’s students won’t get another shot at third grade.

Even if they need it.

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.