Study: NM ranks 49th in quality of education

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico again ranked 49th for educational quality in a national review of measures like high school graduation rates, Advanced Placement exam results, school finances and pre-K enrollment.

Education Week magazine’s latest “Quality Counts” study rated the Land of Enchantment just ahead of Mississippi and Nevada overall.

New Mexico has held onto 49th place since 2014 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The report – compiled annually by the D.C.-area trade publication – examines three broad areas: college and career outcomes, K-12 achievement and school finances.

In its worst showing this year, New Mexico came in dead last on the college and career metric, dubbed the “chance-for-success indicator,” which reviews 13 measures “that span a person’s life from cradle to career,” including family poverty levels, parent education, kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation and steady employment.

Poverty actually increased here over the past year, and the state also fared badly on parent education – only 39.3 percent of children live in a household where at least one parent has completed a postsecondary degree.

“There are systemic issues, particularly those related to poverty and the economic stress that many students and their families face,” said Sterling Lloyd, senior research associate at the Education Research Center. “We look at that because stability for students, based on the resources their parents are able to provide, can really contribute to academic success.”

On K-12 achievement, New Mexico edged out Mississippi for 50th place with a D-minus grade, a result that reflects dismal standardized test scores.

New Mexico was at the bottom for fourth-grade reading, and 47th place for eighth-grade math. Fewer than 25 percent of the state’s students were proficient in either subject.

“Those are certainly striking results, and results that would be of concern to many educators in the state, and residents and parents in the state,” Lloyd said.

One bright spot: New Mexico outperforms most of the nation when it comes to closing the achievement gap between low-income and more affluent students. It earned a B+ and 11th place on that measure, which is factored into the K-12 achievement result.

Another positive, New Mexico’s funding is distributed relatively equitably across districts, earning the state a C- and 31st place on the school finance metric.

Overall, the New England region came out strongest in the study: The top five states are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maryland. Still, the best performers only earned B’s. There were no A states, and the nation’s average is a C.

Robert McEntyre, Public Education Department spokesman, said the results indicate that New Mexico needs to implement reforms like “ending the reckless practice of promoting kids who can’t read onto the next grade level.”

New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera has long pushed for a policy that would hold back third-graders who haven’t met reading benchmarks, a model pioneered in Florida, where she was formerly deputy commissioner of education under then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

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