New Mexico slips in education ranking; LAPS seeks role model status

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By Associated Press

New Mexico recently received a Quality Counts ranking of 32nd in the nation and received an overall grade of C in Education Week magazine’s annual education report card, “Uncertain Forecast.”
 Overall, the Quality Counts report gave New Mexico a C, 75.7 points out of 100.
Last year, New Mexico received 76.4 points and was ranked 24th. In 2009, New Mexico received a C+ and was ranked 22nd with a score of 76.9.
Though New Mexico received a low ranking, at least one school district in the state has ranked high by national standards. Los Alamos Public Schools received a silver medal ranking from USNews.com. Schools that receive a silver medal ranking have a college readiness index of at least 20 percent, but are not ranked in the top 100 nationally, according to usnews.com.
LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt said the state has dropped significantly from 24th to 32nd in a year. He said there’s some concern about whether educators are focusing on the right kinds of things as a state. He questioned whether it was the right decision to continue cutting public education.
“We’ve held onto the belief system that education is about the child,” Schmidt said. “We need to preserve the importance of libraries, music programs, PE programs and a whole array of enrichment is still an important part of our program.”
He said rather than cut funding, legislators should focus and target money more in potential improvement.
“We believe that Los Alamos can assist in the secretary of education’s conversation about quality education,” Schmidt said. “We continue to be proud of the work that’s going on here. We’re open to serving as a model to what other schools can be doing.”
He also said the legislature wants higher education in the state, “yet their solution is to cut professional development. That’s a disconnect in my mind from logic. At a time when quality of instruction is in question, you don’t cut professional development in the state budget,” Schmidt said.
He said there are lessons to be learned from this ranking, but he likes the direction that New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera is taking.
“Governor Martinez is talking about doing bold things, and challenging the quality of instruction is a bold thing to do, but it has to be parallel with funding from the state legislature,” Schmidt said. “We have to be purposeful and strategic in funding and make these things happen.”
“While New Mexico maintained its overall C ranking, there is a lot of room for improvement,” Skandera said. “This administration will focus all decisions on what is in the best interest of students. It is unacceptable that New Mexico has an F in K-12 achievement and that our rankings have decreased each year. Partnering with students, parents, community leaders, school boards, teachers, principals and superintendents, we must raise academic achievement and build on proven success.
For every decision that needs to be made, we will ask, ‘Are New Mexico students the winners in this decision?’  Our focus must be on the classroom, ensuring greater transparency and fiscal accountability while understanding the unique characteristics of our state, communities, districts and schools. If students are first, New Mexico wins.”

This is a bad time to cut school funding

It is most unfortunate that Governor Martinez is planning to cut the budget for the state schools. Though Governor Martinez claims cuts are only to administration, the truth is that librarians and nurses are considered "administration" though they work directly with students and do not administer employees.
Yes, this is a bad year for the state economy, but it is important not to cut education any more. Governor Martinez needs to look for her cuts elsewhere or back down on her promise to veto any new taxes. The schools could be funded just on closing tax loop holes for multi-state corporations that do not pay taxes on the money they earn in New Mexico.
We should all be concerned about the damage being done to our schools by the privileges we give to large corporations such as WalMart.