Education in New Mexico: is it getting better?

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Depends on who you ask, and the yardstick you use, apparently:

Many New Mexico students start out life behind, enter schools that aren’t well-prepared to help them and receive little support in moving from education to a career, a report said Wednesday.

Education Week, in its Quality Counts 2007 report, ranked New Mexico last in the nation on a new Chance for Success index, which rated all 50 states on how well they give their young people an opportunity to succeed later in life.

Quality Counts ranked New Mexico 47th in academic performance of elementary and secondary students and 39th in aligning education from early childhood programs to a career.

New Mexico falls below the national average in preschool enrollment; high school graduation rates; reading and math proficiency; enrollment in post-secondary education; family income; and the percentage of parents who work full time, have a degree and speak English fluently.

“Other states are able to pull themselves out of a tailspin through a stronger educational system and opportunities later on” but those aren’t seen in New Mexico, said project director Chris Swanson.

Bad news, right? Well, let’s keep reading:

[NM Education Secretary Veronica Garcia] cited steps toward more pre-kindergarten; implementation of full-day kindergarten; efforts to make the system seamless from pre-kindergarten through college; improved access to technology, particularly by children in poor areas; and improved nutrition by getting junk food out of schools.

She also cited New Mexico’s economy: 10th in the nation for economic growth, 9th for personal income growth; the 11th-highest job growth; and a November unemployment rate of 4.3 percent.

In the past, Education Week graded states on academic achievement and standards in elementary and secondary schools. Last year, New Mexico scored a B on the education trade journal’s overall report card and an A for standards and accountability.

Garcia is likely correct, even if she is spinning. The latest report tears into New Mexico for pre-school enrollment, among other things. The state has been working for the last few years on improving that, and full-day kindergarten will help kids who didn’t attend pre-school. Still, the state has a long way to go toward a true P-16 (pre-kindergarten through college) education system, an approach adopted by many other states but only recently here in New Mexico. This report confirms that.

Hat tip to Headwaters News.

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