Martinez Signs School-Grade Bill Into Law

Posted on March 31, 2011

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SANTA FE – Public schools in New Mexico soon will be graded in plain terms, A through F. Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday signed a bill to remove verbiage from the state’s school ratings and replace it with a system everybody understands. “Assigning a simple letter grade to New Mexico’s schools provides a clear picture of which ones are succeeding, which ones are failing, and how we can best target resources to the schools and students most in need of help,” Martinez said. She pushed for the change, which is modeled after a school rating program in Florida. Perhaps the toughest critic of the bill was Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City. Morales, a former classroom teacher who has a Ph.D. in education, said the bill was rushed through without consideration of potential consequences. For instance, he said, the real estate market could collapse in a neighborhood if a school gets an “F” from the state Public Education Department. But Sen. Cynthia Nava, herself a school superintendent, said the change to letter grades will be healthy. Nava, D-Las Cruces, said the grading system devised by the state will provide a fairer measurement of how schools are doing than the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Superintendent of the Gadsden Independent School District, Nava said the state’s new system will take into account yearly progress that students make in core subjects. In that sense, it will give schools and kids fairer treatment than the federal ratings, Nava said.

The measure, SB 427, was sponsored by Sen. Vernon Asbill, R-Carlsbad. A retired school superintendent, Asbill said parents would have options to move their children under the new system.”Parents can easily understand whether their child is in a failing school,”  Asbill said. “Once they learn that, they can become more involved in their children’s education and fight for improvements and excellence, or they can remove their child from that failing school.”The state’s plan is to make the first grades public in the fall of 2012, based on school performance for the prior academic year.

Santa Fe Bureau Chief Milan Simonich can be reached at msimonich@tnmnp.com or (505) 820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com.

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Posted in: Local News