Archives for category: New Mexico

Jan Resseger explains here why community schools may be the best post-pandemic strategy for reopening schools.

Jeff Bryant recently profiled Mary Parr-Sanchez, the current president of the National Education Association’s New Mexico affiliate, speaking about what education will be like after the pandemic: “‘I think we’re all going to be different after this… When I first learned of the community schools model, it hit me like a lightning bolt,’ she told me. ‘I loved it because it focused on the academic and nonacademic needs of children, and the focus was on learning and a culturally relevant curriculum, not just test scores.’ Now, she is convinced the community schools model is the most promising way forward for schools as they reopen to the new realities of recovering from the fallout of COVID-19.”

Here is how the New York City Children’s Aid Society’s National Center for Community Schools defines a full-service, wraparound community school: “The foundations for community schools can be conceptualized as a Developmental Triangle that places children at the center, surrounded by families and communities. Because students’ educational success, health and well-being are the focus of every community school, the legs of the triangle consist of three interconnected support systems: A strong core instructional program… expanded learning opportunities… and a full range of health, mental health and social services designed to promote children’s well-being and remove barriers to learning.”

Community schools are designed locally to meet the needs of the particular school community, but they share essential characteristics. The Children’s Aid Society explains that community schools are not mere ad hoc school community partnerships, but are instead the product of careful planning and staffing. A Community School Director—an administrator—partners with the principal to coordinate the social, medical and enrichment services housed in the community school with the academic program. Each community school has a designated lead partner agency, which “maintains a full-time presence in the school and engages in regular joint planning with the Community School Director, the staff, and the community.”

The goal is to meet all the needs of children, not just their academic needs.

Jeff Bryant writes here about promising developments in New Mexico. where educators are reimagine the future of schools.

Not many people would think of New Mexico as an educational paradigm. Its test scores and very low, and it’s child poverty rate is very high. It endured eight years of a Republican Governor who believed in Je Bush’s ideology of high-stakes testing, test-based evaluation of teachers, and choice. That model produced no improvement, but quite a lot of teacher alienation.

Bryant interviewed the state president of the NEA,who filled him in on the union’s dreams for the future.

“I think we’re all going to be different after this,” Mary Parr-Sanchez told me in a phone call, “but I don’t know how.” Parr-Sanchez is the current president of NEA-New Mexico, the National Education Association’s affiliate in the Land of Enchantment, and “this” of course is the profound trauma of schooling amidst COVID-19…

Our current governor [Michelle Lujan Grisham] is showing impressive leadership, but our previous governor of eight years drove education into the ground,” she said, referring to former Governor Susana Martinez, whose administration’s response to the economic downturn during the Great Recession was to slash education spending, expand privately operated charter schools to compete for funding, and impose a punitive regime of evaluating teachers and schools based on high-stakes standardized testing.

Some of the heavy-handed evaluation systems Martinez championed have been repealed by Governor Lujan Grisham, but New Mexico still funds its schools less than it did in 2008.

Much of what Martinez imposed on New Mexico were pillars of education policy that started with No Child Left Behind legislation passed during the George W. Bush presidential administration and extended under the Barack Obama presidency.

“I loved being a teacher in the 1990s,” Parr-Sanchez recalled, “but since No Child Left Behind [which became law in 2002], all the joy was taken out of teaching. The test-and-punish program got us nowhere, and for the past 10 years, teachers have felt like they’ve been under assault.”

Despite these onerous policies, Parr-Sanchez saw the emergence of a different, more promising school model in her state.

“When I first learned of the community schools model, it hit me like a lightning bolt,” she told me. “I loved it because it focused on [the academic and non-academic needs of children], and the focus was on learning and a culturally relevant curriculum, not just test scores. The movement for community schools brought the joy of teaching back for me.”

Now, she is convinced the community schools model is the most promising way forward for schools as they reopen to the new realities of recovering from the fallout of COVID-19.

“In our state’s response to the pandemic, we’ve had to be very sensitive to issues of poverty, and the state has challenged districts to reach all children, including special education students and homeless students,” she explained. In this kind of emergency situation, she believes community schools have an advantage because “the model enables you to look at the whole child.” (A whole child approach considers more than just students’ academic outcomes to include attention to students’ health, mental, socioeconomic, and cultural conditions that often have more impact on students’ abilities to learn.)

“What happens during the school day is not enough to improve the trajectory of children until you deal with what is really going on in children’s lives. Are they hungry? Are they homeless? The testing agenda took us away from addressing this. Community schools can bring us back.”

Say this for Eric Hanushek: He never gives up on his obsession with paying teachers more if their students get higher test scores. Arne Duncan built this concept into the requirements of his disastrous Race to the Top” program, which caused almost every state to adopt a teacher evaluation plan in which student test scores played a significant role. Harvard economist Raj Chetty wtote a highly-publicized paper with two colleagues, claiming that one good teacher (who raised test scores in the early grades) would raise lifetime incomes (by about $5 a week), reduce pregnancies, and be a life-changer. President Obama cited Chetty in his 2012 State of the Union address, but efforts to turn the theory into reality fell flat. (Read more about this catastrophe in SLAYING GOLIATH.) In fact, every state that imposed value-added measurement learned that it discouraged teachers from teaching in high-needs schools, where their chance of getting a big test score gain was reduced. It did not produce any of the promised benefits.

But forget about reality! Let’s stand by the theory. Hanushek’s new venture at the conservative Hoover Institution is joined by Christopher Ruszkowski, who served as Commissioner of Education in New Mexico after the resignation of Hanna Skandera (who previously worked for the Hoover Institution, Jeb Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger). After eights years of “reform” leadership, New Mexico remained mired at the bottom of NAEP. The state had a harsh, test-based teacher evaluation plan, but the union fought it in court, it was enjoined by a judge, and the New Democratic Governor scrapped it as one of her first executive actions. New Mexico has one of the highest proportions of students living in poverty, but Republican state leaders ignored that inconvenient fact. After a decade of consistent failure, we can safely put test-based teacher evaluation into the category of a Zombie idea. Dead but still stalking the land.


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Hoover Institution, Jeff Marschner, (202) 760-3200


Four education policy papers to be released in 2020—addressing how states should consider transforming education in the decade ahead.

STANFORD, CA. (January 30th) – As state legislative sessions begin around the country, the Hoover Education Success Initiative (HESI), a new research program at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, has released “The Unavoidable: Tomorrow’s Teacher Compensation”—a policy briefing on the important connections between teacher compensation systems and student achievement outcomes. The research-based policy paper includes both a summary of findings and practical recommendations for policymakers.

The paper highlights often overlooked areas for attention including shifting overall compensation from retirement into salaries, ending the practice of paying for advanced degrees that do not yield changes in student outcomes, addressing teacher shortages in a targeted fashion instead of generally, and paying teachers more when they are effective in higher-need schools.  The paper concludes that teachers’ salaries should be significantly increased, but that students will not make achievement gains unless salaries are also linked to teacher quality.

“We need to pay teachers competitively, which we are not doing now,” said Dr. Eric Hanushek, author of the policy synthesis. “But just increasing compensation without recognizing teacher effectiveness is unlikely to lead to improved student outcomes. We should bundle together better pay with a serious recognition of just how important effective teachers are when it comes to influencing student achievement.”

“While we have spent much of the last year reviewing and synthesizing the research, the next phase of our work turns to helping states implement the policy ideas,” said Christopher N. Ruszkowski, executive director of HESI. “There is overwhelming evidence that nothing matters more than teacher quality, and state legislatures and governors should take strong action. Neglecting this responsibility causes harm to our students that may not be immediately visible today but will certainly be reflected in our students’ lives and in our economy tomorrow.  It’s a tough issue and it may feel like something we can avoid, but it will catch up with us.”

Click here to read the policy analysis brief.

About the Hoover Education Success Initiative

With passage in 2015 of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are again in charge of American education policy. To support them in this undertaking, the Hoover Education Success Initiative (HESI), launched in 2019, seeks to provide state education leaders with policy recommendations that are based upon sound research and analysis.  HESI hosts workshops and policy symposia on high-impact areas related to the improvement and reinvention of the US education system. The findings and recommendations in each area are outlined in concise topical papers.

The leadership team at HESI engages with its Practitioner Council, formed of national policy leaders, and with interested state government leaders. HESI’s ultimate goal is to spark innovation and contribute to the ongoing transformation of the nation’s K-12 education landscape, thus improving outcomes for our nation’s children.


Jeff Marschner
Director of Media Relations

One of Jeb Bush’s signature initiatives–and possibly the stupidest–was giving schools letter grades of A-F.

Schools are complex institutions with many individuals engaged in their work, some doing better jobs than others, some essential, some not. No complex institution should be graded A-F. No individual child should be graded with a single letter, A-F. Imagine if your child came home with a report card that held only one letter, A-F. As a parent, you would be outraged. You would know that she was good at this, not so good at that, that there were many ways of describing her efforts and abilities and skills and work. How dumb it is to grade an entire school with a single letter.

Yet the Florida model of testing, accountability, choice, punishments, and rewards goes wherever there are rightwing zealots who want to destroy public education.

New Mexico had the misfortune of electing a Republican governor who wanted to be just like Jeb. She hired a non-educator, Hannah Skandera, as the state’s commissioner of education (Skandera had worked for Jeb), and she tried to import the Florida model. After seven years, Skandera left, and New Mexico saw zero improvement in education by any metric.

Fortunately Susana Martinez was replaced by a Democratic governor, former Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has been removing every trace of the Florida model. In January she eliminated the state’s disastrous teacher-evaluation system and the hated PARCC tests, which had been imposed by Martinez’s executive orders.

Yesterday, with the stroke of a pen, she repealed the state’s A-F grading system. The state’s Public Education Department must now devise a new accountability system to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The bill now under consideration in the legislature calls for a “dashboard showing how each of the state’s public schools are faring in terms of graduation rates, student proficiency outcomes, reliance on federal Title I funds and the progress of English-language learners.”

Of course, this too appeals to the idea that parents are consumers, not citizens bound to work together for better public schools.

New Mexico has extremely high levels of child poverty, the second worst in the nation after Mississippi. Standards, accountability, and choice doesn’t cure that. It also ranks at the very bottom of NAEP, close to the other poor states. The Florida Model pretends that poverty doesn’t matter. Skandera’s failure proved that it does.

The state currently grades schools on a complex range of measures, including graduation rates, student performance on standardized tests, student attendance and parental involvement in schools. Advocates believe these grades provide a clear picture of how schools are performing and encourage communities to help struggling schools. Critics say the formula is so confusing that the grades are of little use. They also complain that the system relies too much on standardized test scores.

Several years ago, a group of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists said even they struggled to make sense of the complicated grading system.

Under Republican Governor Martinez, New Mexico was generous to charter schools. The state commissioner for most of her two terms was Hannah Skandera, previously worked for Jeb Bush. Charters got more funding than public schools.

Since the election of Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, the glory days ofprivatization are numbered.

The Democrats who control the legislature plan to cap charter growth and eliminate the funding that favors charters.

This is good news for the underfunded Public Schools, where the rate of poverty is nearly the lowest in the nation, close behind Mississippi.

Real Democrats support real public schools. Real Democrats don’t support privatization or any part of the DeVos agenda.

The newly elected Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, signed an executive order withdrawing from PARCC, the Common Core test funded by Arne Duncan in 2010 (PARCC and SBAC together got $360 Million in federal funding.)

“Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday ordered the state’s Public Education Department to immediately take the steps necessary to terminate New Mexico’s use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers standardized test, commonly known as PARCC.

“Lujan Grisham, in an executive order, called on the department to immediately begin working with key stakeholders to identify and implement a more effective, more appropriate and less intrusive method for assessing school performance that is compliant with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The development of this alternative approach, intended to deliver a sounder methodology for the rating and assessments of New Mexico schools, will include teachers, administrators, parents, students and recognized professionals and experts in the field of student assessments.”

Some 25 states signed up for PARCC. Very few remain. A judge in New Jersey just ruled it could not be used as a graduation requirement.

PARCC took pride in having the highest standards and failing the most students.

Slowly but surely, Common Core and the testing that went with it, which once claimed alliances with nearly all 50 states and DC, are disappearing.

Sad. Not really.

Sweet deal, but not for taxpayers!

New Mexico will pay out $6 million to the New Mexico Connections Academy, a virtual charter school, for students who are no longer enrolled. Connections is owned by mega-publisher Pearson. The leader of the Connections chain was also the chair of the ALEC education committee, encouraging red states to buy their product, which they did. Jeb Bush is a huge promoter of digital learning and his organization is heavily funded by software and hardware corporations.

When will states wake up to the fact that virtual charter schools are a scam? Any online courses needed should be under the direction of the local school district, meeting its needs, providing content it cannot provide, with no profit involved. Drive the frauds out of the marketplace.

A charter school in New Mexico that teaches students remotely by phone and internet is receiving public funding for hundreds of students who no longer are enrolled, amid attempts by state education officials to close to the school.

New Mexico Connections Academy will receive about $6 million during the current school year for students who are no longer enrolled, according to an accountability report from the budget-writing New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee. State spending accounts for the majority of public school funding in New Mexico. The school said Wednesday that it was setting aside some of the excess funding for future years when state funding is likely to lag behind enrollment.

Enrollment at the online school for grades 4 through 12 fell from more than 1,800 to students to about 1,100 after state officials declined to renew the school’s charter earlier this year amid lagging student academic results. Connections Academy successfully appealed the decision as arbitrary in state district court, though an appeal by the Public Education Department is pending.

Connections Academy opened in the fall of 2013 and contracts with the for-profit education curriculum provider Connections Education that is owned by Pearson.

Scott Glasrud received a sentence of five years for theft of millions of dollars from his charter chain.

After more than five hours in court Friday morning, a judge has sentenced the founder of Southwest Learning Centers to five years in prison.

Members of the Southwest Learning Center were happy to hear the judge’s sentence Friday.

The president of one of the schools tells News 13 he still does not believe five years is enough for all the damage Scott Glasrud has done.

“After 14 years of doing this, I don’t know if he knows another way of life. Personally, I don’t feel that he’s learned a lesson at all,” says Larry Kennedy, President of SAMS Academy.

Glasrud pled guilty to stealing millions of dollars from the school and state to feed his lavish lifestyle.

He used the money to buy expensive cars like a Maserati, boats and a $10,000 square-foot home.

Last year, he took a plea deal on charges of theft, fraud and lying to investigators that would put him behind bars for four to five years.

During his sentencing Friday morning, no cameras were allowed inside the courtroom, but Glasrud gave a tearful testimony saying he was sorry for what he has done and has no excuse for his behavior, except that he was greedy.

Larry Kennedy, the president of SAMS Academy, says he did not buy Glasrud’s act.

“I felt he was putting on a show. He put on a show for the schools for 14 years. He’s very good at it. I really feel that’s what he did,” says Kennedy.

The Network for Public Education Action Fund is delighted to endorse new leadership for New Mexico: Michelle Lujan Grisham for Governor and Howie Morales for Lieutenant Governor. After eight years of horrible education policies, Lujan and Morales wupill be a breath of fresh air for students and teachers. The Land of Enchantment has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the nation, which the previous administration ignored. Instead, it insisted on high-stakes teacher evaluations, which are currently enjoined by court order. Despite—or because—of eight years of failed Reform policies, New Mexico remains stuck at the bottom of NAEP.

Time for new thinking!

The Network for Public Education Action has endorsed Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham for Governor of New Mexico and State Senator Howie Morales for Lieutenant Governor.

Grisham, a 12th-generation New Mexican, has served as the U.S. Representative for New Mexico’s 1st congressional district since 2013.

Morales is the State Senator for District 28 in the New Mexico Senate. He has an M.A. in bilingual special education and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Both candidates have worked to make positive changes in our public schools. As the Secretary of New Mexico’s Department of Health, Grisham expanded the number of school-based health centers in the state. Morales spent 10 years as a special education teacher and was the head baseball coach in the Cobre Consolidated School District.

Grisham and Morales have promised to “end use of the PARCC exam in favor of less intrusive and frequent alternatives, implement authentic and useful assessments developed by teachers to connect with what students are really learning, and reform school and teacher evaluations to focus on more holistic measures of progress.”

When it comes to other critical issues facing New Mexico’s public schools, they have said they will increase funding and make universal access to high-quality Pre-K a reality for every New Mexico family. To address the state’s severe teacher shortage, they intend to support public school employees by raising salaries across the board, including the salaries of assistants and support staff.

On November 6th, please be sure to cast your ballot for these pro-public education candidates.

Democrats in New Mexico chose a strong candidate for Governor, Lujan Grisham, a member of Congress who supports teachers. She and her Republican opponent agree on two things: Dump PARCC and scrap the broken test-based teacher evaluation system.

The current Governor Susanna Martinez has been a disaster for public schools and teachers. She hired a non-educator, Hannah Skandera, who had previously worked for Jeb Bush, to impose the “Florida model” of high-stakes Testing for students and teachers and choice. The state remains at the very bottom of NAEP. Skandera’s successor has doubled down and a court injunction has blocked his efforts to penalize teachers for low scores. This in a state with staggeringly high levels of child poverty.

Politico reported on this race:

EDUCATION SPOTLIGHT ON NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR’S RACE: Poor education outcomes, low teacher pay, high unemployment rates and an active education funding lawsuit are just some of the problems facing the next governor in the Land of Enchantment.

— It’s not surprising, then, that education has become a key issue in the race for the governor’s mansion between two sitting members of Congress representing the state: Republican Rep. Steve Pearce and Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

— Right off the bat, New Mexico’s next governor will become entangled in a legal battle over funding of the state’s public schools. A state district court judge ruled last month that New Mexico’s students are “caught in an inadequate system” in need of improvement — a ruling the state has appealed. As in Washington and Kansas, funding lawsuits often present yearslong challenges for state leaders, who must figure out how to boost funding for schools to the pleasure of the courts. When the parties become caught in appeals, a resolution can take even longer.

— Lujan Grisham has said that should she be become the state’s next governor, she would cut the fight short by “immediately” halting the state’s appeal of the ruling, according to local reports. “New Mexico’s public education system is broken and underfunded,” she said in a statement. Among Lujan Grisham’s campaign promises is a proposal to boost teachers’ starting salaries to $40,000 from the current $36,000.

— Pearce, meanwhile, stopped short of making such a commitment on the school funding case. “This ruling underscores the importance of my plan to reform education. The old way is broken,” Pearce said in statement to Morning Education through a spokesman.

— Among Pearce’s goals is to “diversify” the sources of education funding to make schools less reliable on the oil and gas industries. He also hopes to support an expansion of school choice, including “charter schools, magnet schools, e-schools and homeschooling,” according to his campaign website. He wants to return more “day to day management decisions to the local school districts and/or charter schools,” and institute per-pupil funding.

— Universal preschool and the funding stream for such a program have divided the candidates. Lujan Grisham has made preschool access one of her marquee issues and is proposing to fund its expansion through $285.5 million over five years from the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund, she told the New Mexican . That fund culls fees from the extraction of natural resources from state lands. But Pearce isn’t keen on tapping into those funds and has not made preschool expansion a priority. “I’m very nervous about beginning to dip into that permanent fund until you have solutions,” Pearce told local station KRQE.

— Both candidates are in agreement on two things: teacher evaluations and PARCC. The Common-Core-aligned standardized test was created through a consortium of more than 20 states in 2010. New Mexico remains one in a handful of states to still administer it, but both Pearce and Lujan Grisham want to scrap it. “The PARCC test seems to be especially ineffective,” Pearce told KRQE. “My initial reaction is we should find a better way to measure our students.” Lujan Grisham’s education plan calls for “dropping the PARCC test in favor of less intrusive testing.”

— Both candidates have also said they would overhaul the state’s controversial teacher evaluation system. Lujan Grisham, who has the backing of teachers unions, would reform teacher evaluations “to focus on more holistic measures of progress.” Pearce said recently that after conversations with teachers, local school officials and others, it has become clear that “the current system has crushed the spirit of many talented educators and contributed to our state’s teacher shortage,” according to the AP.