Today marks the start of the eighth week that New Mexico students are adjusting to the new reality of learning-from-home. While the closure of our school buildings has brought with it an immense amount of change, one thing has remained constant: our unapologetic focus on New Mexico’s students.
Our focus and mission remain the same. At the same time, we acknowledge that the state of our education system has changed dramatically which is why–for the first time ever–we are announcing revised policy goals mid-year. I’m excited to share these new policy goals with you today:
PROVIDE SUMMER LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
Use new or existing funds to support schools and districts that wish to create or restructure summer learning programs, continue their current distance learning plan into the summer, or hire teachers that serve as individual tutors for students during the closure and beyond.
New Mexico has led the way in summer learning opportunities with the creation and growth of the K-5 Plus and Extended Learning programs. While these programs were created to mitigate the impact of the “summer slide,” and though the pandemic has forced learning into a virtual environment, summer learning opportunities can and should be used to mitigate learning loss created from COVID-19 and “the summer slide.”
CLOSE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Mandate the use of stimulus funds to provide distance learning devices for economically disadvantaged students. through the Governor’s Fund ($22 million) and the 10% allowable set aside from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, totaling $35 million.
There are some barriers to distance learning that will take time to address, but one barrier that can be addressed quickly is the availability of devices for New Mexico’s students. New Mexico should use the entirety of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and the ten percent set aside allowable from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to provide digital learning devices (tablets or laptops) to all students. Recognizing the important role technology will play in education now and in the future, the Public Education Department and LEAs should undertake efforts to identify students in need, and work to provide access to devices to those students, with a goal of achieving 1:1 connectivity for all students.
ENGAGE IN MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS WITH PARENTS
Provide parent conferences prior to Fall 2020, to review summative assessment results from the last completed academic year and interim assessment results from the 2019-2020 school year, so parents can make decisions regarding the next academic step for their student.
Partnerships between parents and schools are more important than ever, which is why we need to be sure parents have all the information they need to make informed decisions, and create a plan with their child’s teacher before the start of the school year. We encourage every district to commit to engaging in one-on-one calls with every student’s family.
PROVIDE SAFE & CONVENIENT MEALS
Ensure that during summer and distance learning times, students have convenient and safe access to meals.
We are proud to announce this goal has been accomplished. Last week, New Mexico received official notice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that New Mexico’s plan to participate in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Program had been approved. This means qualifying families are eligible for an EBT card loaded with the value of free school breakfasts and lunches for students during school closure. The value is based on federal reimbursement rates and could provide up to $114.00 per eligible student per month. Learn more by reading our press release.
In addition to our new goals, we will continue working toward our previous goal to advocate for high expectations and consistent measurement by working to provide families, educators and policymakers critical information about school, educator and student performance.
Alongside announcing our new policy goals, we are also launching our next crowdfunding campaign. Will you make a contribution to help us make these goals a reality?
In the midst of it all, the team and I remain ever grateful for your support and partnership in this work. Thank you!