Last Friday, the New Mexico Public Education Department released draft edits to New Mexico’s previously approved State Plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
NMPED has also issued a call for public feedback on the plan!
The draft edits are outlined below so that you can be informed as you participate in the state’s survey to weigh in on the future of public schools.
To refresh your memory, when Congress passed ESSA, it included a requirement for each state to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education that detailed how each state would meet the guidelines of the law. New Mexico’s plan was submitted and subsequently approved in August 2017 with praise from a diverse panel of peer reviewers and the Alliance for Excellent Education.
With a change in New Mexico’s state administration, we anticipated NMPED leadership would revise the plan. Earlier this week, our Executive Director, Amanda Aragon, provided comment to the Journal in anticipation of proposed amendments. So far, the department has only released proposed edits for Section 4 of the plan, “Accountability, Support, and Improvement for Schools.” Here’s a summary of the proposed edits, including highlights and areas of concern.
Raising the Bar for Proficiency: The department remains committed to raising the bar for student achievement by increasing the weight of student proficiency in English Language Arts and Math. Though the increase in weight is less than originally proposed, it is still a strong step in a positive direction.
Focus on Growth: The department remains committed to valuing growth as the most important indicator of school performance. In the proposed system academic growth accounts for 30-40% of a school’s total score. In a state that lags far behind our peers, it is important for schools to be recognized for growth of all students, especially our most struggling students.
Recognition of a Well-Rounded Experience: The proposed school accountability system includes robust measures that help create a well-rounded assessment of school performance including: English Language Proficiency, Science Proficiency, College & Career Readiness opportunities and success, Attendance and School Climate.
AREAS OF CONCERN
Confusing/Non-Family Friendly School Ratings: The department proposes to remove the A-F School Grading system and replace the letter grades with the school designations below. We find these designations to be confusing and unclear, which will lead to confusion and frustration for parents and families looking to make informed decisions about which school is best for their child. For example, if you were a parent who only knew that one school was a “Traditional Support School” and one was a “Comprehensive Support School” which would you choose? It could be argued that a “Comprehensive Support School” sounds like the better option, even though it would have a lower summative score.
- New Mexico Spotlight School
- Traditional Support School
- Targeted Support (TSI) School
- Comprehensive Support (CSI) School
- More Rigorous Intervention (MRI) School
Unclear Classification of Schools: Under the framework proposed by the department a school might fall into two rating categories. For example, a school could score enough overall points to earn “Spotlight School” status but because of subgroup performance also earn a “Comprehensive Support” rating. It is unclear how this situation would be handled and which final rating a school in this situation would receive.
School Improvement Strategies: New Mexico’s most severely under-performing schools will continue to be identified as “More Rigorous Intervention (MRI) Schools.” Previously the plan provided four options for MRI schools including: 1) restructure & redesign 2) convert the school to a charter school 3) champion & provide choice for students & families 4) closure. The proposed amendments include only two options for MRI schools including: 1) restructure & redesign and 2) restructure as a community school. Two things remain unclear under the new framework; will the incentive to improve be as URGENT without closure as an option? Additionally, what happens in the case that an MRI school does not improve? We cannot accept perpetually under-performing schools to continue to fail our students. Swift and bold action is necessary to ensure a student doesn’t languish for their entire tenure in a poor-performing elementary, middle or high school.
Lowering the Bar on Excellence: Under the current system, approximately 120 schools have earned “A’s.” Under the proposed system approximately 215 schools would fall in the “New Mexico School of Excellence” category, thus watering down the standard for what it takes to be high-performing. Arbitrarily designating 25% of schools as “Spotlight Schools” is not a standard of excellence.
Missing the Whole Picture: While the overall system for evaluating schools remains similar to the current system, what is unclear is what we will use to measure performance and how scores will be calculated. Without seeing amendments to other sections of the plan it is difficult to see the whole picture. We are left with questions about which assessments will be used to measure proficiency and other important details like what cutoff scores for each indicator will be. These details–though technical–are vitally important to assessing the strength of the proposed changes.
Along with proposed changes, NMPED also released a survey for stakeholder feedback.
This is your opportunity to weigh in on the proposed changes!
Please note the survey turnaround is extremely tight: it closes February 28 and New Mexico’s final revisions are due to the U.S. Department of Education on March 1.
The original plan was developed in partnership with New Mexico First and after extensive amounts of stakeholder engagement which occurred over eight months. A two week turnaround from release of the amendments to final submission seems to discount the importance of community feedback. That said, it is still imperative that you weigh in. Take the survey before February 28th by clicking HERE.