Big changes coming to failing New Mexico schools
Posted at: 08/07/2012 6:11 PM
| Updated at: 08/07/2012 6:36 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4
Big money and possibly big changes are coming to failing schools across the state.
Governor Susana Martinez made the announcement at an education workshop in Albuquerque Tuesday afternoon, addressing ways new that funding will give schools with the lowest scores the chance to turn things around.
The state set aside $3.5 million dollars specifically for improving failing schools, and Martinez made it clear - New Mexico is putting money where it is needed most and that is back toward helping bottom of the barrel schools.
There are currently 319 schools in New Mexico with a "D" or "F" letter grade.
These failing schools are all encouraged to apply for the state funding and prove how they plan to use the money to change their school around in order to qualify and actually receive it.
New Mexico currently ranks among the bottom in the country for education. Martinez made it clear, if is a school or district wants to change that, it is going to take a whole new approach and looking toward those who have shown it works.
"It is going to take dedication and it is going to take hard work and a desire to leave behind what is not working... and that takes courage," Martinez said.
Martinez also said that is what the state is encouraging all failing schools across the state to do, and some already have.
"The difference you see in our classrooms today is that you will see administrators spending a lot more time in the classroom than they have in the past," said Kilino Marquez, superintendent of Grants-Cibola County Schools.
So far, it has paid off for the Grants-Cibola County School District, which is now serving as a model for the state's new turnaround program.
Laguna-Acoma High School adopted methods from the University of Virginia's business school, and in just a single school year, they have improved their overall grade from a letter "D" to a "C."
"It's a change in the mindset, not so much about what you teach but about how you're going to teach it," said Susan Kaster, an English teacher at Laguna-Acoma High School.
The biggest gain so far is evident in a 20-percent increase in math proficiency.
"I've been there 18 years, and I wish we would have had this in place 18 years ago, and had it continue as it is today," said Berna Marquez, a math teacher at Laguna-Acoma High School.
Martinez said the state funding will allow other schools that same opportunity for improvement by modeling those who have proved successful here and elsewhere across the country.
"If there's a success story there in those schools, why wouldn't we repeat it over and over and over again and encourage all these schools to participate," Martinez said.
"We want to give our schools an opportunity to say, 'Hey, we've got a great idea, it's based on research and data, we want to apply this,' whether it's a technology that's going to support real change, whether it's an instructional tool, that we can see the best and the brightest come forward with innovative solutions," said Education Secretary Hanna Skandera.
While the overhaul starts with the top, Marquez said it benefits those who need it most.