Colorado expert hired as New Mexico education adviser

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has hired an expert from Colorado to serve as her education policy adviser as the state struggles to reverse a long-term trend in which the majority of public school students fall short of reading and math standards.

The governor’s office announced Scott Groginsky’s appointment on Thursday, saying he will be focused on improving outcomes for K-12 students and continuing work to bolster access to higher education.

New Mexico for decades has ranked near the bottom when it comes to educational outcomes. Statewide student assessment results released earlier this fall showed only 25% of students tested were proficient or better in math and about one third were proficient or better when it came to science and reading and writing.

Officials in New Mexico and nationally have blamed the coronavirus pandemic for losing ground in the classroom. Lujan Grisham’s administration halted in-person learning in March 2020 and it would be many months before state education officials would ask districts to return to full-time in-person classes.

Lujan Grisham, who begins her second term in January, said Groginsky’s experience with evidence-based education policies will be invaluable.

“The governor is clear that improving the educational system at all levels is a critical step in lifting up all New Mexico children and families,” Groginsky said in a statement.

Groginsky previously served as the special adviser for early childhood to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and was the lead early childhood staffer for Democratic members of the U.S. House education and labor committee. He also worked for the National Head Start Association and the U.S. Department of Education.

Many educators around New Mexico have acknowledged that the release of spring assessment scores was a wake-up call and there will be more pressure during the legislative session that begins in January to make improvements.

Lawmakers and the Lujan Grisham administration also remain on the hook for ensuring New Mexico is providing an adequate education to Native American students, English learners and those who come from low-income families or have disabilities. In 2018, a state district found that students had unequal access to qualified teachers, quality school buildings, and other lessons that engage them tailored to their cultural background and needs.

The Legislature has increased recurring appropriations for public schools by more than $1 billion since the ruling. While some progress has been made, legislative analysts in a briefing made public in September outlined numerous recommendations for making sure the investments pay off.

The briefing stated that given the learning loss associated with the pandemic, New Mexico faces a heightened need to ensure resources are directed toward evidence-based programs to help students catch up.