Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in January used a pen and her executive powers to do away with the state’s controversial teacher-evaluation system and the PARCC standards-based tests — two initiatives her predecessor, Susana Martinez, implemented by executive rule.
On Thursday, with another signature, Lujan Grisham repealed the state’s contentious A-F school grading system — another Martinez initiative, but one backed by the state Legislature.
Senate Bill 229, introduced by Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, charges the Public Education Department with coming up with a new school accountability system to meet the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
The bill calls for the Education Department to create a school 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.
The dashboard, Stewart said, will create the ability for parents to find information “on the type of teachers, what type of programs the school is successful at, what the school’s challenges are and what the school is doing to address those challenges.”
She said the dashboard approach will provide a more realistic portrait of each of the state’s schools and shine “a spotlight on schools that are doing very well while showing the supports needed for schools that may be having a more difficult time helping their students gain mastery in any particular subject matter.”
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.
On Thursday, the governor also signed an array of other education-related legislation into law, including:
• House Bill 20, which helps provide college loans and professional development opportunities to educational assistants who want to become teachers.
• HB 47, which will reduce the probationary period for unlicensed school employees and licensed educational assistants from three years to one year, allowing school districts to terminate them for any reason within that year.
• SB 398, which provides for screenings of all first graders to determine if they have dyslexia and provides for intervention efforts to help those who are are diagnosed.
• SB 204, which grants school districts the power to let students use prescription marijuana.