Education secretary Skandera visits Roswell; Official tours state to gather input on Every Student Succeeds Act
Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera, left, meets Roswell Independent School District teacher Kristen Higgenbotham who is an elementary school art teacher with the Creative Learning Center, Wednesday, during a teacher’s reception at Military Heights Elementary School. (Bethany Freudenthal Photo)
Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera visits with Roswell Independent School District teachers Wednesday at Military Heights Elementary School. (Bethany Freudenthal Photo)
Secretary of Education for New Mexico Hanna Skandera is in Roswell this week as part of a series of six regional meetings throughout the state to solicit input from communities about the development of the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act that was passed in December 2015 to govern K-12 public education.
Meeting with Roswell Independent School District teachers Wednesday at Military Heights Elementary School, Skandera said there’s still work to be done, but momentum is building up in New Mexico for education.
“We measured 21 different subjects and grades this year, and New Mexico went up in 19 out of 21 subjects and grades. That’s incredible, huge credit to our teachers, unprecedented. We’ve not seen that kind of improvement in growth for our kids. That means kids learned and grew more than ever before in 19 out of 21 subjects and grades compared to the previous year,” Skandera said.
This year [auth] alone, Skandera said New Mexico had over 12,000 more students on grade level for math and reading from last year, and 30,000 more students attending ‘A’ and ‘B’ schools compared to 2012.
This year’s success of New Mexico’s schools Skandera credited to teachers, school leaders and data driven decisions supporting kids.
“I really credit our teachers and our school leaders, and just using data to drive decisions to support our kids, and really taking that good information that we have from our school grades, our teacher evaluations and using them as tools to support teachers in the classrooms, and teachers supporting their kids,” Skandera said.
By talking with teachers during these meetings, and through teacher evaluations, Skandera said they have been discovering more ways to support teachers that are data driven, to champion their success and equip them to be even more successful in the classroom.
“Every teacher that I talk to, their heart’s desire is to see their kids grow, improve and set up for success, and we’re beginning to see those tools created for teachers, by teachers that gives them a voice to support their profession, and that’s pretty awesome,” Skandera said.
As a huge supporter of education, Gov. Susana Martinez recently approved $22 million for education. Skandera said that money will be earmarked in proven reforms and practices that are making a difference for kids throughout the state.
“The results I just talked about, much of that is because we’ve been investing in our teachers and our kids in a meaningful way that supports them and equips them, so of course we want to see those dollars continue to support our teachers and our kids,” Skandera said.
During her term, Skandera said one of her priorities has been on investing in pre-K through third grade, because “we know if a child can’t read by the end of third grade, they’re four times more likely to drop out. That’s significant.”
According to Skandera, the Martinez administration has invested about $80 million in pre-K through third grade to ensure student success.
“We’re investing nearly $80 million in pre-K through third grade for kids to ensure that we set them up for success. So the emphasis isn’t on holding kids back, it is about let’s not send our kids forward when they’re not ready. That’s not fair to them. It’s not fair to the teachers in fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh grade when they’re getting kids ready,” Skandera said.
Though New Mexico still ranks about 49 in education, Skandera said this year’s improvements compared to last year is exciting.
“We are in many measures, but we are beginning to close gaps. Do we still have work to do? Yes we do, but are we seeing us close achievement gaps over time and really seeing more kids ready for the next grade they’re going into? Over 12,000 more kids this year alone compared alone to last year are on grade level, so that’s exciting,” Skandera said.
With the continued growth of New Mexico’s students, Skandera said our national ranking in education will change.
“If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to move, so we need to stay the course, champion our teachers to equip them for success and to support them as they see their kids grow and learn,” Skandera said.
The ESSA meetings in Roswell will continue today in the Goddard High School Little Theater at 701 E. Country Club Road, with community leaders, community board members, elected and appointed officials, and legislators meeting at 10 a.m., teachers meeting at 4 p.m. and an all community meeting at 6 p.m.
For more information about the state of education in New Mexico, visit nmfirst.org.
Staff writer Bethany Freudenthal can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.