Standards and Accountability: New Mexico has clear and specific standards for English, mathematics, and science in elementary, middle, and high school. In social studies/history, the standards are clear and specific only in middle and high school.
New Mexico enhanced its grade by including standards-based exams in English, mathematics, and science in all grade spans. The state uses a variety of test questions on its exams across grade levels.
New Mexico has all the components of a comprehensive accountability system. It publishes test data on school report cards and uses the information to rate schools. The state also provides help to schools identified as low-performing, and it imposes consequences on consistently underperforming schools. Such measures include permitting students to transfer to higher-performing public schools. The state also has cash awards for improving or high-performing schools.
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality: New Mexico boosted its grade this year for efforts to improve teacher quality, largely because of its new three-tiered licensure system. Under the system, teachers must complete professional-development dossiers, which are scored by trained reviewers. Teachers are also observed annually in the classroom. If they perform satisfactorily, they receive advanced licenses and bumps in pay.
Before teachers get to that point, they must pass a basic-skills test to be certified. High school teachers also must pass subject-matter exams. But middle school teachers do not have to do the same, and the lack of such a requirement brings New Mexico’s grade down. In addition, prospective middle and high school teachers need to earn only minors in the subjects they plan to teach.
Every novice teacher must successfully complete a state-financed, one- to three-year mentorship program provided by the employing district. New Mexico is one of only three states to require that all parents be notified in writing if their child is taught by a person who is not qualified to teach the grade or subject.
The state identifies low-performing teacher-training institutions through its program-approval and -review process, which is based largely on standards developed by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. But the state does not publish the passing rates of program graduates on teacher-licensure tests by institution.
School Climate: Students in New Mexico are more likely to attend schools where administrators say that physical conflicts between students and a lack of parent involvement are problems than are students in other states, according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress background survey.
But the state gets credit for being one of 17 states that survey parents, teachers, or students about the climate in their schools. The state conducts the Quality of Education survey, and some of the results appear on school report cards.
The state also provides families with public school choice under a limited open-enrollment policy and a charter school law that the Center for Education Reform deems moderately strong.
The state appropriated money in fiscal 2005 to implement bullying-prevention programs in schools. Beginning this school year, New Mexico no longer has a class-size-reduction effort in place.
Equity: New Mexico visits both extremes when it comes to equity. It has only slight inequities in state and local revenue related to local property wealth, as shown by the state’s rank of 13th on the wealth-neutrality score.
New Mexico also scores well on the McLoone Index, with a fifth-place ranking among the 50 states. The index measures what it would cost to bring student spending in districts below the median level for per-pupil aid to that median.
But at 16.7 percent, New Mexico’s coefficient of variation still indicates wide discrepancies in spending across districts in the state. New Mexico ranks 40th out of the 50 states on that measure.
Spending: Even with a 9 percent increase in funding from the previous year, New Mexico fell below the national average in education spending for the 2001-02 school year, at $7,407 per pupil. The national average is $7,734. That amount placed the state 33rd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
New Mexico ranks 48th on the spending index, which takes into account the percentage of students in districts spending at least the national average and how far the rest fall below that bar.
Fewer than 2 percent of students in the state attend school in districts with per-pupil expenditures at or above the U.S. average.
New Mexico allocates 4 percent of its total taxable resources toward education, a bit above the national average.