Special Report

New Mexico

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 03, 2005 1 min read

New Mexico is expanding an initiative started during the 2003-04 school year to put laptop computers in the hands of 7th graders and their teachers and permit the students to keep the computers through high school.

And it doesn’t hurt that Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, is championing the effort.

The laptop program received $1.7 million in state funds in the 2003-04 school year and $4 million for 2004-05, says Ferdi Serim, the program manager for literacy, technology, and standards for the New Mexico Department of Education. State education officials expect New Mexico legislators to give the program $8 million for the 2005-06 school year.

A key to the laptop program’s success is that teachers receive relevant preparation on how to use the technology in their classes, says Serim, who points out that participating teachers receive 13 days of training in which a trainer works alongside them in their classrooms.

If the $8 million is approved, the state will double the number of schools involved, he says, from 27 to more than 50.

The state is also expanding another technology initiative: a computerized system that gives teachers feedback on how their students are measuring up in meeting academic standards. The purpose of the system is to give teachers quicker information on what gaps students have in their academic knowledge, rather than wait for scores on state standardized tests to show where the gaps are, according to Serim.

The system is designed to cover standards in reading, language arts, and mathematics and will soon be expanded to cover standards in other core subjects at all grade levels. The state appropriated $3 million for the program for the 2003-04 school year, but most of the funds were spent in the 2004-05 school year. Education officials have asked for $6 million in the coming school year.

Money for that initiative and for the laptop program is distributed to schools on a competitive basis.

In addition to supporting those two initiatives, the state has given about $5 million for the current school year and $5 million for the previous one for its Education Technology Fund. Every district gets a per-pupil allotment from the fund, which is the major state source of money for educational technology. Districts spend the money for such purposes as upgrades of technology infrastructure, software purchases, and professional development.