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We must do better

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By Optic Editorial Board

There’ been a lot of debate about the role standardized tests play in our education system. Many contend that standardized tests don’t provide an accurate picture of what students have learned and that it’s unfair to evaluate teachers based on how their students perform on those tests.

Those criticisms may be valid. But standardized tests aren’t the only indicators suggesting that New Mexico students aren’t making the grade in the classroom.

Take, for example, a recent study released by the Legislative a Finance Committee that found that more than half of New Mexico students who enroll at one of the state’s colleges or universities aren’t ready for college work.

The fact that students aren’t ready for college work when they begin their college careers should be of concern to every taxpayer in the state because it’s costing them lots of money.

The LFC study found that 51 percent of the students needed remedial courses last year. The cost of providing that remedial education was $22 million.

Worse yet, remediation rates haven’t changed in the last seven years.

According to the study, about half of the remedial coursework was in math, with most of the rest in English and reading.
This study is particularly concerning because it focuses on high school students who went on to higher education.

Presumably, these were the same students who were taking college prep classes in high school. Here’s another stark reality. Students who show up to college unprepared are less likely to graduate. Just look at the dismal graduation rates at colleges and universities throughout the state.

Study after study shows that New Mexico students are struggling. But it’s unfair to lay that all on teachers. Most teachers work hard to get their students to succeed.

There’s no magic bullet when it comes to fixing our education system. But clearly what we’re doing now isn’t working.

That’s why we should embrace some of the reforms being pushed. Gov. Susana Martinez has been trying to persuade lawmakers for years to put an end to social promotion, the common practice of moving a child up to the next grade level even though that child isn’t ready. It’s time for lawmakers to get behind the governor on this.

There’s also a push to invest more money in early childhood education so that children don’t start off behind when they enter elementary school. This effort also deserves support.

We must do better when it comes to educating our children.