Choosing a better future for our children

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SANTA FE, N.M. – U.S. children are falling behind their international peers in global education rankings.

monica-youngblood

Monica Youngblood is a Republican member of the New Mexico House of Representatives, representing District 68.

Our 15-year-olds rank 17th in reading and 26th in math on international assessments. In my home state of New Mexico, children face the same educational challenges as the rest of the country. In fact, New Mexico’s 4th and 8th graders ranked in the bottom four for reading and math in the country, according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report.

For the last 5 years, I’ve served as a volunteer with the Junior Achievement program, teaching students financial literacy, entrepreneurialism and work readiness curriculum in Albuquerque. I have seen firsthand the potential in students from all walks of life, but I also see too many of them struggling in basic reading and math. There’s an achievement gap between affluent and low-income students, and between white and Hispanic and black students.

Under Governor Martinez, New Mexico has enacted policies to improve students’ educational performance – reading challenges, better classroom evaluation systems and greater funding for schools and teachers. Just in the last year, the graduation rate has risen to 70 percent from 63 percent. But we still face many challenges, so I look forward to working with Governor Martinez on new initiatives she announced in her recent State of the State address.

Education Week’s annual report on state-level efforts to improve public education, Quality Counts 2014, gave New Mexico a D-plus in its Chance for Success Index, which is composed of “13 indicators that span a person’s life from cradle to career.”

This means we need to do better. Our education system needs to be revolutionized if we hope to have our kids ready to compete with the world. It all starts with embracing reform and raising the bar and measuring students’ individual progress.

This allows us to identify struggling students and ensure they get the help they need to succeed. It also lets us recognize great teachers and identify those struggling and help them become better at their profession.

The evaluations aren’t just based on student achievement but also involve teacher feedback.

In Tennessee and D.C., students have made significant gains after adopting similar teacher evaluation reforms, which measure student achievement and include student achievement as a part of a teacher’s evaluation.

In our own community, we’ve seen teacher evaluations improve the quality of education children receive. In 2009, Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science, a public charter school, chose to begin measuring student achievement and linking it to teacher evaluations. The results have been spectacular. Now, students are 94 percent proficient in reading and 96 percent proficient in math. That represents a 56-point gain in reading and 54-point gain in math.

For students in New Mexico and across the country, I believe in raising the bar and embracing reform. Measuring achievement and evaluating teachers isn’t the end-all be-all. But we owe it to our children to take steps in the right direction. It’s time we put our kids first.

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