ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s fourth-grade and eighth-grade students’ test scores in math and reading on the latest Nation’s Report Card remain well below the national average, and the results come amid revived litigation seeking massive education reforms.
Results released Wednesday on the National Assessment of Educational Progress show fourth-graders in the state scored 12 points below the national average on math and 11 points below the national average score in reading.
The report said about 29% of the state’s fourth-graders are proficient both in math, and only 24% in reading. About 21% of eighth-graders proficient in math and only 23% in reading.
Nationwide, a little more than a third of eighth-graders are proficient in reading and math. About a third of fourth-graders are proficient in reading, while more than 40% of fourth-graders are proficient in math.
The nationwide test is given to a sampling of students in those grades every two years.
Students made big gains in math in the 1990s and 2000s but have shown little improvement since then. Reading scores have risen a little since the tests began in 1992.
In New Mexico, however, scores have remained consistently flat despite massive increases in education spending and efforts by Democratic and Republican administrations to revamp the state’s educational system.
New Mexico remains one of the poorest states in the U.S. and regularly ranks near the bottom nationally on various education lists.
On Wednesday, two groups of plaintiffs filed motions in state district court to ensure compliance with a district judge’s 2018 ruling. That decision found lawmakers and state education officials were failing their constitutional obligations to provide an adequate education to vulnerable children from minority communities, non-English speaking households, and impoverished families.
Since that ruling, the Democrat-led Legislature and first-year Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have authorized a nearly half-billion-dollar increase in annual spending on public education.
New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said low achievement rates on the Nation’s Report Card over time reinforce the need for new investment in education and policies.
“We have made unprecedented investments in our educators and in our academic programs,” Stewart said. “These investments are making a difference that will accelerate (students’) academic achievement and social and emotional well-being.”
Amanda Aragon, executive director of the educational advocacy group NewMexicoKidsCAN, said the results show that the state is dramatically underserving its students. “We have to do better as soon as possible,” she said.
Yet Aragon said she wondered if the results from the Nation’s Report Card were an accurate measurement of student progress. She said sometimes teachers and students have no idea why they are taking the test and why it’s essential. “There’s no active feedback if you are a teacher,” Aragon said.
Charles Goodmacher, government relations director for the National Education Association in New Mexico, said the test scores show teachers and other educators “are doing a great job of helping our students beat the odds.” He attributed the gap in results to the state’s high poverty rate.
“Our students deserve praise and additional support for rising above their circumstances by being only 12 and 11 percent behind the national proficiency average scores,” he said.
Russell Contreras is a member of The Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/russcontreras