Senator tweaks Education Department for giving unearned bonus
State Sen. Howie Morales is the leading critic of New Mexico's A-F grading system for public schools.
Morales, right, says the system is arbitrary and often demoralizing to students and school staffs.
He provided his latest example of failings in the grading system when staff members of New Futures School appeared Wednesday before a legislative education committee.
New Futures, an alternative school in the Albuquerque district, is open to all pregnant students and students who are parents.
Amid questions about how young mothers are faring in class work, Morales wondered about bonus points that New Futures received as part of its school grade.
Does New Futures offer sports programs? asked Morales, D-Silver City.
No sports, the school staff said.
Yet the state Public Education Department, in grading New Futures, credited it for having athletic programs.
"This school received bonus points for sports and activities," the PED stated in its rating.
Morales for nearly a year has said the PED's school ratings are confusing and flawed.
The bonus for New Futures demonstrates how perplexing and wrong the grading system is, Morales said.
Overall, with bonus points included, New Futures received a C from the state.
The education committee on Thursday afternoon will receive an update on school grading from Hanna Skandera, secretary-designate of public education.
Like her boss, Gov. Susana Martinez, Skandera is a champion of the grading system. Both say A-F grades provide a clear means of identifying which schools are doing well and which need extra help.
Morales said the grading system is anything but clear.
One lingering issue for him is the volatility of the ratings. Various schools lost two letter grades in six months, between a practice round and the first official rankings last summer. The ups and downs are jarring, especially because years of data are supposed to figure into a school's grade, Morales said.
He said he has no problem with the concept of grading schools in straightforward fashion. But, Morales said, the methods of the PED in arriving at grades are almost impossible for school staffs to understand.