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Kelly Pearce

December 30, 2022

NM Public Education Department – Year in Review

Resolve to “Move the Needle” on Achievement in 2023

SANTA FE – This year’s focus on mathematics, called Math is Me, led to exciting work in our schools and the notion that everyone can succeed with calculations, manipulatives, and numbers.

As 2022 ends, the New Mexico Public Education Department recognizes our hard-working school employees, staff and many wins for children and families across the state. From competitive salaries for education professionals to balanced assessments for students to increased access to school information for the public, it was a year to remember.

The big education headlines of 2022 paved the way for initiatives that will make a difference in the lives of students in 2023, including enhanced broadband and internet, in addition to free virtual tutoring for many students.

Early in the new year, a proposed $4.3 billion education budget is primed to lift student achievement and fully fund more time for students engaged with teachers, as well as provide professional learning for school leaders and incentives to retain the workforce.

“First and foremost, I think about our work in terms of short-term gains as well as structural investments,” said PED Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. “These investments will create environments where both our students and our teachers thrive.”


The department worked tirelessly on their behalf, including the debut last spring of a balanced assessment system for New Mexico learners, providing a baseline for years to come. This system also includes short-cycle tests to increase supports for teachers so they can gather real-time information and better meet the learning needs of those in their classrooms.

To enhance internet capabilities across the state, PED, in collaboration with state and business alliances, extended more than 844 miles of fiber-optic cable to remote areas, provided more than 7,000 internet-capable devices to homes beyond the reach of fiber and helped families and schools apply for thousands of dollars in federal funds.

New Mexico Family and Community Engagement Solutions will help prepare community members for the arrival of broadband in their area and position them for stable, high-paying jobs. For the next two years, NM FaCES will enable communities to engage in digital storytelling and support the development of five internet-based vocation training centers.

To increase learning opportunities, free tutoring support was offered to students, including those in grades 8-12 enrolled in Algebra I. Plus, preK-8 students in Title I schools may receive free tutoring in reading, math, and science, too. The multilingual support features tutoring that takes place before, during and after school, as well as on weekends and during winter break.

Outdoor learning continues to grow, with $300,000 awarded in 2022 to promote innovation and highlight environmental education.


Teachers received a salary hike that made them the highest paid in the Southwest, bumping up the minimum salary $10,000 to $50,000.

The victory was followed by a PED announcement that it was waiving all fees during February and March related to new licenses and background checks. The decisions made a difference, as the number of people applying for substitute teaching licenses topped 1,000 in the first 20 days.

In addition, the number of teacher vacancies shrunk by 34 percent, with enrollment and graduation from teacher preparation programs tipping upward, according to an October report.

For educators advancing their license from 1 to 2, they were provided a new pathway: micro-credential courses in five areas that include classroom management and culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning.

Teachers were appreciated in other ways, too, including allowing those who had retired to return to the classroom for three years without losing their retirement benefits and providing $150,000 in scholarships for those applying to be nationally-board certified.

The successes made their way to the administrative ranks, with the fall announcement of certain paperwork being streamlined so that principals and teachers have more time with tasks related directly to students.

A variety of prestigious awards were given to New Mexico’s teachers, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Silvia Miranda of Mesa Elementary School in Clovis Municipal Schools received the K–6 mathematics award, and Hope Cahill of El Dorado Community School in Santa Fe Public Schools is the K–6 science awardee. Loving High School science teacher Tyler Finch and Gonzales Community School’s Gabrielle Kahawai in Santa Fe received the New Mexico Milken Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation, considered the Oscar of teaching. Later in the year in Las Cruces, Sonoma Elementary School’s Christopher Nunez also made headlines for the same honor.

Ending her stint as New Mexico’s 2022 Teacher of the Year is Lorynn Guerrero. When she received the honor, she was teaching high school students at the New America School-Las Cruces, as well as teen parents in a GRADS (graduation, reality and dual-role skills) class. Currently, she is assistant principal at Gadsden High School in Anthony. The state’s 2023 Teacher of the Year was named in October. Tara Hughes, who teaches at Nye Early Childhood Center in Santa Fe, is the first ever pre-kindergarten educator to be bestowed with this award.

Members of the New Mexico National Guard stepped up early in the year to help schools remain open, spending time in classrooms as substitute teachers. They responded to a request from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who also volunteered as a substitute during a Covid-19 Omicron wave.

On the federal holiday that marks the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., the PED went live with the Anti-Racism Anti-Oppression Hotline, allowing students, families and community members to report school-based incidents of racial bias. The effort stems from a 2021 law.

Thanks to a 2020 Senate bill, the department debuted Open Books early in 2022 so New Mexicans can access detailed financial information about state-chartered schools, school districts and regional education cooperatives.

Three New Mexico schools – Acequia Madre Elementary in Santa Fe, Albuquerque School of Excellence in Albuquerque and Texico Middle School in Texico – were honored in the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which recognizes schools for overall achievement.

A focus on education partnerships with families was a theme in 2022. PED and TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project, offered virtual Family Literacy Academy sessions in Spanish and English throughout the year.

A report released by PED and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation highlighted that the state is on track to transform the high school experience and high school outcomes, thanks to educational pathways to college and career and innovative practices.

The 2022 legislative session yielded results for Native American students, tripling money to the Indian Education Fund, ensuring indigenous language and culture teachers certified by tribes, nations and pueblos are paid the same as Level 1 teachers and expanding tribal libraries.

The session also allowed PED to widen its LETRS training to teachers in grades three through five. Kindergarten teachers, as well as those who teach first and second graders, already have received the professional learning, which provides a deeper understanding of the science of reading and evidence-based strategies to support all students, particularly those who experience reading challenges.

Grants totaling $7.4 million were awarded to 68 schools to bolster the Community Schools investment. PED would like for the number of these types of transformational schools across the state to top 100 in 2023; $11.5 million are dedicated to the project in the proposed budget going to the state legislature in January.

Nora Meyers Sackett
Office of the Governor

December 15, 2022

Governor announces investment in high-quality tutoring for New Mexico students at no cost to families

Comprehensive, multi-lingual support will target math, reading, and science

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Public Education Department on Thursday announced a new state investment for the targeted expansion of free high-quality tutoring for math, reading, and science for students across New Mexico.

The tutoring program will focus on mathematics, language arts, and science for New Mexico students from pre-K through 8th grade at Title 1 schools throughout the state. It will be available to all Title 1 schools, including tribally controlled schools. Tutoring delivery will be virtual and can be scheduled before, after or during school. Each student that participates will receive 20 hours of tutoring, free of cost to families. Families can find more information about eligibility and how to sign up here.

“Since day one, my administration has been committed to investing in every available tool to deliver every educational opportunity to New Mexico students,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “This investment in high-quality tutoring will further support students and families across the state as we continue to build the strongest possible educational foundation for New Mexico children.

“We know that tutoring can help close gaps for our students who are struggling to master concepts in classrooms alone,” said Public Education Department Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. “This investment in customized support will serve our students efficiently and with immediacy.”

As part of the Lujan Grisham administration’s ongoing efforts and investments to transform and strengthen New Mexico’s public education system, the Public Education Department released a request for proposal (RFP) for the delivery of high-quality outside-of-school tutoring services to students across New Mexico. Paper Education Inc., a leading virtual tutoring company, was selected in the competitive RFP process to provide its virtual Educational Support System to pre-K – 8th grade students across New Mexico. Paper’s highly qualified tutors and instructors are available bilingually in English and Spanish to provide 1:1 tutoring and writing support.

Founded by mission-driven educators, Paper supports approximately 3 million students at hundreds of unique school districts across 34 U.S. states and Canada. This personalized support helps to reduce the achievement and opportunity gaps facing many New Mexico students by providing equitable access to educational tools for all learners at no cost to the students or their families.

“Paper’s mission is to help every student reach their full potential by providing personalized academic support for nearly any subject or assignment, at any time of day, via any device,” said Philip Cutler, Paper co-founder and CEO. “As a former educator, I have seen firsthand the positive impact that 1:1 instruction can have for both high performers and struggling students.”

“This partnership helps underscores the New Mexico Public Education Department’s commitment to helping both students and teachers,” added Cutler. “Paper helps reduce teacher burnout by providing a virtual teacher’s assistant that is on call to answer students’ questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Students at Jemez Mountain Public Schools have been using Paper since the 2021-2022 school year. Brian Moffett, a special education teacher and coordinator who is helping to facilitate tutoring opportunities, said that students often seek help when their grades drop.

“Everyone has success when they engage in the tutoring,” he said, adding that tutors walk students through the learning, step by step.

This additional investment in supplemental high-quality tutoring will work in conjunction with existing programs and academic interventions at the school and district level while providing New Mexico families with an additional tutoring option. The tutoring program will build on Lujan Grisham administration investments in education proving to be effective across the state, including extended learning time, comprehensive after-school and summer enrichment programs, and the implementation of structured literacy programs in New Mexico elementary schools.

Additionally, in January of 2023 the state will launch the New Mexico Math Tutoring Corps, a tutoring program that will serve Algebra 1 students in grades 8-12 across the state with three sessions per week designed to ensure fewer barriers to accessing academic support.

Kelly Pearce

December 6, 2022

2024 PED Budget Features More Student Learning Time, Continued School Staff Raises And School Leadership Investment

Additional Funds to Move the Needle for Student Achievement, Close Education Gaps

SANTA FE – Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus unveiled today a $3.8 billion budget recommendation that focuses on direct supports to increase student achievement, more time for learning, school leadership development and workforce retention.

The proposal for the upcoming legislative session centers on increasing student achievement outcomes, specifically proficiency and high school graduation rates, by funding stronger programs and policies on attendance, more student learning hours, educator recruitment, and teacher collaboration time.

“The Public Education Department remains single-minded in its mission to improve student achievement across the board in New Mexico,” Steinhaus said. “These investments are taking us to the next level, building upon what we know works and supporting new and innovative initiatives at New Mexico’s schools.”

Funding for enhanced extended learning time figures prominently in the budget — the agency proposal would provide state funding for increased instructional time. This initiative builds in flexibility for districts and charter schools to make decisions around the required additional time that are best for their students and families.

The budget proposal also includes robust funding for evidence-based initiatives and strategies that will improve student achievement, including supports for literacy, reading, math and intensive tutoring.

The budget proposes a four percent raise for public education staff, building on raises and salary increases enacted in 2022 that made New Mexico’s teachers the highest paid in the Southwest. The proposal also includes increased minimum salaries for principals to ensure New Mexico’s education leadership pay is regionally competitive, as well as funding for mentorship and enhanced professional learning for education leaders.

“We know that the school workforce, from cafeteria staff to teachers to bus drivers, is key to delivering the services students need to succeed, so all staff will receive a 4% raise to recognize the critical role they play in students’ lives,” Steinhaus said. “Effective school leadership, research shows, has a transformational effect on student outcomes.”

Topline investments include:

  • $261.1 million for increased instructional time
  • $56.4 million for hiring and training hard-to-fill positions, like school counselors
  • $50 million for enhanced extended learning opportunities for high quality engaging time to close achievement gaps outside of the school day
  • $109.3 million for 4% raises for all school positions, as well as $3.3 million to increase principal salaries
  • $42.1 million for educational technology
  • $33.1 million for increased supports for special education students
  • $17 million for attendance intervention and dropout prevention
  • $16.5 million for early literacy and reading support
  • $15 million for career technical education and $60 million for career technical education infrastructure
  • $6.5 million for student behavioral health supports
  • $10 million for intensive tutoring
  • $10 million for school safety infrastructure
  • $6.5 million for math initiatives
  • $16.9 million for educator recruitment efforts
  • $17.6 million to fund teacher and principal residencies

The Department will continue to work with the governor’s office to finalize the executive budget recommendation that will be released in early January.

Kelly Pearce

Nov. 29, 2022

Computer Science Education Week Kicks Off Monday

Nmped to Host Virtual Conversations with Computer Scientists Dec. 5-9

Melissa Waller's Class

Photo courtesy of Melissa Waller

Students in Ms. Waller’s class learn about Canva.

SANTA FE – Computer science is everywhere!

That especially is true during Computer Science Education Week. New Mexico has much to celebrate this year. According to, 63% of high school students attend a school that offers foundational computer science, compared to 44% a year ago. This year’s state figure is up 40% from 2018.

“Computer fluency is key to our mission of having all students in New Mexico career, college, and civic ready when they graduate from high school,” Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “We are proud of all that is being accomplished and have our sights on closing that gap entirely with this critical work.”

Agreed, said Philip Friedman, K-8 computer science specialist at the Public Education Department, sharing New Mexico’s Computer Science Strategic Plan. “We want to build awareness that computer science is a career that anyone can take on,” he said.

Each day next week, Dec. 5-9, he will host virtual conversations that link computer science teachers and classes with experts in the field, including those in career paths that appeal to young people. For example, among the panelists will be various computer scientists from Google. Educators are invited to register for the sessions.

The goal, Friedman explained, is to show students the diversity in computer science, encourage them to pursue computer science careers, and raise awareness about equity within the computer science space.

As the spotlight shines on computer science, there are many bright spots across the state, in both large and small schools, and on elementary and secondary campuses.

Melissa Waller, a third-grade teacher at Albuquerque Public Schools’ North Star Elementary School, believes that integrating 21st Century computer science skills with traditional education practices is like a choreographed dance.

“Computer science allows me to teach and engage my students with our core content in ways their young brains are more accustomed to as children living in our present digital age, maybe more like a digital revolution,” she said. “Let’s be honest. Whether our children grow to enter into a future career field as a public servant, private businessperson, skilled tradesperson, or other category, their work and personal lives will necessitate the usage of computer science skills in some capacity.”

To learn more, visit and check out the full national report. Join millions of students across the world in the Hour of Code.

Kelly Pearce

Nov. 17, 2022

Two NM Schools Earn National Recognition

Schools in Wagon Mound and Gallup Named ‘Distinguished Schools’

SANTA FE – Two New Mexico schools have been named National ESEA Distinguished Schools after being nominated by the state Public Education Department.

The honor goes to:

  • Wagon Mound Elementary School, serving 43 students in the Wagon Mound Public School District, and
  • John F. Kennedy Middle School, serving 715 students in Gallup-McKinley County Schools.

“These two schools exemplify the important work in education that is taking place in our state as we continue to close the achievement gap,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “We congratulate the efforts of students, educators and families in these Gallup and Wagon Mound communities. They spotlight excellence in academic growth and exceptional support of special populations.”

Wagon Mound Elementary School is being recognized for exceptional student performance and academic growth for two or more consecutive years and John F. Kennedy Middle School in Gallup is acknowledged for excellence in serving special populations of students, especially Native Americans.

ESEA stands for the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act, federal legislation passed in the 1960s as part of the War on Poverty to close skill gaps in reading, writing and math. Since 1996, the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators has been selecting examples of superior, federally funded school programs for national recognition. Title I of the act was originally intended to compensate for the considerable educational deprivations associated with child poverty. Both distinguished New Mexico schools are Title I schools, which means they receive federal funding because they serve large numbers of students from economically disadvantaged homes.

“As a Wagon Mound alumni, it really makes me happy to see my students going in the right direction, and making leaps and bounds,” said Wagon Mound Schools Superintendent Anita Romero. “I am hopeful that my staff is setting the foundation needed for a brighter future for all our students. I am very proud of all of them and can’t wait to let everyone know of their achievements.”

To the west in Gallup, the JFK Middle School head principal is proud of his school’s focus on project-based and career-centered initiatives in promoting more student engagement. “This recognition for excellence has motivated and inspired all of us in Kennedy Middle School to continue serving all our students to the best of our abilities,” said Leoneil Tulabing.

The New Mexico schools are among approximately 100 schools throughout the country that will receive national recognition for exceptional student achievement at the 2023 ESEA National Conference Feb. 1-4 in Indianapolis and online.

Selected schools demonstrate a wide array of strengths, including team approaches to teaching and learning, focused professional development opportunities for staff, individualized programs for student success, and strong partnerships between the school, parents, and the community.

State education agencies nominate schools for the title under three categories:

  • Exceptional student performance for two consecutive years
  • Closing the achievement gap between student groups
  • Excellence in serving special populations of students

More information about all National ESEA Distinguished Schools is available on the ESEA Network website.

Carly Bowling

Oct. 26, 2022

NM’S 2023 Teacher of the Year: Tara Hughes

Educator is First-Ever Pre-K Teacher to be Honored

New Mexico Teacher of the Year: Sponsored by NMOGA

SANTA FE — Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus announced today that educator Tara Hughes is the 2023 New Mexico Teacher of the Year.

Hughes teaches a four-year-old inclusion preschool class at Nye Early Childhood Center in Santa Fe, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to educational programming for children ages three and four.

“I’m honored to present this award for the first time to an early childhood educator,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “Ms. Hughes is a shining example of how to deliver a top-notch education to our youngest learners. This administration is dedicated to providing every resource and support to educators like Ms. Hughes and New Mexico students to ensure their success from an early age.”

“Ms. Hughes’ efforts on behalf of her preschool students in Santa Fe have been nothing short of extraordinary,” Secretary Steinhaus said. “New Mexico is fortunate to have her as our 2023 spokesperson for the teaching profession and our representative in the National Teacher of the Year competition. Her dedication and high standards will serve as a model to all of us in the coming year.”

The governor presented the award at a ceremony Wednesday morning in a collaborative learning space Hughes helped design and implement. The school is equipped with spaces that support STEAM learning, art, independence and family engagement.

“I’m so honored to represent early childhood educators, to advocate for our earliest learners and to be a voice for young children who may not be able to speak for themselves,” Tara Hughes said after the announcement.

The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is the title sponsor for the New Mexico Teacher of the Year program for the fifth year and will support the travel needs and professional development opportunities of the winner.

“The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and New Mexico’s oil and natural gas industry are proud to support our outstanding teachers across our great state, and we congratulate Tara Hughes for her recognition as the 2023 New Mexico Teacher of the Year,” Doug Ackerman, President of NMOGA, said. “Ms. Hughes’ commitment and passion reflect the best of New Mexico’s teaching profession where she works diligently to provide a high-quality educational experience for her students and their families in the Santa Fe community. We look forward to continuing the partnership and collaboration to further the reach and impacts of New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year.”

Hughes worked as a special educational assistant for two years before pursuing a master’s degree in special education from New Mexico Highlands University. Working as a student teacher in an autism-specific preschool program ignited her passion for inclusive classrooms. She has worked as a highly-structured special education teacher with Santa Fe Public Schools for nine years. Hughes said she views classrooms that include students both with and without disabilities as a way to build children’s strengths and celebrate differences.

“Inclusion is not only instrumental in changing discriminatory attitudes, but provides a better quality education for all children by broadening educators’ pedagogical approach and weaving specially designed instruction and support to help ALL students make progress,” Hughes wrote in her application. “I believe every single child and family member is equally valued and deserves the same experiences and opportunities.”

Mandie Szantho’s daughter, Aliz, was a student in Hughes’s class last year who required significant classroom support. Szantho said Hughes helped prepare her daughter for success in the mainstream kindergarten classroom she attends this year.

“I wholeheartedly believe that Tara was the biggest reason for her miraculous growth and progress,” Mandie Szantho wrote in a nomination letter for Hughes. “She is not only extremely kind and inclusive but she is so knowledgeable in strategies to motivate and encourage students to gain a lifelong love of learning and participation in the classroom setting.”

Hughes has elevated educational services and support at her school by implementing school-wide Professional Learning Communities and coaching colleagues in evidence-based classroom strategies and social-emotional development curriculums.

Secretary Steinhaus also announced Catherine Turietta-Huber, a fifth-grade teacher at Tombaugh Elementary School in Las Cruces, as first runner-up for 2023 New Mexico Teacher of the Year. Huber is in her 22nd year of teaching with the Las Cruces Public Schools.

The New Mexico Teacher of the Year award was established in 1963. Each year, all New Mexico school districts and charter schools are invited to nominate an outstanding teacher to become New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year and to represent New Mexico in the National Teacher of the Year competition. New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year also acts as the spokesperson for the state’s teaching profession.

“This program serves to honor and celebrate all of New Mexico’s educators,” said Secretary Steinhaus. “I want to personally thank not only this year’s Teacher of the Year and first-runner up but every person working in schools to serve the more than 320,000 students in New Mexico.”

Laura Blank

Oct. 21, 2022

Surprise! Las Cruces Fourth Grade Teacher Honored as one of America’s Best

Christopher Nunez stunned as he receives $25,000 Milken Educator Award

LAS CRUCES— For Sonoma Elementary School fourth grade teacher Christopher Nunez, education has been a part of his life since he was a young boy. Both Nunez’ parents teach in Las Cruces’ public schools, and when he went to college, he followed their footsteps and studied elementary education. Today, this family legacy of education was honored as Nunez was surprised at a schoolwide assembly of cheering students, appreciative colleagues, local dignitaries and media with the $25,000 Milken Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation.

The Awards will recognize up to 40 elementary educators in the 2022-23 school year. Over the past 35 years, more than $140 million in funding, including more than $73 million in individual Awards, has been devoted to the overall Milken Awards initiative, which includes powerful professional development opportunities throughout recipients’ careers.

“Teaching often becomes a family affair as children grow up in homes that elevate the profession, honor the hard work it takes to be a teacher, and celebrate the gift of teaching the next generation of leaders,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. “Christopher Nunez saw this firsthand in his own family. Today, we honor him for his dedication to his profession and to his students. Congratulations, Christopher!”

Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year’s winners’ list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced.

“Christopher Nunez exemplifies what it means to be a teacher. He’s gone above and beyond to ensure his fourth graders understand real-world applications of classroom material and become lifelong learners,” said New Mexico Secretary of Education Dr. Kurt Steinhaus. “His efforts to amplify the social and academic skills of every child in his class are evident in the high performance of his students. Thank you for your hard work and leadership, Mr. Nunez. You are a role model for everyone in education.”

More About Christopher Nunez

Research-Based Math Comes Alive in Classroom: In Nunez’s New Mexico classroom, students build problem-solving skills through engaging hands-on activities. Nunez’s fourth graders use measuring tapes and cubic tiles to design gardens and pools for their backyards during lessons on area and perimeter. When Sonoma adopted its 1:1 technology initiative, Nunez led the school’s efforts to demonstrate to the state that the iPads were being used effectively in instruction, guiding students as they used iMovie to create videos on curriculum-linked topics in social studies, science and literature. Children lead class discussions and demonstrate their strategies to accomplish each lesson’s learning objective. Nunez uses research-based strategies to enhance instruction for all students, especially English learners, and analyzes data to identify areas where more instruction is needed.

Creative Student Engagement Activities Encourage Learning: At the end of each day, Nunez has students answer exit ticket questions based on the day’s learning targets and assess their own understanding of the concepts with green, yellow and red stickers. In the after-school programs he leads, students conduct interviews and write human interest stories for Sonoma’s broadcast channel, such as profiling the then-new assistant principal. In “Reader’s Theater,” they read a play, rework the characters or ending, then act it out for their peers. Nunez’s students excel, growing from 70% to 100% proficient on the iReady Math assessment and ending the year with 92% proficiency on the Star Reading test.

Visionary Leader Who Inspires Others: A member of Sonoma’s leadership team, Nunez championed the idea of dividing the school into six “houses” to strengthen connections among students in different grades. Each house has a focus—for example, Team Vision brainstorms new ideas and encourages collaboration, while Team Atlas centers on love and kindness. Nunez leads professional development in technology and math, and helps new staff members navigate classroom issues, content area questions and technology. He has shepherded the adoption of new textbooks as Sonoma’s social studies lead and works with colleagues on data analysis and backwards planning. Nunez participated in Harvard University’s Partnership for Enhancing Mathematics, recording his lessons and working with coaches to refine his teaching practice. During the pandemic, Nunez went above and beyond to make sure learning was accessible for all, providing extra Zoom help for ELA and math intervention groups and creating highly interactive lessons using breakout rooms, annotation, Jamboard, Nearpod and Canvas.

Nunez understands students’ social-emotional needs and fosters an environment of respect and trust. He is a leader in implementing Sonoma’s restorative practices, working with students to talk about and find resolutions to conflicts. Student-driven and committed to the community, Nunez hails from a family of educators—both parents teach in Las Cruces Public Schools.

Education: Nunez earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2009 from New Mexico State University.

More About the Milken Educator Awards: “The future belongs to the educated.”

Along with the financial prize, recipients join the national Milken Educator Network, a group of more than 2,900 top teachers, principals and specialists. The network serves as a rich resource for fellow educators, legislators, school boards and others dedicated to excellence in education.

  • The honorees will also attend an all-expenses-paid Milken Educator Awards Forum in Los Angeles, where they will network with their new colleagues as well as veteran Milken Educators and other education leaders about how to increase their impact on K-12 education.
  • In addition, they will learn about how to become involved in the Milken Friends Forever (MFF) mentoring program, in which new Milken Educators receive personalized coaching and support from a Milken Educator veteran on ways to elevate their instructional practice and take an active role in educational leadership, policy and practice.
  • Veteran Milken Educators demonstrate a wide range of leadership roles at state, national and international levels.
  • “We find you. You don’t find us!” Unlike most teacher recognition programs, the Milken Educator Awards initiative has no formal nomination or application process. Candidates are sourced through a confidential selection process and then reviewed by blue ribbon panels in each state. The most exceptional candidates are recommended for the Award, with final selection made by the Milken Family Foundation.
  • The $25,000 cash Award is unrestricted. Recipients have used the money in diverse ways. For instance, some have spent the funds on their children’s or their own continuing education, financing dream field trips, establishing scholarships, and even adopting children.

For more information, visit or call the Milken Family Foundation at (310) 570-4772.

Carly Bowling

Oct. 14, 2022

PED launches New Mexico Family and Community Engagement Solutions

SANTA FE- The New Mexico Public Education Department announces the launch of New Mexico Family and Community Engagement Solutions (NM FaCES), a new program that works to ensure a smooth statewide broadband rollout.

Over the next two years, NM FaCES will prepare community members to benefit from the arrival of broadband in their area and position them for stable, high-paying jobs. NM FaCES will enable communities to engage in digital storytelling and support the development of five internet-based vocation training centers. The program, which will utilize StoryMaps, allows communities to combine video, audio, images and text to share stories unique to their cultures and history. NM FaCES will help families become digital storytellers for their own communities.

The new program builds upon PED’s response to the Martinez-Yazzie Tech Order to ensure all students have internet connections, computers and support to fully participate in learning and career training at home.

NM FaCES will kick off with a public viewing of the virtual, immersive 3D Space Messengers installation created in part by Taos students. The exhibit is presented by STEMarts, a Taos-based non-profit organization seeking to empower youth through art, science and technology, as part of the 2022 Festival International de Ciéncia in Portugal. The collaborative installation combines the work of students, artists and scientists from around the world and will showcase the creative power of broadband. Community members will experience the festival virtually, Friday, Oct. 14 at UNM-Taos Hub of Internet-based Vocation and Education (HIVE).

“Through interactive projections, virtual reality and space messages, we share the importance of artistic, scientific, and humanistic literacy, expand our identity as planetary citizens and imagine a peaceful and sustainable interplanetary future,” said Agnes Chavez, founder of STEMarts Lab.

Free workshops to demonstrate how students and their families can take advantage of the new broadband opportunities will be available until late November. For more information, visit the NM FaCES StoryMap at


New Mexico Public Education Department logo

Carly Bowling, Public Relations Coordinator

New Mexico Higher Education Department logo

Stephanie Montoya, Public Information Officer

Oct. 11, 2022

New Mexico fills over 350 teacher positions according to new report

Teacher vacancies cut by nearly 35 percent thanks to historic investments under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

SANTA FE – New Mexico has decreased the number of unfilled teacher positions by 34 percent and has increased enrollment and graduation from teacher preparation programs as historic investments in education under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham build traction.

The 2022 New Mexico Educator Vacancy Report published by the Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation and Policy Center at New Mexico State University revealed that the state filled 358 teacher positions with increases seen in all regions of the state. The report showed that 290 additional students enrolled in teacher preparation programs this year and 48 more students graduated from these programs.

“Gov. Lujan Grisham took bold action to increase teacher salaries across the state, and this has proven to both help retain the teachers we have and recruit new teachers to the profession,” said Public Education Cabinet Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, Ph.D. “Our teachers are now the highest paid in the Southwest and that makes a difference.”

“Under the leadership of Gov. Lujan Grisham, we have seen historic investments in education including increases in teacher salaries and loan repayment programs, a monumental investment in the Opportunity Scholarship, and funding for teacher preparation programs. It is clear that these investments are paying off in helping more New Mexicans enter and stay in the classroom,” Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez said. “The New Mexico Higher Education Department is committed to continuing this work in partnership with the Public Education Department and the state’s public colleges and universities to strengthen the teacher pipeline and train more professionals in New Mexico.”

The report’s findings also highlight the collaborative partnerships between stakeholders throughout the state, which have resulted in the recruitment and retention of New Mexico’s teacher workforce.

“Partnerships have resulted in greater numbers of preservice teachers pursuing licensure and entering the teacher workforce, along with fewer teachers leaving the profession,” said Dr. Rick Marlatt, Interim Director of New Mexico State University’s School of Teacher Preparation, Administration and Leadership. “These positive trends in teacher vacancies directly reflect the state’s commitment to improving educational outcomes for all students in New Mexico, as well as the dedication from educator preparation programs throughout the state in carrying out numerous exciting initiatives and engaging in innovative programming to recruit, prepare, support, and retain highly qualified educators.”

“It is great to report an increase in the number of students who are admitted to and who complete a teacher preparation program in the state. We are also seeing an increase in the number students who are pursuing high-needs areas, particularly elementary education and special education, which have had the most teacher vacancies in recent reports,” said Dr. Rachel Boren, Director of the Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation and Policy Center at New Mexico State University.

While many teachers retired amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the profession is rebounding as a result of increased funding for teacher salaries and programs at New Mexico colleges and universities that recruit and train teachers in addition to retaining faculty members. New Mexico teachers are now the highest paid anywhere in the southwestern United States and New Mexicans can enter teacher preparation programs tuition-free thanks to the Opportunity Scholarship. Gov. Lujan Grisham also authorized a change to the return-to-work policy for retired educators earlier this year enabling veteran educators to return to the classroom without losing their retirement benefits.

“The 2022 New Mexico Educator Vacancy Report is a positive reflection of the achievements that happen when our leaders and agencies work together with those in our profession to find solutions to our shared challenges. From higher wages, to easing our return-to-work statutes, and collaborating to return respect to our profession, we are seeing our ranks grow again. While we still have work to do to ensure every position in our system of public education is filled by a highly qualified professional, we know we are moving in the right direction.  Students, families, and communities are best served when our schools and institutions are full, and we are encouraged by this progress and are ready to work to identify other solutions to address our statewide educator vacancies,” said AFT New Mexico President Whitney Holland.

“Improved teacher salaries have been an important incentive to get people back into the classroom and New Mexico’s teachers appreciate the hard work of Gov. Lujan Grisham and the Legislature to make this happen. We will continue working together to increase salaries and improve teacher working conditions in order to bring even more people back into the classroom,” said NEA-New Mexico President Mary Parr-Sanchez.

The New Mexico Higher Education Department also provided debt relief for over 600 more teachers this past year through its Teacher Loan Repayment Program, allowing teachers to focus on their careers without having to worry about student loan payments. Gov. Lujan Grisham approved an additional $20 million for the program this year and the agency is seeking additional funding in the coming year to keep up with a record number of applicants.

New Mexicans interested in becoming a teacher can visit to learn more about available programs and positions for current and future educators.

New Mexico Human Services Department logo

Marina I Piña
Communications Director, New Mexico Human Services Department

Sept. 19, 2022

New Mexico to deliver $89 million in food assistance

Benefits allocated for 227,735 school students

SANTA FE – Families for 227,735 New Mexico students will receive benefits starting on September 18 through September 26 to cover the summer months of June and July 2022.

Approximately, $89,044,385 in Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) will be issued to cover summer meals for K-12 students who were eligible for free or reduced priced meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or attended a Community Eligible Provision school that received free meals as of June 30, 2022, for school year 2021-2022. The one-time amount will be $391 to eligible students.

Parents and guardians will be able to check whether their child qualified for the latest P-EBT issuance at the VERIFY P-EBT Information section of the Human Services Department’s YESNM portal on September 20, 2022.

“The goal of Summer P-EBT is to help provide good nutrition to New Mexico’s children for the months they are not in school due to the summer break, “said Angela Medrano, deputy secretary for the New Mexico Human Services Department. “In partnership with the Public Education Department, we want to ensure access to food for New Mexican families.”

If your child has a P-EBT card, please keep the card and do not destroy it. If a new address or guardian was reported to the school, a new P-EBT card will be mailed to the new address starting on September 18 through September 26. Mailing can take up to 7-10 business days.

For questions regarding your child’s P-EBT card, you can contact NM PEBT Hotline at 1-833-415-0569 or the HSD Customer Consolidated Customer Service Center at 1-800-283-4465.

HSD is urging all customers to make sure the department has their latest contact information on file to ensure that written communication about their benefits is delivered to them in a timely manner. If customers have recently changed their phone number, they should provide their new contact information on the YESNM website: Customers can simply and easily update their address using the chat functionality there. Step-by-step directions on how to update your address are available here.

Answers to other frequently asked questions can also be found online at:

K-12 students do not need to be currently receiving SNAP food benefits in order to qualify for P-EBT.

Carly Bowling

Sept. 16, 2022

Three NM Schools Earn ‘Blue Ribbon’ Designation

SANTA FE — Three New Mexico schools will be honored in the 2022 National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which recognizes schools for overall academic performance and progress in closing student achievement gaps.

  • Acequia Madre Elementary in Santa Fe
  • Albuquerque School of Excellence in Albuquerque
  • Texico Middle School in Texico

The Blue Ribbon School designation, conferred annually by the U.S. Department of Education, celebrates public and private schools for overall academic excellence or progress closing achievement gaps. New Mexico’s Blue Ribbon Schools are among 297 schools selected nationally this year.

“New Mexico’s Blue Ribbon Schools inspire young minds to excel, maintain high standards, and support all students. This is a prestigious award received by a few schools across the country.” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “Every New Mexican should take pride in these schools and the extraordinary work they are doing to close achievement gaps, create positive learning environments and set children on the path to academic success.”

Acequia Madre Elementary Principal Dr. Dietger De Maeseneer said he was proud the school received the honor despite challenges brought about by the pandemic.

“Coming out of a global pandemic with a Blue Ribbon award is incredible,” De Maeseneer said. It serves as a testimony to the excellence we are committed to at Acequia Madre even during the most challenging of times. Together we stand tall!”

Albuquerque School of Excellence Principal Mustafa Ayik credits the school’s success to the high bar set for students and staff.

“We are tremendously proud of our campus’s effort each day to instill a culture of high expectations in our school,” Ayik said. “This elite designation endorses how our students approach and overcome challenges, how staff members work together as a team, and how our entire ABQ School of Excellence community collaborates to create the best school environment possible for our students.”

Texico Middle School Principal Dee Rae Timberlake attributes the Blue Ribbon designation to the extensive work of the school’s educators.”

“Our success is credited to our amazing educators and staff at Texico. Mediocrity is not in their vocabulary and that mindset has transferred to our students in our classrooms,” Timberlake said. “This recognition is exciting for our entire district and community.”

New Mexico’s three Blue Ribbon School award recipients will receive awards at a ceremony this November in Washington D.C.

Carly Bowling

Sept. 1, 2022

New balanced assessment system created by New Mexico educators, for New Mexico kids

Spring 2022 assessment sets new achievement baseline; fulfills Gov. Lujan Grisham’s first executive order

SANTA FE – With the release today of spring 2022 student assessment data, the Public Education Department has established a new baseline for student academic achievement and fulfilled Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive orders to create an assessment system that better serves New Mexico students, families and educators. The new assessment tool, the New Mexico Balanced Assessment System, delivers on empowering educators and families to better inform decisions that will yield stronger outcomes for students, and will ensure that PED’s policies are data-driven and targeted toward improving academic proficiency for every New Mexico student.

“The New Mexico Balanced Assessment System has been a stakeholder driven, multi-year, disciplined process to move away from an unpopular, ineffective test used previously in New Mexico to one that will better serve our students, educators, families and policy-makers from here on out,” PED Cabinet Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said.

The new assessment tool equips educators, students and parents to identify key areas where students need additional educational support throughout the entire school year so corrective action can be taken before the end of the school year. As parents and teachers partner to support each student’s educational journey, they can now take a data-based approach with mid-year assessments to collectively work with local school districts to connect and implement educational programs to the individual student’s actual needs in real time.

This new assessment and the proficiency levels were created by New Mexico educators from every corner of the state for all New Mexican students; it is our test for our kids. The spring 2022 data went through a rigorous procedure involving 89 New Mexico educators called “standard setting,” which is used to define achievement or performance levels on the test to help clarify and communicate student expectations. New Mexico’s student population has unique educational needs; the one size fits all approach like the former national standard test has, historically, proven to be ineffective in supporting New Mexico students make meaningful progress in educational outcomes.

Moreover, the new assessment tool highlights what tactics are proving to deliver achievement results for school districts so these best practices can then be shared and implemented at the local level across the state at the discretion of the local school districts. In spring 2023, results will be returned to school the fastest in recent history– within 10 days of the closing of the window. Timely access to the results allows the education system to take a data-based approach in preparing for the next school year.

Finally, new student testing only takes 3.25-5 hours per grade, compared to 8-11 hours per grade under the previous assessment. This gives New Mexico students more time in the classroom and teachers more time to do what they do best, teach.

“NEA New Mexico has long advocated for a fair student assessment system that both promotes positive student outcomes and enhances the ability of educators to provide quality instruction. We believe these efforts by the governor and the Public Education Department go a long way towards meeting those goals,” says Mary Parr-Sanchez, President of NEA New Mexico.

Whitney Holland of NMAFT reflects, “The New Mexico PED has centered the unique needs of our students in creating this balanced assessment. The data collected in this system will inform, guide, and empower New Mexico educators to give the high-quality education our students and families deserve.”

“We now have a solid new measure of student achievement in New Mexico that will serve as a benchmark for measuring academic progress in math, language arts and science,” Cabinet Secretary Steinhaus said. “With this re-set, we’re going to be able to gauge the direct effect of our tremendous investments and efforts to improve student achievement.”

In the 2021-2022 school year, PED deployed the first assessments of New Mexico’s Balanced Assessment System, which includes both within-year state assessments (e.g., dyslexia screening for all first graders, K-2 monthly progress monitoring for early literacy and math skills, interim mathematics and language arts assessments) and federally required end-of-year summative assessments. These end-of-year assessments measure proficiency in content standards of English/language arts and mathematics in grades three through eight and science in grades five, eight and high school.

  • 34% of students assessed are proficient in language arts
  • 33% of students assessed are proficient in science
  • 25% of students assessed are proficient in mathematics

“Generally, coming out of the pandemic, most states are seeing student performance is higher in language arts compared to math, but still lower than both had been prior to the onset of the pandemic,” said Lynn Vásquez, Division Director, Assessment & Learning Management Systems said. “Accelerating student learning will require continued investments in innovative approaches to learning.”

In the coming weeks, the Public Education Department will be communicating with districts on how best to use the results to improve learning and teaching for students. PED will also host town halls for parents in the coming weeks to ensure they understand how the test scores will be used and how to interpret their child’s results.

“It’s been a long road, but we are excited to introduce the New Mexico Balanced Assessment System in which testing is used to measure student achievement and data is used to support learning objectives all school year,” Vásquez said.

In addition to the historic generational education investments since 2019, PED implemented several strategies this year to immediately address student outcomes. PED expanded family literacy training in English and Spanish, as well as, assembled a Math Tutoring Corps of current and retired teachers. PED’s recruitment efforts resulted in 300 additional teachers for the current school year. This fall, the department is providing teachers with three math-related professional development training opportunities.

Carly Bowling

Aug. 26, 2022

PED awards $300,000 in outdoor learning grants

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department this week announced a $300,000 investment in the Outdoor Learning Program, awarding grants to six schools and four school districts to help promote innovation and expand access to outdoor learning and environmental education. The ten grant recipients will each receive an average of $30,000 to support the development of outdoor learning programs.

“Opportunities to learn in the natural world help students reduce stress and engage creativity,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. “The Outdoor Learning Program is another way we can help students succeed academically and emotionally.”

The grants will give teachers resources and activities that promote discovery, experimentation and connection to the natural world. Spending class time outdoors can help students think beyond the blackboard and engage them in the real-life application of their schoolwork.

“The goal of each grant is to increase teacher confidence in utilizing outdoor spaces, provide high-quality instruction aligned to standards and expand all students’ access to outdoor learning opportunities,” said Shafiq Chaudhary, the Public Education Department’s math and science director.

Grant applications explored a variety of topics ranging from the creation of new outdoor learning spaces to plans to include outdoor experiences in all core subjects.

The grant recipients are:

  • Alamogordo Public Schools
  • Albuquerque Public Schools
  • Aztec Municipal Schools
  • Las Cruces Public Schools
  • Monte del Sol Charter School
  • Mountain Mahogany Community School
  • Native American Community Academy
  • Rio Gallinas School for Ecology and the Arts
  • Siembra Leadership High School
  • Vista Grande High School

Last spring, the PED received a $500,000 legislative appropriation to expand outdoor learning opportunities after a multi-agency task force recommended the department issue grants to local education agencies and create two outdoor learning specialist positions to establish an Outdoor Learning Program.

Carly Bowling

Aug. 18, 2022

Algebra tutors, professional learning, new curriculum all support PED’s ‘math identity’ initiative

Yearlong emphasis will be on using math in everyday life

Math Is Me: NMPED Year of Math

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department is organizing a 150-member Math Tutoring Corps, rolling out new professional learning for math teachers, and offering them designed-for-New Mexico math curricula as the first steps in a yearlong initiative to show students how they will use math throughout their lives.

Those and other efforts will support the department’s yearlong “Math Is Me” initiative to convey this simple message to every New Mexican: We all do math every day and therefore should see ourselves as math capable.

“One of our big goals for this school year is to demystify math by showing students at every grade level that math is part of our everyday lives and they are mastering it step-by-step,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “Whether it’s measuring ingredients, calculating tax on a purchase or counting change, we’re doing math. That’s the message we want parents, grandparents and caregivers to absorb this year along with our K-12 students. We are all mathematicians.”

Math Tutoring Corps

Many students who have done well in math previously see their grades drop when they hit algebra, which introduces new concepts in combination with previous math skills. The Public Education Department is addressing that by assembling a 150-member Math Tutoring Corps with a goal of tutoring 500 Algebra I students across New Mexico in the spring semester.

New Mexico teachers – current and retired – are invited to apply here. Applicants do not need to be highly qualified in math or teach secondary math but should have an interest in math instruction and hold a valid New Mexico teaching license. Those selected will be paid $50 per hour, not to exceed $4,000.

Tutors will receive training virtually in September and October. Virtual tutoring will begin in January and conclude in April. Each tutor will be assigned three to four students for 45-minute tutoring sessions three times a week after school and on weekend mornings.

Professional Learning for Teachers

The Public Education Department is offering math teachers a six-part professional development series this fall called “Fostering Positive Math Identities,” which meshes perfectly with the department’s yearlong “Math Is Me” initiative.

Math Is Me developed from emerging research about the importance of how students perceive their own ability to do math. The goal is to break down stubborn myths that girls and some racial minorities are not good at math while boys and other racial minorities are – myths that strongly influence academic performance and contribute to gender and racial disparities in assessments of math proficiency.

The Public Education Department partnered with Teaching Lab, an educational non-profit, to create the virtual training series to help New Mexico educators in grades 6-12 connect their work to equitable math instruction.

Educators will participate in the sessions as part of a school-based team to maximize the impact on their school. Ideally, teams will consist of one school administrator or instructional coach, one school instructional leader and at least 80% of the school’s teachers who are responsible for math instruction.

“The goal is to help teachers support their students by bringing in their home language and culture to make math more alive,” said Shafiq Chaudhary, director of the department’s Math and Science Bureau.

Two other professional development opportunities are available this fall for school math teaching teams:

  • Math Foundations: This training will help teachers in grades 4-5 help students develop early numeracy, with a focus on base 10, operations and algebraic thinking.
  • Focus on Algebra: This training for teachers in grades 6-9 will focus on ratios, proportions and expressions and equations.

New Math Curricula

While the “Math Is Me” initiative intends to build appreciation for math at every age and level, the new Pathway2Careers toolkit and curricula focus specifically on middle and high school students by connecting their school work with their futures.

As students advance through Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, Pathway2Careers presents each new math concept in the context of a high-value career in New Mexico. Teachers can use the resources to supplement existing textbooks or as a stand-alone curriculum for each .

What distinguishes Pathway2Careers from traditional math curricula is the application of math concepts to more than 100 careers. As students work through lessons, they gain career exposure through detailed career spotlights.

The Public Education Department and partner NS4ED developed Pathway2Careers as part of a five-year, $11.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop a collection of mathematics resources that support career readiness efforts in middle and high school math classes.

“What’s innovative about this approach is how it embeds career exploration into core academic lessons by transforming math lessons to make the math procedures relevant to real world careers,” said Elaine Perea, director of the Public Education Department’s College and Career Readiness Bureau. “It also uses labor market data to support career exploration and enhance students’ understanding of good jobs in their communities.”

Pathway 2 Careers was recently added to New Mexico’s list of High-Quality Instructional Materials.

Judy Robinson

Aug. 17, 2022

PED cuts teacher shortage with 2,000+ new licenses

Recruitment eforts, including better pay, show results; more planned

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department has issued more than 2,100 new teacher licenses since Feb. 1 as interest in filling New Mexico teaching jobs grows following pay raises, higher minimum salaries and other recruitment efforts to address a nationwide educator shortage.

Another 1,400 teacher license applications are pending approval; if all are issued, the state will have licensed about 3,580 new teachers in the first eight months of 2022.

“The message is getting out that teaching is a great career, and New Mexico is a great place to be a teacher,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. “Our goal is now within reach to assure that every New Mexico classroom is led by a certified professional educator.”

The long-range teacher recruitment effort continues today with the launch of a communications campaign to highlight the benefits of teaching and a webpage where licensed educators can find information about vacancies around the state and others can explore teaching as a career. The goal of the Teaching Is Changing campaign is to increase the number of passionate, highly qualified teachers in New Mexico and to increase the diversity and ethnic representation within the teacher workforce.

The Public Education Department is enlisting its State Ambassadors to help spread the word about the benefits of teaching careers by providing a toolkit of communication tools.

While the number of teacher vacancies changes from day to day and from district to district, the state has been estimating a shortage of 500-700 teachers over recent years. Some estimates put the shortage as high as 1,000 based on the number of long-term substitutes in classrooms at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

New Mexico has been taking steps to make a career in education more attainable and appealing. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has delivered teacher pay raises totaling 15.5% since taking office.

That includes raising teacher salary minimums this year by $10,000 for each tier – now $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 depending on education level and experience, and raising pay for all educators by an average of 7% in Fiscal Year 2023. Together that legislation raised the average teacher salary in New Mexico to $64,000 — highest in the Southwest region.

Other steps New Mexico has taken to recruit teachers include:

  • Allowing retired teachers to return to work in the classroom for three years without losing their retirement benefits;
  • Requiring that Native American language teachers (who are certified differently) be paid the same as a level 1 teacher;
  • Providing $150,000 in scholarships for teachers wanting to apply for certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a rigorous, multi-year process.

When COVID-19 exacerbated the educator shortage this spring, Gov. Lujan Grisham initiated the Supporting Teachers and Families program, which recruited state government employees and members of the New Mexico National Guard to become licensed substitute teachers.

The Public Education Department added to the recruitment effort by waiving licensure fees through March. The result as of March 25 was a 661% increase in new substitute teacher applications compared to the previous year, and a 302% increase in first-time teacher applications.

The Lujan-Grisham administration also signed these legislative appropriations designed to encourage more college students and teaching assistants to become certified teachers:

  • $15.5 million so New Mexico teacher preparation programs can offer more teacher residencies, a program that promotes diversity in the educator workforce while filling high-need teaching positions around the state. Teacher candidates serve at high-needs school districts, co-teaching with an expert teacher for a full year while taking wrap-around coursework at an approved educator preparation program. After completion and licensure, they have a guaranteed position in the same school for three years.
  • $50 million for endowed faculty positions in teacher preparation programs at New Mexico colleges and universities.
  • $6 million so qualifying universities and colleges can pay a one-time, one-semester stipend to student teachers.
  • $5 million for the state’s Teacher Loan Repayment Program to help teachers pay off federal student loans if they’ve taught in New Mexico for three years and plan to stay for another two.
  • $37 million for the Educator Fellowship Program, which allows school districts to help teaching assistants become certified teachers.

In addition to the new teacher licenses, the Public Education Department has licensed 156 new administrators, 40 new school counselors and issued 18 Native Language and Culture Certificates since the beginning of the year.

Carly Bowling

Aug. 16, 2022

PED offers free Family Literacy Academy to help families, caregivers improve reading for K-12 students

Virtual workshop series has 3 monthly sessions starting in September

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department is offering New Mexico families and caregivers an opportunity to learn strategies to help their children improve literacy skills at home.

The Family Literacy Academy will be offered virtually in three 1 ½ hour sessions on Sept. 13, Oct. 11 and Nov. 8 in English and on Sept. 15, Oct. 13 and Nov. 10 in Spanish.

Registration is now open:

The Public Education Department partnered with TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project, to develop classes that give participants information, tools and strategies to help students in grades K-12 become better readers.

By participating in each of these sessions, participants will be able to provide support and engage in specific strategies that not only strengthen the connection between literacy in the home and the community, but also builds and supports a love of reading and literacy with their child.

Judy Robinson

Aug. 12, 2022

PED pushes to ‘move the needle,’ close gaps in new school year

Attendance, achievement, graduation to be focus along with math identity

Math Is Me: NMPED Year of Math

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Public Education Department will emphasize the three As along with the traditional three Rs during the 2022-23 school year in a concentrated effort to improve academic outcomes for every student group after two years of pandemic-related disruptions.

In addition to reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmatic, students returning to school this month will find a sharp focus this school year on attendance, achievement and attainment – of a high school diploma.

Other highlights for the new school year include:

  • The Public Education Department will promote positive “math identities” in the new school year with an initiative called “Math Is Me.”
  • Almost three-fourths of New Mexico students (71%) will eat for free at school, thanks to 2020 legislation signed by Gov. Lujan Grisham.
  • Through a $1.24 investment, every K-12 student and teacher can now access a suite of more than 20 industry-standard digital tools for design, photography, video and the web.
  • Social distancing is now a local decision.
  • COVID testing for staff is now a local decision.
  • Requirements to quarantine if exposed to COVID is now a local decision.
  • Participation in the Test to Stay program is now a local decision.

Three As

Secretary Kurt Steinhaus is urging every school district and charter school to focus on attendance, achievement and attainment in order to move the needle this year on three key measures of academic achievement: reading proficiency, math proficiency and graduation rate. New Mexico lags the national averages and state expectations on all three measures.

“Kids learn academics and social skills when they are in school, so attendance has to be our first priority,” Steinhaus said. “The more time our teachers have with students in class, the more they will achieve academically, so that’s No. 2. And if they are enjoying academic success, they’ll stay engaged in learning and make it across the finish line to a diploma, which is the ultimate goal of a K-12 education system.”

Math Is Me

Math Is Me developed from emerging research about the importance of how students perceive their own ability to do math. The goal is to break down stubborn myths that girls and some racial minorities are not good at math while boys and other racial minorities are – myths that can strongly influence academic performance and contribute to gender and racial disparities in assessments of math proficiency.

As part of the initiative, the department’s Math and Science Bureau is offering teachers a professional development opportunity this fall called “Fostering Positive Math Identities.”

In addition, the PED’s College and Career Readiness Bureau is working hard to ensure students see the real-life value of math through the Careers2Communities program and the related Pathway2Careers math curriculum for middle and high school students. Both help students answer the all-important question: When will I ever use this? The curriculum and educator professional development that supports it are now available for eighth-grade math, Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II.

School Meals

Although the federal government reinstated co-pays for reduced-price meals this summer, House Bill 1 from the 2020 regular legislative session eliminated those co-pays in New Mexico.

That means about 57,000 New Mexico students who qualify for reduced-price school meals will continue eating for free – along with 180,000 students who qualify for free school meals. That’s about 71% of the state’s K-12 enrollment.

For students who don’t qualify for any meal assistance, the maximum co-pay for a school meal is just 40 cents.

Health and Safety

Ensuring the health and safety of our school communities remains a priority this year. While COVID-19 remains a concern, the availability of vaccines for every New Mexican 6 months and older has mitigated the severity of the disease in most cases. That led the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue new guidance this week that recommends but does not require practices like social distancing, surveillance testing and quarantining for close contacts in most cases.

The state followed today with a new Public Health Order that clears the way for additional changes in the Public Education Department’s COVID-19 Response Toolkit for Public Schools. The department is already working on an updated toolkit to align with the CDC guidance and the new health order.

As another safety precaution, the Public Education Department is again offering – free of charge – a panic button that any educator can use to summon help and alert others in case of an emergency. The Rave Panic Button app allows users to simultaneously connect with 9-1-1 and first responders and send an alert to on-site staff in the event of an emergency.

As of this month, 440 public schools have opted-in to the RAVE panic button app, and 158 have used the app in a live drill or staff training/testing scenario.

Creativity Tools

The New Mexico Legislature invested $1.24 million this year to offer every K-12 student and educator a full-access, one-year license to more than 20 digital apps to design, create and learn.

The department’s Create New Mexico program is providing student and educator licenses to Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes popular apps like Photoshop, Premiere, InDesign and many others, to strengthen classroom participation and prepare digitally literate students who are able to use technology in their future academic pursuits and careers.

District and school leaders interested can still opt in if they haven’t already.


The Public Education Department is working now to hire an attendance improvement coordinator to work with districts and charter schools to reduce the number of students who are chronically absent – defined as missing 10% or more of school days. In the 2020-21 school year, 29.6% of New Mexico students were chronically absent. (The 2021-22 rate is not yet available.)

“We know the pandemic was largely responsible for the high absenteeism rate, but that shouldn’t be a big factor this year,” said Anne Marlow-Geter, interim director of the department’s Safe and Healthy Schools Bureau. “We’re no longer requiring students to isolate if they’re close contacts to a COVID-19 case because at this stage of the pandemic, we know we can keep kids in school — where they need to be — safely.”

The Attendance for Success Act requires school districts and charter schools to keep accurate daily attendance records for every instructional class or school program – including during remote learning. That data is submitted to the Public Education Department four times throughout each academic year.

Each district and charter school is also required to submit an Attendance Success Plan that identifies tiered strategies to address chronic absenteeism. Chronic absence rates are auto-populated for each reporting period in the Attendance Success Plans to assist districts and schools in monitoring their attendance data and establishing attendance improvement targets.

“The Public Education Department is working with schools and nonprofits to fully implement the Attendance for Success Act and to implement other initiatives to improve school attendance to pre-pandemic levels,” Marlow-Geter said.


A number of initiatives launched just before and during the pandemic to improve student math and reading achievement are expected to begin showing results this year. Those initiatives include:

  • Structured literacy. Every New Mexico teacher in grades K-2 has now started training in the Science of Reading, a body of research that identified a series of best practices known as “structured literacy” to help children learn to read and improve reading skills. Third-grade teachers will begin the two-year training course this school year.
  • Extended learning time. Thirty-one New Mexico districts and 12 state charter schools received planning grants this summer totaling $21 million to prepare for adding hours or days to school calendars, a proven strategy to improve academic outcomes. Together they serve about 95,000 New Mexico students.
  • Accelerated learning. The Public Education Department’s Roadmap to Accelerated Learning, issued in spring 2021, provided educators with goals and guidance to mitigate pandemic-related learning gaps while keeping students on grade-level tasks.


The department did not set a specific one-year goal for improving the graduation rate, which was 76.9% in 2021, but Steinhaus wants to see that needle move again, too.

New Mexico’s graduation rate has been trending upward, from 63% in 2011 to 77% in 2021. But the state still lags the national average of 86%. To keep students in high school until they graduate, the Public Education Department believes the entire high school experience must change to be more apparently relevant to students.

To that end, the department this summer named 20 New Mexico high schools “Innovation Zones” and provided grants to help them re-envision the high school experience with a greater focus on community partnerships, work based learning and Career and Technical Education courses. The goal is to model best practices and spread them across the state.

“Career-connected learning is critical in order for students to see the relevance of high school,” said Elaine Perea, director of the department’s College and Career Readiness Bureau. “Students who take two or more aligned CTE courses in a program of study that is relevant to employers in their community graduate at rates exceeding 95%. Getting more students access to these experiences is essential for our push to increase degree attainment rates,” she said.

Check for back-to-school events near you.

Judy Robinson

July 25, 2022

NM narrows digital divide for students, families

Partners leave no stone unturned to connect, equip students

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department and its state and business partners have deployed every viable technical option to provide high-speed internet connections to the homes of New Mexico students while also putting tens of thousands of laptops and other digital devices into their hands and helping families access affordable service.

Together, the partners have extended more than 844 miles of fiber-optic cable to remote areas where none existed and provided stop-gap technologies – including 6,000 residential WiFi hotspots, more than 400 datacasting receivers and almost 700 satellite internet connections – to homes still beyond the reach of fiber, the gold standard of internet connectivity.

“Connectivity efforts are ongoing,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “What we can say is that, with our partners, we’ve deployed every viable option to close the digital divide that kept too many New Mexico students from accessing learning during the global pandemic. This work isn’t finished, but it’s amazing what’s been accomplished by the efforts of so many working together to reach such an urgent and important goal.”

Additionally, the Public Education Department’s NM Student Connect program and its education technology team have helped both families and schools apply for tens of millions of dollars in federal funds to make internet connections affordable. The federal funding, when fully disbursed, will provide more than 2,ooo modems and routers for home connectivity, more than 114,000 laptops and tablets, and about $10 million for residential cable service. Additional funding continues to be awarded.

The result is a patchwork of mid- to high-tech options and funding solutions to comply with a May 2021 court order requiring the state to immediately provide at-risk students in 23 New Mexico school districts with digital devices and internet access needed to learn remotely. The order is part of the ongoing Martinez/Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit, which identified 23 “focus” districts: Alamogordo, Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Cuba, Española, Gadsden, Gallup-McKinley, Grants-Cibola, Hatch, Jemez Valley, Lake Arthur, Las Cruces, Los Lunas, Magdalena, Moriarty-Edgewood, Peñasco, Pojoaque, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Silver City, Taos, Tucumcari and Zuni.

Immediately after the court’s connectivity order, the state established the multi-agency Broadband Working Group with members from the Public Education Department, the Department of Information Technology and the Public Schools Facilities Authority. The group’s goal was to exceed the court order and make sure every student in New Mexico – not just in the 23 focus districts – has the tools needed for a 21st century education.

First tasks were to identify and map 49,376 residential addresses for students who reported they lacked broadband sufficient to participate in online learning, then to tackle the infrastructure and affordability problems.

Based on reports to PED from school districts this spring, 24,440 students still need high-speed internet connections at their homes because of either cost or availability, down from more than 100,000 at the start of the pandemic. Students who still are without a sufficient connection are being served through in-person learning, which resumed in the 2021-2022 school year. Although remote learning is not as critical since in-person learning has resumed, the Public Education Department remains committed to closing the digital divide.

The department’s NM Connect program estimated that when all federal funding is disbursed, only 7,293 New Mexico students will still need high-speed internet at their homes, 100 will still lack a digital device and 69 will still need both connectivity and a device.

“We are down to the absolute hardest-to-reach homes and families, but we haven’t given up,” Steinhaus said. “If we can’t get fiber there, we try hotspots. If hotspots aren’t powerful enough, maybe we can get them up on satellite. We are working with every New Mexico family to be sure every child has the 21st century tools they need for learning,” he said.

“Because technology is a moving target, we continue to take a research and development approach, vetting both current and emerging solutions,” said Ferdi Serim, who leads the Public Education Department’s datacasting pilot project. “We have attempted every viable option, realizing that we must remain agile until fiber is ubiquitous. “

What follows is a breakdown of key strategies, funding sources and technical solutions deployed since the start of the pandemic to close the digital divide in New Mexico.


Getting digital devices to students proved to be the easy part. Early in the pandemic, the Public Education Department and the departments of Indian Affairs and Information Technology distributed 6,200 Chromebooks, 102 Cradlepoint routers for wireless networking, and 700 residential hotspots to tribal communities, including the Navajo Nation.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham allocated $5.75 million from the CARES Act Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund in Fiscal Year 2021 to help districts and schools pay for devices and internet access for students who needed either at home.

This funding helped school districts purchase tens of thousands of Chromebooks, laptops, tablets, mobile hotspots, datacasting receivers and satellite dishes to help students and teachers connect from home.

“Districts have done a fantastic job getting to where every student has a digital device. I can’t say enough good things about what they’ve done on their own,” said John Chadwick of the Public Education Department’s educational technology team.

Providing internet access so students could use those devices at home proved much more challenging for two reasons: Rugged, remote areas of the state lacked internet infrastructure, and where infrastructure existed, many families could not afford the service.

Affordable Connectivity Program

The partners tackled the affordability problem by helping districts, schools and families tap into existing federal programs.

The Public Education Department’s NM Student Connect program began calling thousands of New Mexicans last summer to help them sign up for the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit, later renamed the Affordable Connectivity Program. That program provides discounts on the cost of high-speed internet for eligible households working with approved providers.

Qualifying households on tribal lands get $75 per month; other qualifying households get $30, and there is a $100 allowance for a device such as a laptop or tablet.

More than 100,000 New Mexico families applied for reduced rates for broadband internet service to their homes, the second-highest (behind Louisiana) per-capita participation in the country.

At a minimum, the program is saving New Mexico’s 111,346 registered households more than $41.9 million annually.

Most of that funding – $31.4 million – went to help families of 50,333 New Mexico students to help pay for high-speed internet this year. Another $10.5 million provided 87,569 students with digital devices – laptops, Chromebooks, hotspots, etc. – so they could connect to the internet. (More than 10,000 students were assisted in getting both high speed internet and a digital device.)

“This is a household by household push to get everyone who is qualified into the program,” said Ovidiu Viorica, Broadband & Technology Program manager for the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority. “We have to remain focused and continue to deploy long-term, sustainable broadband solutions to completely eliminate the digital learning/opportunity gap in our state.”

Emergency Connectivity Fund

The Affordable Connectivity Program works directly with individuals seeking help buying digital devices and paying for internet service at home. Another federal program, the Emergency Connectivity Fund, is a pandemic-related program that channels money for the same purpose through school districts and libraries.

Schools and libraries had two opportunities (the last ending Oct. 13) to apply for ECF funding to cover reasonable costs for digital devices and internet service for off-campus use by students, school staff and library patrons.

Before the last application deadline Oct. 13, NM Student Connect worked intensely with districts and schools to complete applications for the program, and with internet service providers to negotiate rates. Most of that work was by phone.

NM Student Connect obtained more than 51,000 quotes from internet service providers for nearly 12,000 addresses and 19,000 students living in unserved rural areas and created an online quote portal where participating schools and districts could easily shop for deals.

In all, New Mexico requested $31.4 million in ECF funding between June and August of 2021. When fully disbursed, that funding will provide 148,280 students with mobile devices, connectivity or both.

E-Rate Program

In 2021, the federal government estimated that 22% of New Mexico residents lived in areas without broadband infrastructure to provide acceptable internet speeds, and some rural counties fared even more poorly. In Hidalgo County in the extreme southwest, just 4% had access to high-speed internet. In Rio Arriba County in the northwest, it was 5%.

Private internet service providers have little incentive to lay expensive fiber optic cable to remote, lightly populated areas where many families can’t afford the service. The federal E-Rate program was established in 1996 to address those inequities by offering discounts of up to 90% to bring internet infrastructure to schools and libraries.

The E-Rate program is helping bring $70 million worth of fiber to the Navajo Nation, which has some of the worst connectivity issues in the United States. Securing that funding has been a joint effort between New Mexico, Arizona and the Navajo Nation.

E-Rate (like the Emergency Connectivity Fund) pays for fiber-optic wire to schools and libraries. After the pandemic struck, the New Mexico partners began exploring ways to extend E-Rate-funded fiber to nearby homes so students could learn remotely if needed and to close the so-called “homework gap” that places students without home internet at a disadvantage.

The Public Education Department and the departments of Indian Affairs and Information Technology worked with internet providers who were already opening trenches to lay fiber optic cable for approved E-Rate projects, convincing many to add extra capacity on their own dime.

The businesses expect to recoup that investment with residential connections made affordable now because of discounts available to individuals through the Affordable Connectivity Fund.

The first E-Rate-funded Navajo project to be completed since the pandemic brought broadband connectivity this spring to Pine Hill Schools, a K-12 tribal school system operated by the Ramah Navajo School Board in association with the Bureau of Indian Education. The Ramah Chapter House was also connected, but the Ramah Navajos refuse to stop there: Plans are under way to extend fiber from there to other community and residential buildings.

“They want fiber to the home, and they’re not stopping,” said Margaret Merrill, a former teacher at Pine Hill Schools and now co-owner of Oso Internet Solutions, which won the bid to run fiber to the school and chapter house. “E-Rate funding expedited that. It became a reality for them. In-ground fiber is the gold standard, and it’s the most expensive. They couldn’t have done that on their own.”

Internet Service Providers

In some cases, internet service providers stepped up to improve connectivity in their service areas on their own.

“The ISPs, especially the small ones, have done a great job of stepping up and really making a difference,” the PED’s Chadwick said.

One example is the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, which set a goal to extend fiber to the homes of every student in Taos County.

“They got every kid connected with fiber except for one family with three kids in Peñasco that was outside their service area,” Chadwick said.

The Peñasco district is now providing that family with a satellite internet connection.


Where fiber-optic cable is still unavailable, the partners have tapped every viable technology to provide wireless connectivity to homes and school buses, including:

  • Wi-Fi Hotspots

    Hotspots – hand-held devices that let you connect tablets, computers and other digital tools to the internet from anywhere – were the first line of attack because they are relatively affordable at about $100 apiece.

    The state and its partners established more than 500 public Wi-Fi hotspots and 6,000 residential hotspots, but they weren’t a panacea. Many families, especially those with multiple students, found they still lacked the bandwidth for everyone to do their homework.

    “We quickly realized that the typical hotspots (that districts bought millions of) were not providing sufficient connectivity for our video-rich remote learning,” said Neal Weaver, chief information officer for Santa Fe Public Schools.

    “What we learned was that a hotspot was a quick fix. It’s a BandAid, but when you don’t have access to anything, you do what you can to help,” Chadwick said.

  • Datacasting

    The Public Education Department and its partners — New Mexico PBS and CLARO Consulting — launched a $1 million pilot project last fall to test using a technology called “datacasting” for educational purposes.

    The pilot project uses special transmitters and card deck-sized receivers to send educational materials into student homes on broadcast signals controlled by the New Mexico Public Broadcasting System. Those signals reach 98% of all New Mexico homes.

    The partners have distributed receivers to 400 families in four districts. The receivers convey the datacast materials to the student’s chromebook or other digital device.

    While datacasting on its own is a one-way communication channel, the districts in the pilot program are finding innovative ways to leverage “return paths” to make it truly a two-way communication system.

    “Our work with datacasting has already resulted in modifications to the software, improved workflows for content creation, and innovative approaches that become viable through community networks, intranets and other solutions,” said Serim, the project leader.

  • Satellite Internet

    The Public Education Department has purchased 800 devices to provide satellite-based internet access to families in remote parts of the state and has received nearly 700 requests for them.

    The Starlink devices cost about $500 apiece. The department is also paying for one year of service for each family at $99 per month.

    “A challenge with some of the ‘cutting edge’ technologies like Starlink is working through the purchasing and administrative processes on the vendor side. They just don’t have experience with selling their product in bulk and that has been a real issue,” PED’s Montoya said.

  • Private LTE

    Some districts, including Deming, have applied for funding to establish a private wireless broadband network using the telecommunications standard called “LTE” for Long-Term Evolution. The idea is to transmit data faster and at higher standards by using a different radio interface and core network improvements.

    The Deming school district is working with the Department of Information Technology to establish a private LTE network using Citizens Broadband Radio Service – a new network option that uses a band of the spectrum previously reserved for the U.S. military and fixed satellite service.

    “We’re hoping to target rural areas like the village of Columbus and across the border to Palomas to cover these wider areas where populations are spread out,” said Ben Glickman, Deming’s director of technology.

  • Wireless Mesh

    Santa Fe, Los Lunas and Socorro are using a technology called wireless mesh provided by vendor Lokket to provide cost-effective connectivity to homes throughout the districts.

    Wireless mesh infrastructure is, in effect, a network of routers minus the cabling between nodes. Mesh infrastructure carries data over large distances by splitting the distance into a series of short line-of-sight hops from one small antenna to another. Intermediate nodes not only boost the signal, but cooperatively pass data from point A to point B by making forwarding decisions based on their knowledge of the network.

    The vendor provides the basic service to a community for free, then charges for a premium service.

    “The best part is that a student can get Lokket service even if his/her parents use a different internet service provider,” Santa Fe Public Schools’ Weaver said. “This allows the student to have a dedicated connection for learning.”

Together, this patchwork of solutions has made high-speed internet more affordable and available to New Mexico students, who need sustainable, consistent and reliable options.

“Addressing the digital divide brought stark awareness of the digital equity gap,” said Mary Montoya, the Public Education Department’s chief information officer. “The homework gap became an education gap, and that education gap will remain until all students have reliable internet access at home. The PED is committed to pursuing every viable option to close the digital equity gap.”

This work is now part of the Public Education Department’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan, which aims not just to satisfy a court order but to implement sustainable and equitable solutions so every student has the technology they need all the time – not just for the pandemic.

In the end, every student will have an individual technology file just like the individual medical files in a doctor’s office.

“Whatever their diagnosis is, we’ll have a solution for that,” said Anthony Medina, principal of Arroyo del Norte Elementary school in Taos. “It’s always about bridging the gap and evolving to provide this kind of support.”

New Mexico Indian Affairs Department logo

New Mexico Public Education Department logo

New Mexico Higher Education Department logo

New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department logo

Nora Sackett

July 22, 2022

Gov. Lujan Grisham, tribal leaders hold semiannual Government-to-Government Summit

Discussions center on improving educational outcomes for Native students

ALBUQUERQUE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, state education leaders, and dozens of Native American leaders came together for the two-day Government-to-Government Summit this week.

“Meeting face-to-face with sovereign tribal governments is a commitment that my administration takes seriously,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “Historically, our state has not done enough to ensure that Native students have equitable access to a robust public education. This administration will not stop pursuing every available avenue to make sure that every child receives a high quality and culturally relevant education. Real and meaningful government-to-government discussions are a vital part of our efforts.”

The Government-to-Government and Indian Education Summit was held Wednesday and Thursday at the Pueblo of Isleta.

“The Indian Affairs Department remains dedicated to fostering productive and innovative partnerships with tribal leadership, tribal education experts, families and state agencies as we work to strengthen efforts toward improving education for New Mexico’s Native American students,” said Cabinet Secretary Lynn Trujillo.

Dozens of tribal leaders, including 12 governors, six lieutenant governors and many tribal council members, school board members, administrators and education leaders were among the 133 people registered for the meetings. Together they represented 20 of New Mexico’s 23 Native American communities.

“The Pueblo de San Ildefonso appreciates the support of Gov. Lujan Grisham and her administration in efforts to improve education for our Native American students and government communication,” Gov. Christopher Moquino said. “However, such commitment must be lasting and not dependent on changing political priorities or administrations. The state has much more work to do in the area of improving Native American education. We must ensure that the strong words of support heard today by state officials result in real action that enhances opportunities and improves outcomes for our students.”

“It was a good summit,” said Gov. Vernon Abeita of the Pueblo of Isleta. “I feel that our concerns were heard. We need to continue consistent collaboration with the state. The state needs to include the tribes in the beginning of all policies and strategic plans involving Native American students. As mentioned at the summit, the state has funding for education specifically for Native American students, and we tribal leaders need to be assured that the state and school districts utilize that funding for Native American students.”

The other governors in attendance were:

  • Gov. Gabriel Galvan, Zia Pueblo
  • Gov. Martin Kowemy Jr., Laguna Pueblo
  • Gov. Raymond Loretto, Jemez Pueblo
  • Gov. Val Panteah, Zuni Pueblo
  • Gov. Nathaniel Porter, Nambe Pueblo
  • Gov. Craig Quanchello, Picuris Pueblo
  • Gov. Phillip Quintana, Cochiti Pueblo
  • Gov. Earl Samuel, Tesuque Pueblo
  • Gov. Joey Sanchez, Santa Ana Pueblo
  • Gov. Randall Vicente, Acoma Pueblo

The Early Childhood Education and Care, Public Education and Higher Education departments also participated in the meetings, presentations and panel discussions.

“Through their regular feedback, New Mexico’s 23 tribal communities are helping us recreate our public education system to equitably serve every child,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “We don’t just appreciate their partnership – we depend on it.”

“We at the Higher Education Department value collaboration with New Mexico’s Pueblos, Tribes and Nations in creating meaningful and lasting change for Indigenous students, families and communities,” said Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez. “Tribal leaders are essential partners in making transformational programs like the Opportunity Scholarship a reality, and we look forward to continuing our work together to meet the needs of every Native American student and family in New Mexico.”

“ECECD is committed to strengthening positive collaboration and ongoing consultation with our state’s 23 Tribes, Pueblos and Nations. ECECD recognizes and respects educational sovereignty. We are working to foster mutual trust, understanding, and partnerships that improve outcomes for Native American families and young children,” said Early Childhood Education and Care Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky.

Judy Robinson

July 21, 2022

PED launches ‘Innovation Zones’ to rethink high school

20 schools chosen for pilot to transform the high school experience

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department has identified 20 New Mexico high schools that will serve as “Innovation Zones” where the traditional education model will be transformed to improve the high school experience and academic outcomes to best serve the local community.

The research-supported project capitalizes on innovations already in place in many New Mexico school districts that focus on workplace learning, Career and Technical Education and a range of support services to make sure students become workforce and college-ready.

The goal is to identify best practices that can spread across the state over time in order to improve graduation rates by making high school more relevant and exciting to students on the cusp of adulthood.

“This pilot project recognizes and builds on work that’s been going on across New Mexico for decades to enhance the high school experience,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “These schools are already leaders in this work. Now they’ll officially serve as incubators where new strategies can grow, evolve and flourish.”

Innovation Zone schools will receive intensive professional development, guidance and technical assistance along with awards ranging from $150,000 to $750,000 to to implement a re-imagined school experience that includes leadership teams and work-based and experiential learning. The funding was included in the 2022 General Appropriations Bill to support Career and Technical Education initiatives.

Altogether, the 20 schools serve more than 16,700 students who will be the first in the state to experience a new high school model – or models – that expand educational pathways to college and career. The goal is to identify best practices that can spread across the state over time.

The awardees include eight school districts: Alamogordo, Aztec (two schools), Hatch Valley (two schools), Hobbs, Las Cruces (six schools), Rio Rancho (four schools), Silver City and Zuni.

Two charter schools will also be Innovation Zones: ACE Leadership High School, Health Leadership High School, both in Albuquerque.

“We are starting with known best-practices that emphasize college and career readiness and workplace learning, but those are just starting points,” Steinhaus said. “We are on a search for new strategies to help every New Mexico student complete high school and be successful in life.”

The Innovation Zone strategy is intended to improve New Mexico’s graduation rate (76.8%) and other measures and predictors of academic success:

  • High school graduates enrolling in college (now 61%)
  • High school students pursuing a sequence of Career Technical Education courses (now 16%)
  • High school students enrolled in work-based learning (now 3.8%)
  • High school students enrolled in dual credit courses (now 15%).

The pilot project fulfills a recommendation made in February in a report by the New Mexico Public Education Department and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. That report applauded disparate efforts across New Mexico to improve the high school experience and provide better college and career preparation, but it called for a comprehensive approach that can be scaled up to reach a critical mass of New Mexico high schools.

“While these attempts provide highly useful local examples of promising practices, they have fallen short of redesigning high schools in ways that engage all students,” the report said. “In essence, we cannot shuffle the cards and hope for a better deal; we must call for a new game, one that builds on our communities’ wealth and does not seek to further marginalize their potential.”

Results of the pilot would guide the design of a statewide plan that shifts how education agencies and schools approach college and career preparation and ultimately how students are supported throughout their education journey.

That study pointed to innovative practices already occurring in New Mexico schools and recommended parallel and interconnected actions that schools, districts, tribes and the state should take to expand these practices statewide.

Schools awarded the Innovation Zone designation will work closely with their communities to determine how the local public education system should serve that community. Each Innovation Zone will create a local Profile of a Graduate – a document that spells out the community’s expectations for those earning high school diplomas. Innovation Zone schools then will align all high school experiences with this profile.

Applications were evaluated based on ability to perform the transformation work and the number of students served, with regional and cultural diversity as a priority. Successful applications also addressed these seven core elements:

  1. Leadership and pathway teams
  2. Alignment of Career Technical Education with core academics
  3. Work-based and experiential learning
  4. Capstone courses
  5. Post-secondary alignment
  6. Robust personalized supports
  7. Evaluation and continuous improvement

Judy Robinson

July 20, 2022

See the complete list of awards

PED awards $7.4M in Community Schools grants

2022-23 funding expands the strategy to 68 NM schools

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department today announced a new $7.4 million investment in the Community School strategy, awarding grants to 68 schools to harness specific techniques, programs and practices shown to improve academic outcomes, especially in schools with high numbers of students from low-income families.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law the New Mexico Community Schools Act in April 2019, and the number of schools applying for and receiving grants has increased every year since then.

Community Schools are existing schools that engage the entire community in identifying barriers to academic achievement and then implementing home-grown strategies to provide students with whatever they need to be academically successful, often by leveraging community resources.

“We continue to grow the Community School strategy in New Mexico because it works,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “This strategy takes to heart the saying that it takes a village to raise a child by including the whole community – from families to local businesses – in securing the education and welfare of our kids.”

The 2022-23 award total exceeds last year’s $6.8 million investment, which helped 50 schools implement or expand their unique Community School strategy through actions and partnerships to meet the needs of their students. This year’s awards will go to 68 schools, including 20 that received planning grants to begin implementing the Community School strategy.

“This is not more money for programs but a new way of doing school,” said Feliz Garcia, the Public Education Department’s Community Schools director. “These schools are opening up, becoming hubs of their communities, and that changes everything.”

Each Community School identifies its own needs and capacities, which may include on-campus health and dental clinics, after-school programming, deep engagement with families and community organizations, and collaborative leadership practices.

In New Mexico, the Community School strategy is intended to improve the conditions for learning, which should lead to increased attendance and graduation rates, among other outcomes. The strategy aligns with New Mexico’s response to the Martinez-Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit over education equity and the Public Education Department’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan.

Schools previously have been eligible for one planning grant followed by three renewal grants over subsequent years. However, this year, six schools received fourth-year renewal grants to support them as the Public Education Department transitions to a different funding process. Those schools are:

  • Hawthorne Elementary, Albuquerque Public Schools;
  • Los Padillas Elementary, Albuquerque Public Schools;
  • Manzano Mesa Elementary, Albuquerque Public Schools;
  • Robert F. Kennedy Charter School, Albuquerque Public Schools;
  • Lynn Community Middle School, Las Cruces Public Schools, and
  • Cesar Chavez Elementary, Santa Fe Public Schools.

The Public Education Department hopes to begin funding Certified Community Schools beginning in the 2023-24 school year. This means that schools that have received renewal grants and met all the grant requirements would become Certified Community Schools and be eligible for continued funding year after year.

“This will complete the transition of the Community Schools Strategy from a grant-based program to one with continuing support to provide assurance to schools that this work will continue,” Garcia said.

This is a breakdown of the 2022-23 Community School grants:

  • Planning grants: 20 total, about $50,000 each
  • Year One implementation grants: 19 total, $150,000 each
  • Year Three implementation renewal grants: 23 total, averaging $137,000 each
  • Year Four implementation grants: 6 total, averaging $66,500 each

Judy Robinson

July 19, 2022

PED creates new access to extended learning programs

31 NM districts, 12 state charters to receive planning grants

SANTA FE — School districts and charter schools serving more than 95,000 New Mexico students will receive planning grants from the Public Education Department this summer to prepare their communities for extended learning time in the future.

The Legislature appropriated $21 million for the one-time planning grants for districts and state-chartered schools that were not ready to participate in one of three extended learning time programs in the 2022-23 school year. These grants can be used to fund additional professional development for teachers or to hold community meetings or organize focus groups to help determine which extended learning option fits a community best.

In the 2023-24 school year, when the planning grant awardees join those already offering additional instructional time, 232,000 New Mexico students – 60% of total enrollment – will be spending more time with highly trained teachers pursuing educational activities proven to enhance academic outcomes.

Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, who held seven regional meetings with school leaders in February and March to urge participation in extended learning time programs, will present this information to the Legislative Education Study Committee meets next week in Alamogordo.

Steinhaus said he was gratified that 31 districts and 12 state charters applied for planning grants.

“The significant participation of districts and state charter schools across New Mexico tells me that school leaders understand the importance of extended learning programs and just need a little more time and support to work with their communities,” Steinhaus said. “These grants will help school leaders demonstrate to families why we need their kids to be in school longer to give them the 21st century education they deserve. We have to reframe the outdated notion of a six-hour school day and a 180-day school year to a schedule that better serves today’s needs.”

Steinhaus said he is also deeply appreciative of the 40 districts and 77 state charter schools that will offer one of New Mexico’s three extended learning time programs in the coming school year including Extended Learning Time Program, K-5 Plus, and K-12 Plus.

“Governor Lujan Grisham and PED are committed to modernizing the state’s school system and partnering with school districts and charter schools through proven achievement strategies like extended learning programs,,” Steinhaus said. “School leaders and communities are stepping up to give our children and families enhanced educational opportunities. It’s a true collaboration.”

Extending learning time is a proven strategy to improve student achievement, address the ruling in the Martinez/Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit and close historic gaps between student subgroups – especially those who are Native American, English learners, those who are economically disadvantaged and those with disabilities.

Research shows extended learning time is effective at helping historically underserved students catch up to meet high standards. It encompasses programs and strategies to increase the amount of instruction students get from a certified teacher, including after-school, summer and Saturday programs based on activities that align with and enhance the core curriculum in culturally responsive and community-appropriate ways.

Based on that research, the New Mexico Legislature appropriated more than $237 million this year for three extended learning time programs, but districts and charter schools applied for only $91 million of that, leaving $146 million on the table. That money will revert to the state’s Public Education Reform Fund and will be available next fiscal year for education priorities. Empowering more school districts and state charter schools with the extended learning planning grant will ensure more children and families have access to these programs in the future.

  • The Extended Learning Time Program adds 10 days to the school calendar (eight days for four-day-a-week districts). This program is particularly appropriate to help students cross the bridge from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school. ELTP has a defined focus on social and emotional learning, and districts and schools design their own programs. Added bonus: Teachers can increase their salary by 3% annually for participating – on top of the minimum 7% pay raise approved by the Legislature. 2022-23 appropriation: $95 million. Awarded: $75.5 million.
  • The K-5 Plus program adds 25 days at the start of the school calendar for the youngest learners (20 days for four-day-a-week districts). The program was designed to give kindergarten through second-graders a 25-day jump at the start of the school year to help build relationships with the teacher and set the foundation for literacy work. It later expanded to include third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. Just like ELTP, districts and schools design their own programs, which can focus on community-based learning, STEAM and STEM projects, youth leadership or social-emotional learning. Added bonus: A 3% salary increase for participating teachers, on top of the minimum 7% all educators are getting. 2022-23 appropriation: $120 million. Awarded: $7 million.
  • The K-12 Plus program expands K-5 Plus through high school graduation but with additional flexibility. The objective is to demonstrate that increased time for all students narrows the achievement gap between at-risk and other students, increases cognitive skills and leads to higher student achievement. K-12 Plus does not have to be school-wide, and participating districts and charters can choose which grades to begin with and grow the program. Appropriated: $22 million. Awarded: $8.5 million.

This table shows participation rates since the 2020-21 school year:

DistrictsLocal ChartersState ChartersStudentsDistrictsLocal ChartersState ChartersStudentsDistrictsLocal ChartersState ChartersStudents
K-5 Plus122214,24211338,3346444,394
K-12 Plus4226,448
Planning Grant31131295,334

This table shows the legislative appropriations for each program and how much of that was spent:

K-5 Plus$79,895,900$19,383,718$119,895,900$12,158,472$119,895,900$7,185,402
K-12 Plus$22,183,600$8,487,730
Planning Grant$21,000,000$20,821,300

The Legislature encouraged greater participation in extended learning time programs this year by giving communities additional flexibility. For example, where the K-5 Plus program previously required districts to add whole days to their calendar, they can now add minutes to existing days to achieve the same total learning time.

The added flexibility allowed Lovington Municipal Schools to return to K-5 Plus after a two-year hiatus. The district had to drop out in the first year of the pandemic and remained out this school year because of a requirement that everyone participate.

“We weren’t able to do that. My community and my employees didn’t want to,” former Superintendent LeAnne Gandy said. “With the flexibility this year, we’re ready to jump back into K-5 Plus, which I’m really excited about. It’s a great opportunity for everyone who wants that opportunity.”

Judy Robinson

July 12, 2022

NM school meals free for most despite federal reversal

Keep Kids Fed Act reinstated co-pays for those on reduced-price plans

SANTA FE – About 57,000 New Mexico students who qualify for reduced-price school meals will continue eating for free because of legislation championed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to offset federally mandated co-pays.

House Bill 10, passed in the 2020 regular session, required the Public Education Department to cover co-pays that families in the reduced-price meal program are expected to contribute toward the cost of their children’s school-based meals. The bill came with a recurring $625,000 annual appropriation.

“Gov. Lujan Grisham pushed for this legislation because she wanted to make sure school meals would be free for as many New Mexico students as possible,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “This safety net could mean the difference between a full belly and an empty one for many of our kids, and you can’t learn on an empty stomach.”

The funding wasn’t needed the last two years and reverted to the state’s General Fund because federal pandemic legislation made school meals free for every student, regardless of family income.

The every-student-eats-free policy expired July 1 with implementation of the federal Keep Kids Fed Act, which President Biden signed on June 25. This means that if New Mexico had not created the safety net in 2020 as part of Gov. Lujan Grisham’s hunger initiative, families whose students qualify for reduced-price meals would resume paying copayments – just as families that do not qualify for any meal assistance must resume paying for their children’s school meals just as they did before the pandemic.

“New Mexico puts a priority on feeding our kids,” said Michael Chavez, director of the Public Education Department’s Student Success and Wellness Bureau. “By covering these school meal co-pays, we’re giving hard-working families one less bill to worry about at the end of the week while assuring them that their students will get the nutrition they need to be alert and ready to learn.”

Schools will be required to report the number of reduced-price meals served so the department can reimburse them for the amount of uncollected co-pays, which are capped at 40 cents per meal.

Parents or guardians apply for free or reduced-price school meals through their children’s schools. Schools send the application form home with students at the beginning of each school year, but families may request an application from their schools and submit it at any time.

Eligibility is based on household income and family size. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for reduced price meals.

N.M. School Meals By The Numbers: 2022

  • 179,737: Number of NM students who qualify for free school meals
  • 56,683: Number of NM students qualify for reduced-price school meals
  • 71%: Percentage of NM students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals
  • 40 cents: Maximum co-pay for a school meal
  • $4.56: Federal reimbursement for every lunch served
  • $2.61: Federal reimbursement for every breakfast served
  • $36,000: Approximate maximum income for family of four to qualify for free school meals
  • $51,000: Approximate maximum income for family of four to qualify for reduced-price meals

Judy Robinson

July 11, 2022

PED awards scholarships for Canvas Certified Educators

Each $1,000 scholarship will allow a teacher to become a Canvas expert

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department has awarded five New Mexico educators a $1,000 scholarship each to become school-based experts in the state’s official learning management system, Canvas.

The recipients, announced Friday, will participate in a 36-week professional development series to become Canvas Certified Educators and the go-to person at their schools for teacher and student questions about the learning management system, which is software designed to create, distribute and manage the delivery of educational content.

Teachers use the learning management system to deliver and track assignments, quizzes, exams and other material to students electronically; to manage discussion boards and other communications; to track and analyze student progress; and to send automated reminders about deadlines.

For students, a learning management system organizes all their educational materials in one place, promotes self-paced learning and supports different learning styles by including access to audio narration, quizzes, videos and games.

The awardees are:

  • Alexia M. Munoz, Gadsden Independent School District
  • Jennifer Neakrase, Las Cruces Public School
  • Chelsea Lucas, Deming Public Schools
  • Daniel Delgado, Cuba Independent Schools
  • Jose Jesus Granillo, Santa Fe Public Schools

In addition to completing four core courses, each will select two elective courses from these offerings: Promoting Digital Citizenship, Managing a Technology-Rich Learning Environment, Leveraging Canvas for Professional Learning or Teacher Leader Collaboration.

Both the core and elective courses were designed by educators for educators to strengthen skills using the system, teaching others to use the system and learning how best to use Canvas as a teaching tool.

“These educators will be making a deep dive into Canvas best practices to engage and motivate students and move them progressively toward learning goals,” said Kim King, the Public Education Department’s learning management system director. “As Canvas Certified Educators, they’ll spread these strategies through their schools and districts to impact student learning.”

The department received 73 applications from 32 districts and charters for the five positions.

“I want to master this learning platform to improve my approach to teaching for the betterment of engagement and modeling for my students,” Jose Jesus Granillo, a teacher with Santa Fe Public Schools, said in his application. “I would like to mentor new teachers in an effective and productive way so that our learning community as whole can move forward in solving problems and take on technological advancements with an approach that surrounds computational thinking.”

The Public Education Department adopted Canvas in summer 2020 and offered it, free of charge, to every New Mexico school district and charter as a learning management system option for remote, hybrid and face-to-face instruction. Use of Canvas is recommended but not required. To date, 66 districts and state charters serving 165,649 New Mexico students have fully implemented Canvas.

Additionally, the department is using Canvas to host its professional learning webinars – 41 so far – and plans to use it for all school and district personnel evaluations in the future.

Judy Robinson

June 29, 2022

PED launches new approach to student discipline

Coordinator hired to implement trauma-responsive, restorative practices

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department will be working this year to help schools avoid suspending and expelling students for behavior that could be linked to traumatic childhood experiences.

The department has contracted with the Albuquerque-based Regional Education Cooperative 5 to support professional development and technical assistance to promote implementation of trauma-responsive and restorative practices in schools across the state.

Chronic trauma – including abuse, neglect, homelessness, domestic violence or community violence – affects children’s brain and behavioral development. It can cause hypervigilance and impact their memory and executive functions, including the ability to pay attention, plan and think things through.

When these children misbehave, most schools use disciplinary policies that involve withdrawing attention and support rather than addressing their problems.

“Suspending or expelling a child who has experienced trauma just heaps on another level of trauma,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “We have a responsibility as educators to help every child overcome barriers to learning and develop the self-management skills they need to be academically successful, and we’re going to be sharing these best practices with all our schools.”

Trauma-responsive practices recognize schools as places of sanctuary where children who have experienced trauma develop trusting relationships with educators and where behavioral supports take priority over disciplinary consequences.

Restorative practices are those based on the principles of restorative justice, an approach to understanding and responding to crime (in society) or misbehavior (in schools) by emphasizing how such actions harm people, relationships and communities. An example of a restorative practice would be a talking circle where the group (including the offender) discusses who was harmed by the behavior and determines how to repair that harm.

The goal is for schools to develop a culture of community that relies on proactive behavioral supports rather than reactive disciplinary consequences.

“The traditional model of discipline is punitive and exclusionary,” said Emma Green, who was hired in May as the department’s first prevention, response and resiliency coordinator. “Trauma-responsive and restorative practices are based on accountability and inclusiveness so that we can keep kids in class to learn. This helps a student’s attendance and academic achievement.”

Adverse childhood experiences known to affect children include having a family member attempt or commit suicide, having a family member with a substance abuse problem, having a household member jailed or imprisoned, or instability due to parental separation or divorce.

About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported they had experienced at least one recognized adverse childhood experience before age 18, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The assumption has to be that we’re all carrying some trauma,” Green said.

Green is charged with improving school attendance and achievement and decreasing suspensions and expulsions. She is beginning by reviewing discipline data and looking for trends, especially regarding suspensions and expulsions. She also hopes to establish a pilot project involving several school districts and will offer statewide training via the online learning management system Canvas.

The position is funded through the federal Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, Title IV of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The project also aligns with the Public Education Department’s strategic plan to implement Culturally and Linguistically Responsive education practices and provide more Social and Emotional Learning.

Judy Robinson

June 23, 2022

NM Course Consortium ready to expand

Course provider network helps students get courses they need, want

SANTA FE – A new online course catalog will help the New Mexico Course Consortium expand in the 2022-23 school year after helping 245 students take courses previously unavailable to them this year, including 35 who completed a class online that helped them graduate.

In its inaugural year, the consortium provided online courses ranging from art to space science to 34 elementary school students, 110 middle-school students and 101 high school students in 17 school districts and charter schools.

The New Mexico Course Consortium is a growing, state-led network of public school districts and charters that serve as supplemental course providers to students across the state through a memorandum of understanding with each student’s district or charter of residence.

“The first year was something of an experiment, and the experiment has been a huge success,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “The consortium is already expanding horizons for New Mexico students no matter where they are enrolled. This is New Mexico schools helping each other help students get the courses they want and need.”

In its first year, students and families had to search websites operated by each consortium member to find course offerings. The consolidated online course catalog, launched this month, provides one-stop shopping for online or hybrid courses offered by consortium members, including courses for credit recovery, AP, career-technical education, fine arts and more.

“The catalog will make it so much easier for counselors, school leaders and families across the state to look up available courses and get students enrolled,” said Lynn Vasquez, director of the Public Education Department’s Assessment & Learning Management System Division.

The Public Education Department created the consortium last fall to help students across New Mexico access online courses that might not be offered at their school. Students remain enrolled in their home district, which pays a fee ($375 per course, per semester) to the consortium member offering the course.

Bryanna Stephens, a senior at Fort Sumner, took required courses in Financial Literacy, English 4 and Economics and Government through consortium member TriStar Academy this year. She said the flexibility of online learning helped her stay on course to graduation despite working full time.

“Teachers were very understanding and accommodating to that. I also had lost the spark to finish graduating. I thought it wasn’t very important and I didn’t need it. But my teachers encouraged me to keep doing it, and now I have my diploma. I felt my teachers understood what I was going through.”

Seventeen districts and charter schools signed memoranda of understanding this year to allow their enrolled students to take online courses from one or more consortium members. The idea is for districts and charter schools to partner rather than compete for student enrollment to offer students supplemental courses.

“It has been an honor to work with these passionate, innovative individuals who see opportunities rather than barriers to educating New Mexico students,” said Gina Corliss, the consortium coordinator at the Public Education Department.

Any district or charter interested in becoming a member of the department’s New Mexico Course Consortium may learn more at New Mexico Course Consortium.

Current active consortium members are:

  • Taos Tiger Connect K-12 Online Academy, Taos Municipal Schools, grades K-12
  • SODA – V, School of Dreams Academy (Los Lunas), grades K-12 and dual credit
  • TriStarAcademy, a consortium of Santa Rosa Consolidated Schools, Fort Sumner Municipal Schools and Vaughn Municipal Schools, grades K-12
  • OWL- Online with Las Cruces Las Cruces Public Schools, grades K-12
  • Pecos Cyber Academy, Carlsbad School District, grades 9-12
  • TA FLEX, Taos Academy

Carolyn Graham

June 10, 2022

Year of Literacy Celebrated at Summer Convening

NM educators gather to learn about the science of reading

SANTA FE — More than 300 educators from around New Mexico gathered this week for the Public Education Department’s Literacy and Humanities Bureau Summer Convening at the Albuquerque Convention Center to celebrate New Mexico’s Year of Literacy and to learn how they can improve all students’ ability to read.

The department hosted representatives from more than 50 school districts and charter schools as well as national and local experts to share information about the department’s structured literacy program, which is based on a theory of the science of reading.

On Tuesday during the event, Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus announced four Structured Literacy Model Schools: Vado Elementary School, Gadsden Independent School District; Bell Elementary School, Deming Public Schools; Arts Academy at Bella Vista, Clovis Municipal Schools; and Mountain Mahogany Community School, Albuquerque charter school. The Structured Literacy Model Schools are exemplars in the state for implementing structured literacy in New Mexico classrooms. These schools will each receive a $50,000 grant and coaching support and will support teachers across the state who will be able to see these schools’ research-based literacy instruction in action.

“These dedicated teachers showed up during the summer break to add to their knowledge in supporting their students and improving their literacy skills,” said Jacqueline Costales, Interim Deputy Secretary for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. “The energy and excitement they brought to the event, especially after this long school year, is indicative of how motivated our educators are to move the needle for our students.”

Hamish Brewer, known as the Tattooed Skateboarding Principal, was the keynote speaker for the event. The New Zealand-based educator, principal, author, and international speaker challenged the room of educators to think about their legacies. He reminded educators and administrators that every child is an opportunity, not an obligation, and that “we don’t enroll students; we enroll families.”

“The future looks very promising for the students in New Mexico as we provide educators with the tools and understanding of how to teach reading,” said Severo Martinez, director of the Literacy and Humanities Bureau. “Every student comes with strengths and areas for development. Our goal is to help advance students based on their strengths and provide them with support in areas of development to accelerate their learning.”

Between breakout sessions, participants strolled the Comprehensive Literacy State Development/Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Gallery Walk, which showcased the work done at districts through grants.

“The grants have allowed leadership and teachers to make a very important shift in instruction in terms of reading interventions,” said Esther Peterson, associate director of Teaching and Learning K-12 at Las Cruces Public Schools. “They have allowed us as leadership to help our teachers understand where core instruction needs to happen and where interventions are critical so that our students can move forward in their reading instruction and proficiency.”

The Public Education Department’s public schools support budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $11.5 million for professional development in the science of reading for teachers and principals and to provide coaching support for educators across the state.

“Structured literacy is important because every person deserves the right to reach proficiency in reading,” said Gina Rodriguez, an instructional coach at Joe Harris Elementary School in Rio Rancho. “The science of reading within structured literacy gives us the tools to help students become proficient readers.”

Judy Robinson

May 31, 2022

PED urges schools to upgrade security, mental health services

Federal relief funds could be used to improve services for students, staff

SANTA FE – Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus is urging New Mexico school districts to tap into available funds to provide mental health supports to students and staff while also updating school safety plans.

“Students can’t learn, and teachers can’t teach if they don’t feel safe in their school environment,” Steinhaus said. “Complacency is not an option.

“We have been told that some young people in New Mexico and elsewhere are struggling privately with untreated but treatable mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation,” Steinhaus said. “We owe it to them and to ourselves to make sure they get the emotional and mental health supports they need and deserve.”

The need may be greatest in rural districts with limited access to existing services.

“No student should suffer untreated just because of the happenstance of where they live,” Steinhaus said. “School-based mental health services are essential for the well-being of our kids, our schools and our society.”

“We have an enormous responsibility to every New Mexican to make sure that any student can attend any school in New Mexico and feel a sense of belonging, safety, connectedness and that their identities are affirmed,” said Leslie Kelly, the Public Education Department’s behavioral health coordinator. “If those things are not present, they will not be able to learn and grow to their full potential. The time is now; we have no other choice.”

By law, every New Mexico school must have a site-specific Safe School Plan that includes procedures for responding to emergencies (crime, violence), natural disasters, disease outbreaks and accidents. Steinhaus said the time is now for those to be updated.

New Mexico and other states received three rounds of federal pandemic relief funds through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. For all three awards, 90% is distributed directly to school districts and state-chartered schools through sub-grants. That totals nearly $1.4 billion for New Mexico schools over three rounds.

The PED has approved all ESSER spending proposals related to social-emotional learning and mental health initiatives. Steinhaus also urged school leaders to consider legitimate ways to use those funds to improve building safety. Such uses are allowed if the need was brought on or exacerbated by COVID-19. The Public Education Department has previously approved spending to improve lighting or to install fences, security doors, surveillance cameras or school communication systems.

Roswell Independent Schools Superintendent Brian Luck was meeting with district staff Friday to identify his district’s security needs and determine if federal relief funds can be used to meet them.

“It’s beyond apparent that student safety is our parents’ No. 1 priority for their children,” Luck said. “We want to make sure we’ve turned every stone and grabbed every resource to make sure they are safe.”

Judy Robinson

May 18, 2022

PED launches listening tour for Hispanic education

New Mexicans invited to provide input on improving services to Hispanic students

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department will launch a listening tour this week to collect ideas from students, families and community members across the state to breathe new life into the 12-year-old Hispanic Education Act.

The tour begins Thursday with a virtual meeting for those who reside in southern New Mexico. The final public session will be held June 9 in Roswell. An additional public session will be scheduled at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas when the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire is no longer a threat to the area.

“This listening tour gives us the opportunity to hear from those on the front lines, directly moving the work we are doing for kids,” said Vickie Bannerman, the Public Education Department’s deputy secretary for Identity, Equity and Transformation. “This is an awesome opportunity for the community and others to inform our decision-making and help us really move the needle on academic outcomes for Hispanic students.”

“We’re inviting students, their families and their communities to tell us how we and their district or charter school can better serve them,” said Mayra Valtierrez, the Public Education Department’s director of Language and Culture and Hispanic Education Liaison.

In New Mexico, 49% of the population identifies as Hispanic/Latino, compared to 18.4% nationally. Because the state’s Hispanic population is younger than the general population, Hispanic students make up almost 60% of New Mexico public school enrollment, yet they continue to lag in important measurements of academic success 12 years after passage of the Hispanic Education Act, which requires the state to:

  • provide for the study, development and implementation of educational systems that affect the educational success of Hispanic students to close the achievement gap and increase graduation rates;
  • encourage and foster parental involvement in the education of their children; and
  • provide mechanisms for parents, community and business organizations, public schools, school districts, charter schools, public postsecondary educational institutions, PED, and state and local policymakers to work together to improve educational opportunities for Hispanic students to close achievement gaps, increase graduation rates and postsecondary education attainment.

The law established a Hispanic education liaison within the Public Education Department and a Hispanic Education Advisory Council. It also required an annual report, which comes out each November and includes student achievement and attendance data and graduation rates for Hispanic students in both K-12 and higher education.

“While we have always met the letter of the law, we believe this listening tour will allow us to go further to identify and address the specific needs of our Hispanic students,” Valtierrez said. “What we learn on this tour will be used to create new programs and implement new strategies for these learners.”

“The act needs to work for the people it names. Through the community listening sessions, Hispanic students and families will take an active role in determining the quality of education to which they are entitled,” said Elena Valdez, a Hispanic education specialist with the department.

Information collected in the sessions will be used to implement programs to support Hispanic students and request funding for the Hispanic Education Act.

High school students, K-12 parents, community members, school staff members and business owners are all encouraged to attend. Register at these links:

The facilitators will conduct the sessions in Spanish and English.

Dual Language Education of New Mexico, a non-profit organization, was hired through a competitive bidding process to conduct the listening tour sessions and provide a report to the Public Education Department to guide future program and funding decisions.

Judy Robinson

May 10, 2022

PED allocates $2.7M to offset rising transportation costs

Districts, charters to receive funds to of set increase in gas prices

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department is tapping into the Emergency Transportation Fund to allocate nearly $2.7 million to New Mexico school districts and state-chartered schools to offset the rising cost of fuel.

The cost of a gallon of gas has risen 82 cents on average since most school transportation contracts were signed last summer.

“We have the Emergency Transportation Fund for situations like this when – through no fault of their own – districts and schools face an extraordinary increase in the cost of getting students to and from school and school-supported activities,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said.

“This is a perfect and appropriate use of the Emergency Transportation Fund,” said Antonio Ortiz, the department’s director of Finance and Operations. “Without this money, school districts would have to absorb these costs some other way, perhaps from operations budgets, and contractors would likely face financial losses.”

The emergency funding must be spent by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

The amount each district/charter receives will be based on the average of the total miles driven as reported at 80 days and 120 days, divided by the average of 8 miles per gallon used by most school vehicles. Amounts range from $467,888 for Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest district, to $538 for South Valley Prep, a charter school in Albuquerque with about 160 students.

Every year, districts and charters receive a transportation allocation from the PED. At the end of the year, districts normally are required to return half of whatever remains unspent to PED for the Emergency Transportation Fund. At the start of the current fiscal year, the fund had about $2.7 million, but that amount increased over the year because the Legislature required 100% of the unspent FY21 funding to be returned to PED since the COVID pandemic reduced transportation needs in that year.

Judy Robinson

May 9, 2022

PED seeks public feedback on draft ‘action plan’ responding to Martinez-Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit

Draft provides blueprint for transforming education in New Mexico

SANTA FE — The Public Education Department is seeking public feedback on a draft document summarizing the state’s ongoing and comprehensive plan to transform New Mexico’s education system in response to a court’s findings in the Martinez-Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit over education equity.

Under the direction of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the department created the 53-page “Discussion Draft Action Plan: Decisions about Martinez/Yazzie v. State of New Mexico.” It outlines progress since she took office in 2019 and sets goals for further improvements to recruit a diverse educator workforce and assure equity for each of the student groups named in the lawsuit: Native American students, English learners, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. Together, those four groups make up 70% of New Mexico students in the state’s 33 counties.

“Every single New Mexico child deserves access to a high quality education,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham, whose administration has provided the largest school support budgets in state history. “While our advancements over the last three years have been significant, this report outlines the critical work that we will continue to do to ensure our educational system serves every New Mexico student.”

“This administration is fully committed to giving every New Mexico child a world-class education,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “This draft document records three years of work getting us on course and sets specific targets for what remains to be done. It’s a blueprint for a new approach to education going forward, and we encourage all New Mexicans to review this and tell us how we can make the final version even better.”

The public can comment in writing at through June 17. The final document will closely align with the Public Education Department’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan completed earlier this year. The two documents will guide budgetary and programmatic decision-making with a single-minded focus on one goal: To assure that all students meet their full potential regardless of race, ethnicity, income or background.

“This plan represents great progress, and we are eager to dive deeper and continue this partnership and work for the benefit of our students to secure promising futures for them,” said Pueblo of Picuris Gov. Craig Quanchello.

While the strategic plan provides a comprehensive overview of the department’s vision, mission, goals and strategic priorities for the next five years, the Discussion Draft Action Plan provides a more targeted view of the administration’s work to date, upcoming plans and performance goals to address specific findings in the Martinez/Yazzie court ruling.

“The Martinez/Yazzie Discussion Draft Action Plan is not just a plan for the future; it also reflects all the work that’s taken place since the beginning of this administration, and it challenges all of us with strong performance targets to move the needle on key student outcomes,” Steinhaus said. “Although there is still much to be done, it’s important to recognize how much has already been accomplished to address the lawsuit.”

The Discussion Draft Action Plan lists dozens of accomplishments to date to attract and retain teachers and to provide equity for each of the four student groups. That long list includes:

  • Educator pay raises
  • Equity Councils
  • A new special education ombud
  • A new teacher evaluation system, Elevate NM
  • Funding increases for community schools and the Indian Education Fund
  • Incentives for school participation in extended learning time programs

“You can look no further than the smile on a child to see the work that is being done to date in addressing Yazzie v. Martinez,” said Adam Garcia Amador, chairman of the PED’s Hispanic Education Advisory Council and principal of R.V. Traylor Elementary in Lordsburg. “School resources and personnel are being operationalized to maximize student success. Work through equity councils and school leadership teams engage and give agency to the science of learning that comes from the community. Through this input, our stakeholders are able to direct us to innovate teaching, leadership and learning in every district throughout the state to validate our teachers and make our students No. 1.”

“The Indian Education Advisory Council looks forward to reviewing the Martinez/Yazzie discussion draft and collaborating with tribal leaders to provide NMPED with feedback to ensure that there are accountability measures in place as districts and charters work to address the full spectrum of Indigneous students’ needs,” said Kim Lanoy-Sandoval, chair of the Indian Education Advisory Council.

“As part of the New Mexico Public Education Department’s state-wide response to Martinez/Yazzie, I have been very pleased with developments after Governor Lujan Grisham signed into statute the Black Education Act,” said Arlen Nelson, Equity and Engagement coordinator for Albuquerque Public Schools. “Part of this act was the development of the Anti-Racism Anti Oppression hotline. This hotline has served as a tool for all Martinez/Yazzie identified role groups and all role groups across the state, allowing New Mexicans to have direct access to PED staff serving as resources to support improved communication between families, schools and districts with an expectation for thought partnership and collaborative resolution.”

Together, the two documents outline an official path to transform education in New Mexico to prioritize all students and build state and local capacity to meet their diverse social, emotional and academic needs.

Both documents acknowledge past failures of New Mexico’s education system and outline strategies for continued compliance with the 2018 court order that summarized those failings and demanded vast improvements.

The Martinez/Yazzie Discussion Draft Action Plan establishes four long-term goals for New Mexico’s public education system:

  • To assure that race, language, economic status and family situations do not result in lower rates of academic and career success;
  • To increase academic proficiency in math, science and languages;
  • To eliminate achievement gaps among groups of students;
  • To respect, honor and preserve students’ home languages and cultures.

The Discussion Draft Action Plan lists targeted outcomes for educator recruitment and for each of the student groups in sections that include data snapshots, current program funding, non-monetary support, future plans and targets for improvement.

For example, the overview on Native American students emphasizes language and cultural preservation and sets a goal to prioritize tribal consultation. The data snapshot shows the graduation rate for Native American students and their proficiency rates in reading and math. One future plan is for the Public Education Department to develop and implement community-based Native American language programs. One target for improvement is to increase reading and math proficiency rates by 50% by the end of the 2025-26 school year.

The Discussion Draft Action Plan concludes with a similar analysis of wide-ranging strategies that are being used to support better outcomes for all students and incorporate the work of other state agencies: early childhood education and care; extended learning time programs; research-based reading programs; college and career readiness; technology; and supporting student wellness, both physical and mental, through counselors, social workers and other non-instructional staff.

Judy Robinson

May 4, 2022

PED builds coaching into teacher professional learning

3 options available to coach teachers who teach reading

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department is offering New Mexico elementary schools the opportunity to have classroom coaches available next fall to help teachers apply newly learned methods for teaching students how to read.

Optional coaching is offered to elementary schools as a follow-up to mandatory professional learning to prepare teachers to use Structured Literacy, an explicit, systematic and cumulative approach to reading and writing instruction based on the Science of Reading.

“Professional learning is an important part of teaching, but without coaching support, research shows there tends to be little classroom application of newly learned practices,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “Our goal is to strengthen our professional learning by providing coaches to support teachers in their classrooms.”

In summer 2020, the PED adopted the New Mexico Literacy Framework, which aligns reading instruction with principles and strategies that grew out of the Science of Reading, a body of academic research based on studies of the brain-reading connection. Structured Literacy applies those strategies in the classroom.

Since then, the department has been training elementary teachers in Structured Literacy. All first-grade teachers started the two-year, eight-unit training in the 2020-2021 school year; kindergarten and second-grade teachers began it in 2021-2022, and third-grade teachers will begin it in the coming school year. The goal is to have every reading teacher trained in Structured Literacy by January 2025.

As teachers complete the training, the PED is offering them and their schools three coaching options:

  • Schools that have begun to establish Structured Literacy practices were invited to apply to become a Structured Literacy Model School. The two or three model schools chosen will receive a coach supplied by the Public Education Department to support their teachers. The application deadline was April 22, and PED officials are now conducting site visits as part of the selection process. Model schools will also receive a $50,000 grant to support implementation of Structured Literacy.
  • A school can apply by Thursday (May 5) to be a Literacy Support School to access support in implementing Structured Literacy. Administrators must ensure that at least half of staff members are willing to participate in coaching. The 20-30 Literacy Support Schools chosen will be supported by a regional coach. Literacy Support Schools will receive a $25,000 grant.
  • A teacher (or other school-based employee) who is already an expert in Structured Literacy can apply by Thursday (May 5) to be a Literacy Leader with a commitment to coach two colleagues next year. The 200 or so Literacy Leaders chosen will be trained in the same coaching model as the coaches for the other opportunities. Literacy Leaders will receive a $2,000 stipend.

The optional coaching opportunities will be funded through an $11.5 million legislative appropriation to expand and support early literacy.

“We want all schools to strive to be a Literacy Support School or a Model School,” said Severo Martinez, director of the department’s Literacy and Humanities Bureau. “Receiving this designation would be a badge of merit for the site, showing their commitment to literacy and fluent readers in every classroom within their school.

“Our ultimate goal is for all classroom instruction to reflect a structured literacy approach, which will then lead to an increase in student reading proficiency,” Martinez said.

“We hope to support teachers with the implementation of the research-based practices gained from their professional learning. Our coaches will work alongside teachers collaboratively to support the classroom practices that will impact student reading proficiency,” said Sarah Martin, Structured Literacy Program manager.

Awardees will be announced by the end of the current school year to allow for planning for next year.

Judy Robinson

May 3, 2022

PED building gets little library to promote literacy

Media Arts Collaborative Charter School built and donated it

Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus thanks students and staff from Media Arts Collaborative Charter School, who designed and built the little library.

A close-up of the little library, which is clad in license plates from all over the U.S.

SANTA FE – Students from an Albuquerque charter school put finishing touches today on a little lending library as it was installed outside the Public Education Department building in Santa Fe to celebrate New Mexico’s Year of Literacy.

Students with learning challenges in grades six through 11 at Media Arts Collaborative Charter School built the little library during math and English resource classes with teacher Paul Meeker and career and technical education instructor Andrew Barrow. Resource classes are provided for special education students and general education students who need specialized instruction in a small-group setting for a portion of the school day.

Workers from the state’s General Services Department installed the completed library in front of the Jerry Apodaca Building, 300 Don Gaspar Ave., as the students and their teacher watched and applauded.

“This is a functional and beautiful representation of New Mexico’s commitment to literacy,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “Anyone coming to the state capitol complex is welcome to take a book or leave a book for others. We are grateful to the students and staff at Media Arts Collaborative Charter School and to members of the public who donated books to stock our little library.”

New Mexico state government workers and members of the public donated dozens of books, which PED staff members pulled out to the installation site in a red wagon to stock the little library.

The little library, made of plexiglass, plywood and license plates from all over the country, was first completed in 2018 as part of a class project titled “Books Take You Places.”

When Steinhaus declared the 2021-2022 school year New Mexico’s Year of Literacy and invited schools to build a little library for the PED building, Meeker decided to redo the original build with help from the original students.

“Those students (the oldest now in 11th grade), plus a couple others with learning challenges who joined our school after the first painted build, picked up the project again this past fall once COVID-induced remote schooling ceased, and we all returned to campus,” Meeker said. “They decided a redo was appropriate with a new door and a new skin of license plates.”

Although he served as project sponsor and safety officer, at least 90% of the work was done by students, Meeker said.

Judy Robinson

May 3, 2022

PED ends requirement for costly tests for new teachers

Move will save prospective teachers hundreds of dollars

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department is changing the way new teachers prove their fitness for the classroom, moving from a battery of expensive tests to a comprehensive portfolio students will prepare during their New Mexico’s college-based educator preparation programs.

Until now, college graduates had to pass six tests, together costing about $700 and taking more than 11 hours to complete, in order to earn an elementary education teaching license. By spring 2024, only one test will be required for that license – Teaching of Reading: Elementary, which is required by statute.

“We are happy to announce this change during Teacher Appreciation Week because New Mexico and the rest of the country have a chronic teacher shortage,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “It’s not unreasonable to think these expenses could deter a new college graduate from pursuing a career in education when our goal is to do the opposite, to encourage more students to consider this pathway. Portfolios provide a deeper demonstration of a graduate’s teaching ability than a test, so this move lets us help our teachers while ensuring or even improving the rigor of the process.”

“As New Mexico continues to face a workforce crisis within education, it is important to implement multifaceted, evidence-based strategies that address the range of obstacles to recruiting and retaining highly qualified educators,” Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment said.

The changes align with the state’s commitment to diversify the educator workforce to more closely resemble the student population as recommended in the court ruling in the Martinez-Yazzie Consolidated lawsuit.

“By adopting this portfolio process, we are acknowledging past systemic failures to address the historic inequities within educational institutions not just for students, but the adults who serve them. These changes will be accompanied by rigorous standards to ensure that educator preparation programs not only uphold excellent teacher competencies but are aligned with best practices to serve student groups identified in the lawsuit,” Warniment said.

The Public Education Department issues teaching licenses for seven grade-level and specialty groups, from Pre-K through high school and special education. Each license has its own testing requirements. Here, for example, are the tests required for an elementary education license:

  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading
  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Writing
  • Core Academic Skills for Educators: Mathematics
  • Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades K-6
  • Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
  • Teaching Reading: Elementary

The change to portfolio-based assessments will be phased in. By July 1, approved New Mexico educator preparation programs (see list at end of release) will adopt a standardized portfolio. The Public Education Department will work with the educator preparation programs to develop a standard rubric the programs will use to evaluate portfolios for licensure purposes.

Students currently enrolled in traditional or alternative educator preparation programs in New Mexico and graduating between now and December will not have to take the three Core Academic Skills tests. They still will have to pass all other Praxis exams for the license they are seeking. For example, an elementary license will require two tests: Principles of Learning and Teaching: K-6 and Elementary Education: Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

Educators graduating in spring 2024 whose portfolios are accepted by their program will no longer be required to take any of the Praxis tests except elementary educators will still have to pass the $90 Teaching of Reading: Elementary.

New Mexico has used the private Praxis testing service since 2020 to determine a graduate’s eligibility for educator licensing. Depending on the license sought, prospective teachers must take at least four and as many as six Praxis tests. The company sets testing fees, which range from $90 each for tests of core skills in reading, writing and math to $130 for foreign language tests.

The decision to end the testing requirement was proposed and considered by the Professional Practices and Standards Council, an advisory body whose members include teacher preparation experts at New Mexico higher education institutions and within the Public Education Department.

“They said a portfolio assessment would actually be more robust than a series of tests, and we agreed with that,” Warniment told the Legislative Education Study Committee last week. “Tests can be limiting and may not speak to the actual work teachers do. We think a portfolio process is more relevant to what happens in the classroom.”

The portfolio assessment is an option, not a requirement. Praxis tests still will be available to those who prefer that pathway, for educators who graduate from out-of-state teacher preparation programs, and for current teachers seeking additional endorsements, which allow them to teach more classes or grades.

Judy Robinson

April 29, 2022

Celebrate NM teachers in Teacher Appreciation Week

Weeklong celebration of teachers begins Sunday

Teacher Appreciation Week

SANTA FE – Teachers change lives, and during National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 1-7, the Public Education Department invites every New Mexican to thank a teacher past or present for helping children attain the education and skills they need for happy, successful lives.

“New Mexico teachers go above and beyond for their students every day,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who signed legislation this spring raising the average pay for a New Mexico teacher to $64,000, top in the Southwest region.

“A single teacher can make all the difference for thousands and thousands of students – that is the immense power of education, that long-lasting change that educators make in a student’s life. I am so grateful to every New Mexico educator who has answered the call to educate, care for and advocate for their students, and I invite every New Mexican to join me this Teacher Appreciation Week in saying thank you to a teacher who has made a difference,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

New Mexico has 22,286 licensed teachers, according to the last official count of the 2021-22 school year, but still had almost 1,000 classrooms statewide led by long-term substitutes because certified teachers were unavailable.

“New Mexico is so lucky to have a corps of amazing teachers who are dedicated to helping our kids learn and thrive, and they are doing an outstanding job,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, who began his career as a music teacher. “But we need more, and we’ll only get more when young people see that society values and respects those who dedicate their lives to this profession and answer the call to join them.”

When COVID-19 exacerbated the educator shortage this spring, Gov. Lujan Grisham initiated the Supporting Teachers and Families program, which recruited state government employees and members of the New Mexico National Guard to become licensed substitute teachers. Through March 25, the program resulted in a 661% increase in new substitute teacher applications compared to the previous year, and a 302% increase in first-time teacher applications.

New Mexico has been taking steps to make a career in education more attractive. Gov. Lujan Grisham delivered teacher pay raises totaling 8.5% in the first three years of her administration. This spring, as New Mexico competes with other states for qualified teachers, she signed legislation to:

  • Raise teacher salary minimums by $10,000 for each tier. New minimums are $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 depending on education level and experience;
  • Raise pay for all educators an average of 7%;
  • Provide $150,000 in scholarships for teachers wanting to apply for certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a rigorous, multi-year process;

The Lujan-Grisham administration also hopes to lure more college students into teaching careers by:

  • Securing a $15.5 million appropriation so New Mexico teacher preparation programs can offer more teacher residencies, a program that promotes diversity in the educator workforce while filling high-need teaching positions around the state.
  • Signing another $50 million appropriation for endowed faculty positions in teacher preparation programs at New Mexico colleges and universities.

While a bigger paycheck is an important way to tell teachers they are appreciated, small gestures matter, too. Since 1984, the National PTA has designated one week in May as a special time to honor the individuals who lend their passion and skills to educating our children.

“Teachers are just crucial to how our kids are raised. They’re with them six to eight hours a day. One week isn’t enough to celebrate, honor and show our appreciation to them,” said Stephanie Hansen, president of the New Mexico PTA.

Here are a few suggestions for expressing appreciation this week to a teacher in your life:

  • Write a simple thank you note. Adults and children can both do this to show appreciation for a special teacher;
  • Donate to a classroom fund-raiser. Teachers are often trying to raise money for special classroom needs like wobble stools, learning games or adventure kits.
  • Use the hashtag #ThankATeacher to share your appreciation on social media.
  • Add to your teacher’s stash of office supplies and art supplies – or contribute prizes for the classroom award bucket.

Judy Robinson

April 29, 2022

‘Math Is Me’ to emphasize student math identity

Focus on math proficiency will follow NM’s Year of Literacy

Math Is Me: NMPED Year of Math

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department will emphasize statewide math proficiency in the 2022-23 school year with a specific goal of helping all New Mexico students see themselves as mathematicians, Secretary Kurt Steinhaus announced today.

The department will launch the Math Is Me theme alongside a continuing focus on literacy established in the current school year, which Steinhaus named New Mexico’s Year of Literacy.

“The Year of Literacy initiative invited New Mexicans of every age to celebrate literacy as a foundational academic skill and to practice it by reading every day,” Steinhaus said. “That focus will continue, but beginning in August, we’ll also be emphasizing math skills, which are just as critical to the academic success of our students and our state.”

Math Is Me developed from emerging research about the importance of how students perceive their own ability to do math. The goal is to break down stubborn myths that girls and some racial minorities are not good at math while boys and other racial minorities are – myths that strongly influence academic performance and contribute to gender and racial disparities in assessments of math proficiency.

“We want every student to have a positive math identity – a belief that they are doers of and learners of math,” Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment said. “A positive math identity is foundational to math learning and influences important life and career decisions. We are going to make sure every child in New Mexico knows they are mathematicians.”

“A great proportion of the population decides ‘math is not for me,’ and they carry that sentiment into adulthood,” said Jacqueline Costales, the department’s director of Curriculum and Instruction. “So kids come to school with that fear from their parents, and they continue that fear and that belief that math is almost impossible for them to do.”

“To a certain extent, this is a marketing problem,” said Seana Flanagan, who oversees the PED’s role in teacher preparation. “How are we marketing math to kids? We have to attract people to teaching who have a passion for math and can convey that and get kids excited about it.”

Simone Vann, who taught high school math for years before joining the Public Education Department’s Black Education Act team, said students need a strong math identity before getting to Algebra 2.

“Algebra 2 is one of the most feared courses in high school, and having that math identity before they get there is so important. Once they realize they can do math, it can completely change their trajectory,” Vann said.

Vann remembers a Black student who was assigned to her Algebra 2 class even though he hadn’t taken geometry yet.

“We realized he was misplaced, but he pleaded to stay in my class because he’d never had a Black math teacher, and he thought I’d be able to help him,” Vann said. “He passed and learned to love math by having a teacher who looked like him.”

Only 21% of New Mexico students in grades 3-11 were proficient in math, and the figures were significantly lower for Black students (14%) and Native American students (11%), according to the PED’s most recent statewide testing data.

Math Is Me builds on other Public Education Department initiatives launched during this administration to improve math proficiency.

“Everything we’ve done in the last two or three years has really been in response to New Mexico’s below-average math proficiency. We recognized our students don’t have the math skills they need, and we’re fixing that,” said Shafiq Chaudhary, acting director of the PED’s Math and Science Bureau.

That work includes:

  • In June 2022, PED will launch a Focus on Algebra professional learning series to strengthen instructional practices emphasizing algebraic thinking and algebra concepts. This free, two-year initiative is open to all grade 6–9 school teams.
  • In January 2022, PED launched the Fostering Positive Math Identities professional learning series for educators aimed at supporting secondary educators and students with enhancing positive math identities. This free series is scheduled to continue in 2022-23.
  • In July 2021, PED released the New Mexico Math Framework, providing clear guidance to school or district leaders on the critical components to build, implement and strengthen math instruction in New Mexico and to reduce inequities in math learning.
  • In February 2021, PED launched the Early Numeracy Initiative, which offered teachers in early grades free professional development to better teach math to young children. The pandemic slowed participation, but to date, 72 elementary educators and administrators in 15 districts or state-chartered schools have completed the workshop series. The series is scheduled to continue in 2022-23.
  • In September 2020, PED won approval to offer an elementary math endorsement on a teacher’s license to indicate additional competence in elementary math pedagogy. Teachers with this endorsement are expected to become mentors to other teachers in their schools. So far, PED has issued 23 endorsements.
  • In August 2020, PED released the New Mexico Instructional Scope for Math, a tool written by New Mexico educators to help classroom teachers scaffold lessons to be sure students learn priority standards first. Based on public feedback, a revised version was released in summer 2021.

Judy Robinson

April 27, 2022

Deming HS wins top honors in student film contest

Best Short Film Award goes to ‘Estela En El Mar’

These Deming High School students made a documentary that won top honors in New Mexico’s inaugural student film festival.

SANTA FE — The Public Education Department congratulates students from Deming High School who took home the top prize and hundreds of other students statewide who participated in New Mexico’s inaugural student film festival.

Deming High School students won the Judges’ Choice Award for Best Short Film for the 10-minute documentary “Estela En El Mar,” which they wrote, directed, filmed and edited for the Film Prize Junior New Mexico student film festival. Another Deming High film, “Deuce,” won the Audience Choice Award in the same category.

“The judges must have had an incredibly hard time choosing because these films were all so creative and so remarkable in many different ways,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “What a brilliant way to expose New Mexico students to the collaborative, creative art of filmmaking and invite them to begin considering careers in this growing New Mexico industry.”

The festival, held Saturday and Sunday in Española, featured 62 films from 38 schools in 16 New Mexico counties. More than 500 students participated over the past school year.

“They poured their creativity and hearts into these films, and to me, they’re all winners,” said Rosey Hayett, director of Film Prize Junior New Mexico.

The winning Deming High School productions were funded through the school district’s Career and Technical Education grants, Carl D. Perkins federal program and NextGen state program, administered by the New Mexico Public Education Department’s College and Career Readiness Bureau.

“Any school district or charter school with an interest in media or film programs can use CTE funding to support these efforts. Now is a good time to start planning student productions to enter into the second annual Film Prize Jr New Mexico next April 2023,” said PED’s Susan Chaudoir, who collaborated with Film Prize Jr New Mexico and its partners to make the festival a success. “The exposure students receive in such a venue can open the college and career pathways CTE students need.”

The films have been available online at the Film Prize Junior New Mexico website since before the weekend festival to allow for audience-favorite voting. They also were shown Saturday at Mitchell Theatres Dreamcatcher 10 in Española. Awards, including more than $5,000 in scholarships and media grants, were presented Sunday at Moving Arts Española. In the high school category:

  • Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film: “Deuce” from Deming High School
  • Judges’ Choice Award for Best Short Film: “Estela En El Mar” from Deming High School
  • Best Comedy: “What’s the Name of the Game?” from New Mexico School for the Arts
  • Best Drama: “I Really Like You Too” from MASTERs Program, Santa Fe Community College
  • Best Sci-Fi/Thriller: “House Sitting” from Capital High School
  • Best Documentary/PSA: “Estela En El Mar” from Deming High School

In the middle school division:

  • Audience Choice Award for Best Short Film: “Life in the Rez” from Tse Bit’Ai Middle School
  • Judges’ Choice Award for Best Short Film: “EARTH” from homeschooled
  • Best Comedy: “Bobo Jones” from Cottonwood Valley Charter School
  • Best Drama: “Eggshell” from YMCA Los Alamos Teen Center
  • Best Sci-Fi/Thriller: “Camp Sunshine” from Roots and Wings Community School
  • Best Stop Motion/Animation: “EARTH” from homeschooled
  • Best Documentary/PSA: “Pinwel Tah” from Pictures Pueblo Education Department

A panel of industry professionals voted for the Judges’ Choice Awards in each division.

Film Prize Junior New Mexico is sponsored by the Santa Fe Film Office, Regional Development Corp., City of Santa Fe, Town of Taos, Dollars for Schools and Robert T. Keeler Foundation.

Judy Robinson

April 25, 2022

NM’s U.S. Presidential Scholars semifinalists announced

Seven New Mexico high school seniors on list of 620 nationally

SANTA FE – Seven New Mexico high school seniors are semifinalists in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, the Public Education Department announced today.

These six are semifinalists for the title U.S. Presidential Scholar:

  • Quinn Ennis, Cedar Crest – Albuquerque Academy
  • Louis A. Hay, Taos – Taos High School
  • Isabel N. McCabe, Albuquerque – McCabe Home School
  • Ethan D. Nguyen, Farmington – Farmington High School
  • Kaya A. Perce, Albuquerque – Albuquerque High School
  • Melody Yeh, Albuquerque – La Cueva High School One student is a semifinalist for U.S Presidential Scholar in Career and Technical Education:
  • Jace E. Martinez, Belen – Belen High School

They are among 25 New Mexico high school seniors nominated in November by Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus.

“We are incredibly proud of these students because each of them worked hard to overcome obstacles including a global pandemic and still achieve academically and contribute to their families, schools and communities,” Steinhaus said. “They stand as role models for every New Mexico child, showing that many paths can lead to academic success.

“We must also remember the supportive families and motivational educators who helped these students succeed, and we thank them for their partnership and hard work as well,” Steinhaus said.

Altogether, more than 5,000 students were identified as candidates this year. The seven New Mexicans are among 620 semifinalists nationwide in the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. Semifinalists form the pool from which the U.S. Department of Education will select up to 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars for 2022. That announcement is expected in mid-May.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964 by executive order to recognize and honor some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating seniors. In 1979, the program was expanded to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in visual, literary and performing arts. It was expanded again in 2015 to recognize students who demonstrate accomplishment in career and technical fields

Judy Robinson

April 22, 2022

Earth Day: PED to elevate outdoor learning options

2022 legislation funded new Outdoor Learning Initiative

Happy Earth Day

SANTA FE – By the time Earth Day 2023 rolls around, more New Mexico students will be spending time in outdoor classrooms with teachers prepared to use the natural environment as a teaching tool, the Public Education Department announced today, Earth Day 2022.

The expansion of outdoor learning will begin this summer, when the department uses a $500,000 legislative appropriation to staff a new Outdoor Learning Program and fund grants to help schools develop or expand outdoor learning.

“Time spent outdoors reduces stress and promotes healthy lifestyles. This is true for everyone but especially for children,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. “When we can combine outdoor time with hands-on learning, it’s a win-win for students academically, socially and emotionally.”

“The natural world provides a wonderful, rich learning environment that automatically allows students and teachers to apply knowledge in a meaningful way,” said Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment. “In this way, outdoor learning is not just about being outside – it’s about deeper learning.”

The goal is broader than building classrooms in a shady spot on school grounds, although the Outdoor Learning Program supports that, too. It includes giving teachers resources and activities that promote discovery, experimentation and connection to the natural world.

“Outdoor learning can be applicable for any content area,” said Shafiq Chaudhary, interim director of PED’s Math and Science Bureau, which is implementing the Outdoor Learning Program.

For example, math students can collect and analyze data on fallen leaves, go on a geometry scavenger hunt or use the Pythagorean theorem to study the length of shadows at different times of day. Younger kids can play “I Spy” to develop language skills while older students write poetry under a tree. Science students can learn and measure changes in the environment.

At Santo Domingo Elementary School in the Bernalillo Public Schools district, students are learning about the pueblo’s agricultural heritage in outdoor learning spaces, including a garden, greenhouse and chicken coop, with plans to add an amphitheater, classroom space and outdoor kitchen by the end of June.

“We’re really indigenizing our teaching spaces because learning for indigenous students didn’t happen within the four walls of a Western classroom,” said Lorilei Chavez, the school’s indigenous curriculum instructional coach. “We want to take indigenous students outside underneath the elements and connect them to this DNA of how we understand the world and the environment.”

The impetus for an Outdoor Learning Program began early in the pandemic with the Wild Friends Program, which provides hands-on learning about the democratic process to New Mexico students in grades 4-12. Students help draft legislation on a wildlife conservation issue and work to pass it in the New Mexico Legislature.

In fall 2020, the students voted to work on outdoor classrooms. They learned about the benefits and challenges of outdoor classrooms and created design prototypes for an outdoor classroom at their schools. They also helped draft Senate Memorial 1 encouraging the implementation of outdoor classrooms, and then testified (virtually) in support of the memorial during the 2021 legislative session.

The memorial, introduced by Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support on Feb. 24, 2021, launching a multi-agency task force to study outdoor learning.

“Being outside offers many benefits to students and educators, including improved physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health and wellbeing; improved academic skills, including critical thinking and problem-solving; enhanced academic achievement; increased motivation and enthusiasm to learn; and increased connections with our communities,” Hemphill said. “With the ongoing pandemic, it’s more important than ever to invest in outdoor learning spaces to take advantage of these benefits and to help ensure we can continue to educate students in the safest, healthiest environment.”

The task force met between June and October 2021, when it issued a report that recommended establishing an outdoor classroom program at the Public Education Department.

Senate Memorial 1 had widespread support from students and educators, including Environmental Education of New Mexico, a professional support network of more than 150 organizations serving more than 280,000 New Mexican children annually.

“The last couple of years, we’ve had incredible buy-in from legislators and state leaders,” said Stephanie Haan-Amato, the organization’s communications and development director. “It’s really rewarding to see everyone getting excited about outdoor learning.”

During the 2022 legislative session, Sen. Corea Hemphill, who sponsored Senate Memorial 1, introduced Senate Bill 32, which called for a $500,000 appropriation to PED to establish the Outdoor Classroom Program. While that bill died in committee, the same amount was later attached to the General Appropriations Bill.

That funding will allow PED to hire two outdoor learning experts. Through a competitive process, the PED also will award outdoor learning grants by fall. Details are still being worked out, but grants will likely cover professional learning and curricular materials while construction of outdoor learning spaces would be considered a capital outlay project.

Judy Robinson

April 20, 2022

PED celebrates Santa Fe teacher’s national award

New Mexico Milken Educator Award goes to Gabrielle Kahawai

Third-grade teacher Gabrielle Kahawai reacts upon learning she’s received the N.M. Milken Educator Award. (Photo Credit: Milken Educator Awards. More photos and videos are available here.)

SANTA FE — New Mexico Public Education Department officials joined students and staff at a Santa Fe elementary school today to celebrate a third-grade teacher who became the second New Mexico educator in two days to receive a national teaching award that comes with an unrestricted $25,000 prize.

In front of cheering students and proud colleagues, Gabrielle Kahawai was presented with the New Mexico Milken Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation. On Tuesday, Loving teacher Tyler Finch was similarly surprised at a school assembly.

Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, who attended both school assemblies and whose agency coordinates the Milken Award program to celebrate and honor outstanding teachers, described Kahawai as a dedicated, talented educator who didn’t let the global pandemic keep her students from learning.

“Gabrielle Kahawai has repeatedly shown a quickness to adopt new ideas and strategies, and her speedy pivot during the pandemic spread enthusiasm among both her third-graders and her teaching colleagues,” Steinhaus said. “She is the kind of teacher who inspires both children and adults to do our best. Thank you, Ms. Kahawai, for being a guiding light for all of us. You make us proud.”

“Exceptional educators should be celebrated and recognized, and we are thrilled to welcome Gabrielle Kahawai to our nationwide network of Milken Educators,” said Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. “Kahawai’s eagerness to improve her practice through professional development and innovation, creativity in engaging students, and her outstanding leadership are just some of the many ways she exemplifies a Milken Educator.”

When the PED supported schools in transitioning to online learning in spring 2020, Kahawai set up a complete virtual classroom in her home to create a school-like environment for her students and became Gonzales’ de facto tech guru, helping colleagues master both tools and strategies to support virtual instruction.

Knowing that building trusting relationships is even more important in a virtual setting, Kahawai hosted a “Kids Club” to give students time to listen to and talk with each other outside of academics. Her overarching goal: making sure students get the education they deserve, regardless of any obstacles.

Kahawai served on Gonzales Community School’s site-based management team and helped create a literary fair for Gonzales’ younger grades. She coordinates the school’s hiking club and has led students, staff and families on hikes in the Santa Fe National Forest.

In the classroom, Kahawai lets data drive her instruction, grouping students according to their academic needs and differentiating her instruction as she moves from one group to the next. To get students excited about reading, Kahawai encourages them to come to school in pajamas and slippers to show everyone how they read at home. She uses “math talks” to encourage students to verbalize their math reasoning, incorporates hands-on science learning through the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, and introduces students to coding.

Third graders at Gonzales excel in all subject areas, with reading and math MAP assessment scores more than twice state averages.

Kahawai earned a bachelor’s in elementary education in 2012 from New Mexico Highlands University.

She and Finch join more than 2,800 teachers who have received the award since the Milken Family Foundation began the program in 1987 to reward early to mid-career educators and inspire teaching excellence nationally. This year, 60 educators were selected from all over the country.

Sixty-two New Mexico educators have been Milken recipients since New Mexico joined the program in 1992. A complete list of those recipients is available here.

In addition to the one-time, $25,000 award, Milken Educators receive access to powerful networking and development tools throughout their careers. Altogether, the foundation has invested more than $138 million to the program.

Judy Robinson

April 19, 2022

PED celebrates Loving, NM, teacher’s national award

Tyler Finch first of two NM Milken Educators to be named this week

Science teacher Tyler Finch reacts as he learns he’s a New Mexico Milken Educator, and he’s taking home $25,000. (Photo Credit: Milken Educator Awards. More photos and videos are available here.)

LOVING, N.M. — New Mexico Public Education Department officials joined students and staff at Loving High School today to celebrate a science teacher who was surprised with news he’d received a national teaching award that comes with an unrestricted $25,000 prize.

In front of cheering students and proud colleagues at Loving High School, Tyler Finch was presented with the New Mexico Milken Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation, considered the Oscar of teaching. A second New Mexico educator whose name and school have not been released will be honored at another surprise ceremony Wednesday in Santa Fe.

Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, who attended the assembly and whose agency coordinates these events to celebrate and honor outstanding teachers, said Finch’s dedication to teaching and to his students is inspirational.

“Tyler Finch represents the best of the best in our profession,” Steinhaus said. “He inspires his students to succeed at the highest levels, and he reminds every educator in New Mexico why we joined this noble profession with its tremendous capacity to shape young lives. Thank you, Mr. Finch, for being a guiding light for all of us. You make us proud.”

“Through his high engagement and innovative leadership in and out of the classroom, Tyler Finch is making an indelible mark on his students, colleagues and community,” said Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards and a 1994 Indiana Milken Educator. “His expertise and creative use of technology to reach his students, effectively examine data to develop instructional practices and leverage his talent across the district are some of the exceptional attributes that make him a Milken Educator.”

Finch is chairman of the Loving Municipal Schools science department and teaches classes ranging from ninth-grade physical science to Advanced Placement chemistry (one of the district’s first AP classes) at Loving High School. He also coaches football and track.

More than 80% of his physical science students pass New Mexico end of course assessments; for chemical science, it’s 100%. Former students often report Finch’s classes were harder than their college science classes and thank him for preparing them so well.

To interest younger students in STEM subjects, AP Chemistry students host Science Nights for Loving’s elementary school students.

Finch is an ardent supporter of data-driven decisions, and he developed an analytical tool that helps the district ensure that assessments are fair and meaningful. Finch sits on the school leadership team, has led district wide professional development on student engagement and data analysis, and recruits and mentors new teachers.

He believes educators need to “stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,” a philosophy that served him well during the pandemic, when the PED supported schools in transitioning to online learning. Finch provided daily video instruction via the Canvas learning management system, learned Spanish so his monolingual students could participate in online discussions, and helped colleagues maximize their virtual instruction.

Finch earned a bachelor’s degree in science in 2013 and a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2018 from Eastern New Mexico University.

He joins more than 2,800 teachers who have received the award since the Milken Family Foundation began the program in 1987 to reward early to mid-career educators and inspire teaching excellence nationally. This year, 60 educators were selected from all over the country.

Sixty-two New Mexico educators have been Milken recipients since New Mexico joined the program in 1992. A complete list of those recipients is available here.

In addition to the one-time, $25,000 award, Milken Educators receive access to powerful networking and development tools throughout their careers. Altogether, the foundation has invested more than $138 million to the program.

Judy Robinson

March 24, 2022

NM student wins $40,000 College Board scholarship

Winners surprised by announcement on national TV

Lexi Gallegos

SANTA FE — A Tularosa High School senior was surprised on national television today with news that she’s one of 31 students across the nation to receive a $40,000 college scholarship.

Lexi Gallegos learned she will receive the BigFuture scholarship from the College Board during a virtual appearance with 24 other recipients on ABC’s Good Morning America television show.

“I was pretty stunned,” she said afterward. “I never expected to get a scholarship today.”

Thirty-one students in all will receive $40,000 BigFuture scholarships: 27 are class of 2022 students; the other four are current juniors in the class of 2023.

The students were invited to appear virtually on Good Morning America for what they were told was a news segment on college planning, and 25 – including Gallegos – accepted. All 25 were shown in squares on a video board behind the set. Hands flew to faces and unmuted microphones picked up expressions of joy when BigFuture’s senior vice president Tarlin Ray announced they’d each receive a $40,000 scholarship.

The not-for-profit College Board provides resources including the Advanced Placement® Program and the SAT® to promote excellence and equity in education. It launched the scholarship program in 2018 to encourage students to prepare for college.

Students are automatically entered into monthly drawings for $500 prizes just by completing College Board’s steps required to plan for college – making a college list, studying for the SAT and completing a FAFSA form, for example. Students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year have extra chances at scholarships because they’re eligible for two entries for each drawing.

Students who make it through all six steps are entered into the drawing for $40,000 scholarships.

Since the program began, more than 1 million students have participated and over $10 million in scholarships have been awarded.

Gallegos said she plans to attend New Mexico State University and major in criminal justice with a goal of becoming a game and fish warden.

Tularosa High Assistant Principal Jody Hill said Gallegos has worked hard to prepare for college.

“I love all my students but I couldn’t ask for a better student to get it,” Hall said. “Congratulations, Lexi, on all your hard work!”

Judy Robinson

March 21, 2022

PED updates interactive school funding dashboard

Public can see now see how ESSER I, ESSER II funds are being spent

SANTA FE — The Public Education Department’s interactive digital dashboard now allows the public to track how New Mexico schools are spending $488 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to support students amid pandemic-related learning disruptions.

The department launched the digital dashboard in September with data from the first round of relief funding ($97.7 million, now 89% spent) and enhanced it this week to include round two ($390.4 million, now 38% spent).

“The public needs to see that New Mexico and our schools are being good stewards of this important federal funding. This dashboard lets anyone track that spending dollar by dollar and see how it’s being used, as intended, to support our students in a variety of ways designed to offset impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said.

New Mexico and other states have now received three rounds of federal pandemic relief funds provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act in December 2020, and the American Rescue Plan in March 2021.

The appropriations are intended to support schools in safely reopening and sustaining safe operations while meeting the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of students resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under each law, the appropriations flow to states and then districts and state-chartered schools through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund:

  • ESSER I provided $108.6 million to New Mexico to be spent by Sept. 30, 2022.
  • ESSER II provided $435.9 million to New Mexico to be spent by Sept. 30, 2023.
  • ESSER III – the largest funding round – sent $979.1 million to New Mexico to be spent by Sept. 30, 2024.

For all three awards, 90% must be distributed directly to school districts and state-chartered schools through sub-grants. That totals nearly $1.4 billion for New Mexico schools over three rounds.

The dashboard, designed and hosted by Falling Colors, a Santa Fe-based technology group, consists of two digital pages of charts, drop-down menus, embedded links and data lists for ESSER I and ESSER II.

The first page provides total funding, amount of requested reimbursements for spending so far, and amount remaining — for the whole state and for individual school districts and state-chartered schools. The second page includes data showing how districts/state-chartered schools planned to use these funds, broken down both by the planned allocation category (student supports and interventions, for example) and sub-category (summer learning and after-school programs, for example.)

The dashboard shows the largest share of funding – $97.2 million –has been allocated for purchasing education technology to support students in remote learning. Another $61.9 million has been allocated for activities to maintain continuity of services (which includes purchasing personal protective equipment for students and staff), and $49.5 million is earmarked for improving indoor air quality. Districts and charter schools allocated $21.3 million to address pandemic-related learning loss.

The dashboard is updated regularly as districts and state-chartered schools submit additional ESSER I and ESSER II reimbursement requests to the Public Education Department.

To date, very little of the ESSER III funding has been spent because districts/state charter schools are still spending down their ESSER I and ESSER II funds, and they have 2 ½ years remaining to spend ESSER III. ESSER III will be added to the dashboard as data become available.

Altogether, the federal government has appropriated nearly $189.5 billion to support the nation’s schools in safely reopening and sustaining safe operations of schools while meeting the academic, social, emotional and mental health needs of students resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This instructional video shows how to use the dashboard.

This fact sheet includes additional information and examples of how schools are spending federal relief funds

Judy Robinson

March 17, 2022

NM graduation rate beats predictions, remains steady

77% of high school seniors graduated in four years

SANTA FE — New Mexico’s high school graduation rate defied expert predictions of a decline and held steady in 2021 despite the learning challenges posed by a second year of the pandemic, the New Mexico Public of Education Department announced Thursday.

The 2021 four-year graduation rate for all New Mexico high school seniors was 76.8%, a statistically insignificant change of a tenth of a percentage point from the 76.9% rate in spring 2020, which was a nearly 2-point increase from 2019’s rate of 75%.

New Mexico’s five-year graduation rate for the 2020 cohort improved 3.4 points to 81.7%. Additionally, the 2021 graduation rates of several student subgroups, including students with disabilities, Asian students, Black students, female students and economically disadvantaged students, increased relative to 2020.

“It’s reassuring that even amid the pandemic’s second year, New Mexico’s overall graduation rate held steady, with many groups seeing improvement,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “We’re grateful to students, families and educators for the hard work it took to achieve that. Over the next year, we will be working on focused strategies with the goal of improving graduation rates and other student achievement metrics in math and English Language Arts.”

New Mexico’s 2021 graduation rate follows a second challenging school year. Across the country, more students failed classes in fall 2020 as schools continued to struggle with enrollment and attendance. Research has shown that failing even one core class can reduce a student’s chances of graduating high school. That led some education experts to fear a decline in 2021 graduation rates, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“New Mexico students defied predictions,” Steinhaus said. “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our students graduated at the same rate as they did in 2020.”

New Mexico’s graduation rate has been trending upward, from 63% in 2011 to 77% in 2021. In 2020, several months into the pandemic, New Mexico joined most states in adding flexibility to some graduation requirements and saw a 2-point improvement – to 77% – in the graduation rate.

Nationwide, 2021 high school graduation rates dipped in at least 20 states. Illinois, Oregon and North Dakota saw graduation rates drop 2 points, and Indiana, Maine, Nevada, South Dakota and West Virginia saw declines of at least 1 point. Where rates increased, growth was modest.

Clovis led the state’s 10 largest districts with the biggest year-over-year improvement: The district’s 2021 graduation rate of 77.9% is 7.5 points higher than the year before. Two other large districts also showed notable improvement: Farmington increased 1.3 points to 78.7% and Albuquerque (the state’s largest district) increased 1.1 points to 75.7%.

Graduation requirement waivers were not offered for the 2021 cohort – graduating seniors were required to complete 24 credit hours of prescribed course work and demonstrate competency. The state offers a menu of options to demonstrate competency, including state and national standardized tests and district-specific tools approved by the Public Education Department.

The Public Education Department is focused on improving graduation rates through various evidence-based strategies including extended learning time programs, community schools, expanding career and technical education and work-based learning options, improving attendance, providing social-emotional learning, and expanding behavioral health initiatives and culturally and linguistically responsive instruction.

The Public Education Department calculates the graduation rate for each “cohort” of students who enter high school the same year and are expected to graduate four years later. The cohort of 2021 entered high school in the fall of 2017 and consisted of 25,002 students who were enrolled for one or more semesters during those four years.

The 2020 cohort’s overall four-year graduation rate was 77%. When students from the 2020 cohort who graduated in May 2021 after five years in high school are added in, the 2020 graduation rate jumps to 81.7%.

In addition to New Mexico’s 2021 high school graduates, 54 students aged 17-18 who were enrolled in adult education programs in the state completed either the GED or HiSET program and earned a high school equivalency credential during the 2020-2021 school year. In addition, according to Higher Education Department data, 523 New Mexicans aged 19 and over received a high school equivalent degree during the 2020-2021 school year.

View the data on the PED website here.

Judy Robinson

March 11, 2022

NM educator is finalist for prestigious teaching award

Heather Harrell to compete for Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching

Heather Harrell

SANTA FE – An Española educator is New Mexico’s 2022 state finalist for the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Heather Harrell, a teacher at Alcalde Elementary School in the Española Public School District, has been named a state finalist for the science award. She and other 2022 state finalists will now compete to win national awards, which will be announced by the White House on its own schedule.

Harrell is in her seventh year as an elementary school teacher and is currently pursuing National Board Certification. She teaches science for third through sixth grade and, with community support, was able to take students on a field trip to the Grand Canyon to explore earth history and geology. As a science team leader, she coordinates partnerships with local museums and nonprofit organizations to bring hands-on science activities into the classroom.

She has also been an Inquiry Science Education Consortium team leader through the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation program for four years, and loves teaching both math and science.

As a lifelong learner, Harrell actively pursues learning opportunities. In 2020, she taught fourth grade at the Curacao American Preparatory school on the island of Curacao, where she learned how to scuba dive and was involved in the Curacao Coral Restoration project. She is an avid beekeeper and published a book on beekeeping in 2012 that has received global recognition and was recently translated into Italian.

“Being nominated as a PAEMST finalist is one of the most exciting moments of my career. I love being a teacher and bringing the wonder of science exploration to my students,” Harrell said. “Every child deserves to be given the opportunity to do hands-on STEM activities in the classroom, and I’m dedicated to fostering this process. I’m honored and humbled to be considered for this prestigious award and am grateful to New Mexico for choosing me as a finalist to represent our beautiful state.”

In February, the White House announced the 2020 PAEMST award winners, including New Mexico teachers Silvia Miranda of Mesa Elementary School in Clovis Municipal Schools (mathematics) and Hope Cahill of El Dorado Community School in Santa Fe Public Schools (science).

The 2021 winners have yet to be announced. New Mexico’s state finalists for 2021 are:

Math finalists:

  • Teresa Butcher of Laguna-Acoma High School, Grants/Cibola County Schools;
  • Marila Mancha-Garcia of NextGen Academy High School, Albuquerque Public Schools;
  • Tara Palomares of Sandia High School, Albuquerque Public Schools

Science finalist:

  • Lesha Harenberg of Eldorado High School, Albuquerque Public Schools

Each year, state selection committees composed of mathematicians, scientists, and math-science educators select up to six state finalists to present to the national program.

State finalists represent the most outstanding teachers New Mexico has to offer and serve as both a model and an inspiration to students and fellow teachers.

A national committee with the same expert composition then recommends up to 108 teachers to receive PAEMST awards from the White House.

The award goes to up to two teachers — mathematics or science — from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Territories and schools operated in the United States and overseas by the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Historically, PAEMST awardees receive a trip to Washington, D.C., where they attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities. They also receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, a presidential certificate, and join an elite cohort of award-winning teachers who can influence state/jurisdiction and national STEM teaching.

Judy Robinson

March 11, 2022

PED updates COVID mask, testing guidance

Updated ‘toolkit’ lets districts decide what’s best for their communities

SANTA FE — The newest version of a digital “toolkit” to help school administrators navigate the COVID-19 pandemic allows districts and charter schools to set their own face mask policies and to accept easy, over-the-c0unter home tests in place of school-based testing programs.

The only remaining state-mandated mask requirement is for those returning to school from five days of self isolation after testing positive: They must wear a mask for days six through 10.

“My colleagues and I are delighted that declining infection rates have allowed us to turn more decision-making over to the district and charter school leaders who know their communities best,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “We’ve waited a long time – working hard and learning as we went – to get to this point. My greatest hope is we can continue safely learning and teaching in-person.”

The new toolkit, dated March 10, lifts requirements that schools provide COVID testing programs for students, allowing instead results from a home antigen test along with a signed assurance for all testing purposes. Two rapid antigen tests taken 24-48 hours apart may be used to rule out COVID in symptomatic individuals.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced an end to the state’s mask mandate for indoor public places on Feb. 17, and a new public health order that day allowed school districts to set their own masking policies. As of this week, 34 of 149 (23%) of schools and districts that reported data to PED indicated they were still requiring face masks.

The new PED guidance also waives the requirement for schools to provide voluntary student testing programs to detect COVID-19 outbreaks as early as possible by screening asymptomatic individuals. They also may drop test-to-stay programs, which were initiated in November to keep exposed but asymptomatic students and staff in school. Those programs allow students and staff members to continue participating in classes and extracurricular activities if they remain asymptomatic and test negative on multiple COVID tests.

The latest update allows schools to expand test-to-stay to include community exposure in addition to school exposure.

Quarantine guidance is unchanged in the updated toolkit: If a school drops test-to-stay, an individual with a known exposure to COVID-19 would have to stay home for five days, and anyone testing positive must still self-isolate for five days.

Other changes in the updated toolkit include:

  • Bell covers are no longer required for wind instruments.
  • Unvaccinated individuals may share sleeping quarters with other unvaccinated individuals. However, PED and the Department of Health recommend that schools get consent from families before allowing students to share sleeping quarters, particularly for unvaccinated students.
  • COVID-19 isolation rooms are no longer required. However, any student with a communicable illness (i.e. symptoms such as fever, cough, diarrhea, etc.) should be isolated from others.
  • Non-essential visitors, assemblies and field trips are allowed.

The updates to the toolkit take effect immediately.

Judy Robinson

March 3, 2022

Governor signs bill giving pay parity to Native American language and culture teachers

Certificate holders must be paid same as a Level 1 teacher

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham today signed legislation requiring those who teach Native American language and culture in New Mexico public schools to be paid the same as entry-level teachers.

House Bill 60, sponsored by Rep. Derrick Lente, establishes the minimum pay for teachers who hold Native American culture and language certificates as equal to what Level 1 teachers earn. After the governor signed Senate Bill 1 earlier this week, that minimum is now $50,000 a year.

“New Mexico is a state that honors and respects its heritage, and the eight native languages spoken here are a testament to that,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “The teachers who carry on this integral piece of the culture and history of so many in our state deserve to be paid as the educational professionals they are.”

“It’s past time to provide pay parity for our Native American language and culture teachers,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “We’ve promised to provide New Mexico students with a culturally responsive education, and that requires teachers who are deeply immersed in language and traditions that we stand to lose without their participation. This legislation should tell those individuals that we value them and the knowledge they bring to our classrooms.”

The Public Education Department issues certificates to individuals deemed by their pueblo, tribe or nation to be a Native American language and culture specialist. There are currently 155 certificate holders throughout the state. Previously, there was no state-required minimum salary for these language and culture teachers.

“Language is who we are. Language is the key to our cultural survival,” said Rep. Derrick Lente, the bill’s author. “The signing of House Bill 60 represents the remarkable perseverance and resilience of generations of our people who were never willing to compromise these gifts of our Creator. Today is a historic moment in our history and our journey as Indigenous people.”

“The Public Education Department is committed to providing students a culturally and linguistically responsive education because we know that fosters academic success,” said Lashawna Tso, the department’s assistant secretary for Indian Education. “This investment in those who teach indigenous languages is a strong step toward realizing the education vision our tribal communities have been asking for.”

Eight Native American languages are spoken in New Mexico: Tiwa, Tewa, Keres, Towa, Zuni, Navajo, Mescalero Apache and Jicarilla Apache.

Judy Robinson

March 3, 2022

PED secretary urges schools to add learning time

K-5 Plus, ELTP and K-12 Pilot all options to improve academic outcomes

SANTA FE — Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus concluded a series of regional meetings Wednesday in which he urged school leaders to add learning time for students in order to move the needle on educational outcomes in New Mexico and support student well-being.

“After nearly two years of disrupted learning caused by the pandemic, I think everyone with a stake in education now realizes the best tool for that purpose is time – specifically, time children spend with dedicated, highly educated classroom teachers,” Steinhaus said. “When we give kids more of that, their reading ability improves, their math skills grow, and their social and emotional well-being is enhanced.”

He carried that message to more than 100 superintendents and charter school leaders who attended seven regional meetings between Feb. 22 and Wednesday in Bloomfield, Taos, Roswell, Logan, Truth or Consequences, Los Lunas and Rio Rancho.

Traditionally, a typical school day in a U.S. school is about 6 ½ hours long, and a school year is around 180 days – chronologies established in earlier centuries, often to accommodate the needs of agriculture.

“That needs to change if our children are to thrive in a 21st century, global economy,” Steinhaus said. “The world is a more complex place than it used to be – there’s a lot more to learn than there was in the 1800s.”

He said extending learning time will help keep New Mexico students globally competitive, noting that many districts across the United States are adding classroom time, in part to keep up with India, Japan, China and other countries where students spend almost 30 days more in school than the typical American child.

Additional instructional time also has been shown to close achievement gaps between at-risk students – those who are English learners, who are economically disadvantaged and who have special needs, for example.

He urged superintendents and charter school leaders to work with their governing boards and communities to adopt one of three state-funded programs to lengthen learning time:

  • The Extended Learning Time Program adds 10 days to the school calendar (eight days for four-day-a-week districts.) This program is particularly appropriate to help students cross the bridge from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school. ELTP has a defined focus on social and emotional learning, and districts and schools design their own programs. Forty-eight districts and 74 state and local charter schools are already participating. Many have established partnerships with businesses and community members to give students an experience based in career-technology during ELTP days. Added bonus: Teachers can increase their salary by 3% annually for participating – on top of the minimum 7% pay raise approved by the Legislature.
  • The K-5 Plus program adds 25 days at the start of the school calendar for the youngest learners (20 days for four-day-a-week districts.) Twelve districts and five charter schools participated in 2020-21, and 16 districts and seven charters are involved this school year. The program was designed to give kindergarten through second-graders a 25-day jump at the start of the school year to help build relationships with the teacher and set the foundation for literacy work. It later expanded to include third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. Just like ELTP, districts and schools design their own programs, which can focus on community-based learning, STEAM and STEM projects, youth leadership or social-emotional learning. Added bonus: A 3% salary increase for participating teachers, on top of the minimum 7% all educators are getting.
  • The K-12 Pilot expands K-5 Plus through high school graduation. The objective is to demonstrate that increased time for all students narrows the achievement gap between at-risk and other students, increases cognitive skills and leads to higher student achievement. K-12 Pilot does not have to be school-wide, and participating districts and charters can choose which grades to begin with and grow the program. School districts with large Native American populations or with fewer than 200 students (listed as rural and remote districts) will be prioritized for the pilot funding and may apply for added flexibility to consolidate sites/classes.
  • The Public Education Department is offering planning grants for districts and state-chartered schools that can’t decide. These grants can be used to fund additional professional development for teachers or to hold community meetings or organize focus groups to help determine which option fits a community best.

Steinhaus also used the regional meetings to discuss education-related legislation passed during the session that ended Feb. 16, including the rollout plan for educator pay raises. Legislators raised minimum salaries by $10,000 for each of the state’s three teaching tiers and approved a 7% raise for all educators.

The tier minimums will take effect in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. The 7% raises will be implemented in two steps: School employees will get 3% in the current fiscal year in the form of a one-time salary adjustment; then they will receive raises averaging 4% on contracts beginning after July 1.

Additionally, teachers who participate in the K-5 Plus or Extended Learning Time Program will receive an additional 3% – meaning their raises could total 10%.

“I am very grateful to the New Mexico Legislature for funding these well deserved raises for our teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers – everyone who works to keep our schools open. They’re out there on the front lines every day with kids, and we are so grateful for their work,” Steinhaus said.

Judy Robinson

Feb. 25, 2022

PED secretary’s statement on shooting death of West Mesa High School student

SANTA FE – Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus issued the following statement today regarding the shooting death of a West Mesa High School student in Albuquerque:

“When Superintendent Elder called, we immediately mobilized a team with Public Education Department and Department of Health staff to be on call to provide mental health and social supports to the impacted families and staff at West Mesa High School. We will continue to offer these supports for as long as needed. Every school in New Mexico has a safety plan, and we’re going to review those to make sure we are doing all we can to implement preventative measures.”

Judy Robinson

Feb. 22, 2022

PED secretary begins statewide listening tour

School leaders invited to seven regional meetings

Secretary Steinhaus is interviewed by Farmington High Media students.

SANTA FE – Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus will be on the road this week and next to hold seven regional meetings with New Mexico school leaders to update them on legislation and answer questions.

While on the road today, Steinhaus also will visit Mesa Verde Elementary School in Farmington, one of New Mexico’s three National Blue Ribbon Schools in 2021, and participate in interviews with media students at Farmington High School in Farmington.

School leaders – superintendents and charter leaders – are invited to attend the regional meeting nearest them. All of the meetings will follow the same agenda, with Steinhaus speaking for the first 30 minutes followed by a question-answer session for 1.5 hours.

“My message will be the same at each stop: We have to move the needle on public education in New Mexico, and we know the best way to do that is to capitalize on every opportunity for face-to-face learning,” Steinhaus said. “I’ll be asking school leaders to determine how best to do that for their communities.”

Steinhaus also will summarize key education bills passed in the 2022 legislative session, including higher teacher minimum salaries, 7% pay raises for all educators, and pay parity for Native language teachers.


  • Today, Bloomfield School District Office, Bloomfield


  • Wednesday, Feb. 23, Boardroom, Taos Municipal Schools Administration Building, Taos


  • Thursday, Feb. 24, Roswell Independent Schools Boardroom, Roswell


  • Friday, Feb. 25, Logan Municipal Schools Boardroom, Logan


  • Monday, Feb. 28, Hot Springs High School, Truth or Consequences


  • Tuesday, March 1, Los Lunas Boardroom, Los Lunas
  • Wednesday, March 2, Rio Rancho Public Schools Training Center Boardroom, Rio Rancho

Carolyn Graham

Feb. 22, 2022

Session ends with significant investments in education

Winning investments include Indian Ed Fund, literacy, community schools

SANTA FE — New Mexico public education got a historic $3.8 billion boost in the 2022 legislative session that ended today, with funding to cover record teacher pay raises and other initiatives to combat the educator workforce crisis. The session also concludes with investments to improve instruction in literacy and indigenous languages and to expand the community schools strategy and other evidence-based programs.

“New Mexico is remarkably lucky to have a Legislature that understands the incredible challenges our children face and steps up again and again to fund evidence-based programs to help them overcome those challenges and thrive,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “My PED colleagues and I are grateful for the leadership of this administration and honored by this deep trust placed in us, and we promise to continue building a world-class education system to serve every New Mexico child.”

These are some of the major pro-education achievements of the 2022 legislative session:

Educator Workforce Crisis

  • $180.3 million: Every New Mexico educator will receive at least a 7% pay raise in the fiscal year beginning July 1;
  • $76.7 million: Teacher minimum salaries will increase to $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000, depending on the state’s experience-based tiers (a $10,000 bump at each level);
  • $10 million: No school employee will earn less than $15 per hour;
  • $15.5 million: New Mexico teacher preparation programs will offer more teacher residencies to ensure educator diversity and fill high-need teaching positions in the state. (In addition, the Legislature added $50 million for endowed faculty positions in teacher preparation programs at New Mexico colleges and universities.)
  • $500,000: More educators will receive scholarships to apply for National Board Certification this year.

Extended Learning Time

  • $22 million: In order to give students more time to engage in quality time with teachers, the Legislature provided for K-12 Plus Pilot programs that allow districts flexibility in creating their own programs.
  • $21 million: This appropriation provides for planning grants that allow districts to work with communities to design K-12 Plus programs.

Indian Education

  • $15 million: The Legislature tripled last year’s appropriation to the Indian Education Fund, which supports tribal education departments, school districts and charter schools in providing indigenous language and cultural instruction and other programs.
  • $1.25 million: Indigenous language and culture teachers certified by tribes, nations and pueblos will now be paid the same as Level 1 teachers.
  • $2 million: This appropriation will pay for planning and designing new tribal libraries.
  • The Legislature also provided additional funding to tribal education departments to partner with school districts and charter schools to offer an extended learning time program called K-12 Plus for Native American students.


  • $11.5 million: The Public Education Department will expand its LETRS training to teachers in grades three through five. Teachers in kindergarten through second grade have already received the training, which provides a deeper understanding of the science of reading and evidence-based strategies to support all students, particularly those who experience reading challenges.

Community Schools

  • $8 million: The Legislature increased last year’s $5 million appropriation to $8 million to continue expanding the proven community schools strategy across the state. Community schools are existing schools that receive grants to develop programs and services that fall within four broad evidence-based strategies: Integrated student supports, expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities, active family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership and practices.

Additional highlights:

  • $10 million to expand Career and Technical education and fund additional workplace learning;
  • $15 million to provide at-risk students with academic and behavioral interventions;
  • $10 million for technology and Informational Technology staffing to continue closing the digital divide.

Carolyn Graham

Feb. 22, 2022

New social studies standards for schools adopted

Final rule incorporates comments from parents, educators, stakeholders

SANTA FE — The Public Education Department has adopted a rule to replace the state’s outdated social studies standards for public schools, concluding a months-long process involving hundreds of New Mexico stakeholders to update what students learn about the changing world.

The rule, which establishes academic content and performance standards for social studies for kindergarten through 12th grade, was adopted Feb. 10, concluding the 17-month rule-making process. The standards will not be implemented in classrooms until the 2023-2024 school year.

The adopted rule incorporates changes based on feedback received during a 45-day public comment period after the rule was first proposed Sept. 1, including 2,900 pages of written feedback and more than five hours of oral comments given during a public hearing Nov. 12.

“We are incredibly grateful to the many New Mexicans who got involved in this important process. That includes the teachers from across the state who stepped up to write and edit the standards and the many parents and community members who provided valuable feedback that we’ve incorporated into this final, improved version,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “Together, we’ve given our kids what they deserve, which are the highest standards possible.”

The implementation phase, including development of site-specific curricula and professional development for teachers, will continue through the 2022-2023 school year. Students will see the new standards in the classroom beginning in school year 2023-2024.

Goals of the standards-writing process were to include historic events and social changes that have occurred since the last update in 2009 and to ensure that all children see themselves reflected in culturally and linguistically responsive classrooms where the rich backgrounds and perspectives of all New Mexicans come alive.

“The new social studies standards are a celebration of the best in public education. They demonstrate historical accuracy and, most importantly, provide the framework for educators and students to engage in meaningful discourse about the story of ourselves and our future,” said Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment, who oversaw the standards revision process.

While the state establishes standards that serve as a framework for academic instruction, local school boards and governing boards will determine how students achieve the learning goals.

“Local control in implementing these standards is so important. I know school leaders across the state will be working hard to develop curricula that align with the standards and best suit the needs of their communities,” said Stan Rounds, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of Educational Leaders.

Standards for academic disciplines are typically updated every 10 years to keep up with new discoveries and developments in the discipline as well as historical events. For example, the new social studies standards include – where age appropriate – three presidential administrations since 2009, the death of Osama Bin Laden and a worldwide recession.

“These revisions provide a structure for introducing historically accurate information in our social studies classrooms that values the perspectives and backgrounds of all New Mexico students,” said Jacqueline Costales, the Public Education Department’s director of Curriculum and Instruction.

Public feedback resulted in three major changes to the standards: the inclusion of personal financial literacy; language revision throughout to be more concise, cohesive and balanced; and editing throughout to assure the standards describe high-level expectations without suggesting curriculum – the strategies educators employ to teach standards.

“New Mexico will now join 45 states that have adopted strong personal finance standards,” said Abenicio Baldonado, Education Reform director for Think New Mexico. “Our students will not only benefit from learning how to manage their own finances, but will also bring these skills home to their parents, grandparents and other family members, helping to combat intergenerational poverty.”

The revision process began in July 2020, when the Public Education Department convened a committee of statewide stakeholders, including experts in the social studies disciplines, representatives from New Mexico higher education institutions, and tribal and Diné education representatives, to identify areas that needed updating and establish core principles for the work.

The department then appointed a writing committee of 61 New Mexico social studies teachers in K-12 schools from across the state who responded to an open call to participate. The writers completed their work in late summer and the proposed rule was submitted Sept. 1, followed by the 45-day public comment period.

When the comment period ended Nov. 12, PED invited members of the writing committee to join a revision committee, and 29 of the original writers did so. The revision committee reviewed and analyzed public comment, then revised the original rule, resulting in the new social studies standards.

“During the revision work, I, alongside amazing educators from all walks of life, took the time to dig deep into the feedback we received from the public,” said Janisse Vasquez, a teacher at The ASK Academy in Rio Rancho who served on the writing and revision teams. “We appreciated hearing from all viewpoints and taking into consideration everything the public and fellow educators had to say about what makes strong standards. In the end, with much work, we were able to revise the standards and create a product all stakeholders are proud to implement.”

The adopted rule will be published in the New Mexico Register on Feb. 22. The Public Education Department next will work with school boards, governing councils and tribal education leaders to develop and implement site-specific curricula and professional development for classroom teachers.

Judy Robinson

Feb. 10, 2022

2 NM educators receive Presidential Teaching Awards

Silvia Miranda honored in math, Hope Cahill honored in science

Silvia Miranda

Hope Cahill

SANTA FE — Two New Mexico elementary school teachers are recipients of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation’s highest honor for teaching in science, technology, engineering and math.

Silvia Miranda of Mesa Elementary School in Clovis Municipal Schools received the K–6 mathematics award, and Hope Cahill of El Dorado Community School in Santa Fe Public Schools is the K–6 science awardee, the White House announced today.

Miranda taught fourth grade for eight years at Mesa Elementary, where she is now a reading specialist for kindergarten through second grade. She is a 2020 National Science Teaching Association Teacher Awards finalist and a 2018 Milken Educator Award recipient. In addition, she was Clovis Teacher of the Year in 2018 and a New Mexico Teacher of the Year finalist. She was a state ambassador for the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network for two years and served on the state Secretary’s Teacher Advisory.

Cahill has been teaching sixth and seventh grade science at El Dorado Community School since 2012. She developed an instructional unit around the study of the Socorro magma body that mirrors the work of field scientists. That work was featured in the summer 2021 edition of “The Earth Scientist,” a quarterly journal of the National Earth Science Teachers Association. She is also a group leader in STEM Santa Fe’s STEM Pathways for Girls, a conference for girls in fifth through eighth grades, and previously served on the planning committee.

The Presidential Awards are the nation’s highest distinction for teaching in science, technology, engineering, mathematics or computer science. Awardees are recognized for their contributions to teaching and learning, along with their ability to help students make progress in science, technology, engineering, mathematics or computer science. In addition to honoring individual achievement, the goal of the awards program is to showcase the highest standards of STEM teaching.

Each year, a national committee of prominent mathematicians, scientists, education researchers, district-level personnel and classroom teachers recommends up to 108 teachers to receive PAEMST awards. Up to two teachers — mathematics or science — are chosen from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Territories and schools operated in the United States and overseas by the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Historically, awardees receive a certificate signed by the president and a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities. They also receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. In 2022, awardees will be recognized virtually later this month and at an in-person event as soon as COVID travel allows.

Since Congress established the Presidential Awards in 1983, more than 5,200 teachers have been honored.

Judy Robinson

Feb. 8, 2022

New Mexicans step up to support teachers, families

Nearly 1,000 apply for substitute teaching licenses in 20 days

SANTA FE – New Mexico has experienced a dramatic increase in substitute teacher applications since launching an initiative to encourage National Guard members and state employees to fill in as substitute teachers and temporarily waiving licensure fees.

The innovative Supporting Teachers and Families (STAF) initiative announced Jan. 19 provides critical support for New Mexico’s schools and childcare facilities, keeping students in class in the face of staffing challenges caused by the pandemic. In addition, the Public Education Department waived all fees for educator licenses and background-checks through March to make it easier for any New Mexican to serve as a substitute teacher.

As a result, the Public Education Department has received 988 substitute teacher license applications and issued 473 new licenses since Jan. 19. By comparison, the department received 89 substitute applications in about the same period of 2021.

“I am so grateful to the many New Mexicans who have joined me in stepping up to assist our kids, families and educators during this difficult time,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “That said, we are clear that this is a temporary situation, and we are working with the Legislature to bolster our educators and school staff through increased pay and resources.”

The governor joined New Mexicans from around the state in volunteering as a substitute teacher last month, completing the licensing process and required training before serving in a Santa Fe elementary school classroom in January. She will return to the classroom later this month.

Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus estimated Jan. 19 that New Mexico schools had an immediate need for 1,000 substitute teachers.

“When word got out about the tremendous need for substitute teachers to keep schools open for in-person learning, New Mexicans stepped up in droves,” Steinhaus said. “We are so proud of our state and so grateful for this support.”

Through the governor’s STAF initiative, state employees are granted administrative leave to serve as substitute teachers, and Guard members are placed on active duty. Neither group receives additional pay from districts or schools.

The Public Education Department has issued 207 substitute licenses to state employees and National Guard members in the last 20 days and 266 to other New Mexicans who also applied and who will be paid as substitute teachers. Hundreds more are being processed.

In mid-January, when Gov. Lujan Grisham implemented the STAF initiative, many schools were being forced to shift to online learning due to COVID infections and exposures among staff members – both of which require five days of isolation or quarantine. Shifts to remote learning disrupt both students and families, who often must miss work or arrange childcare on short notice.

All substitute teachers – including volunteers through the STAF program – must obtain a license, which includes undergoing a background check and completing an online substitute teaching workshop. The Public Education Department has waived licensure fees through March.

Anyone with a high school diploma can apply to be a substitute teacher. More information and details on the application process are available here.


New Mexico Public Education Department logo

Judy Robinson

LANL Foundation logo

Alvin Warren

Feb. 8, 2022

Report: NM poised to transform education statewide

New research, investments target career-based learning

SANTA FE — New Mexico is well positioned to transform the high school experience and high school outcomes with a game-changing expansion of educational pathways to college and career, according to a report released today by the New Mexico Public Education Department and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation.

The New Mexico Comprehensive College and Career Pathways Assessment Report highlights innovative practices already occurring in New Mexico schools and recommends parallel and interconnected actions that schools, districts, tribes and the state should take to expand these practices statewide.

Doing so would address college and career readiness requirements from the district court ruling in the Martinez and Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit, which demanded improvements to public education in New Mexico, particularly for low-income students, Native American students, English-language learners, and students with disabilities.

Jointly, the Public Education Department and Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation commissioned the report to identify and assess college and career readiness initiatives that have been implemented by schools, communities, the state, and tribes.

“What New Mexico needs is an all-embracing strategy that weaves together promising local college and career-readiness practices that can be scaled up to every school,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said.

The report recommends how schools and districts across New Mexico can pursue a comprehensive, three-pronged strategy to support college and career pathways for all students:

  1. Career Technical Education must be incorporated into core academics – math, science and social studies, for example – so every student has access.
  2. Every student must have access to work-based learning through internships and apprenticeships arranged by their schools through partnerships with employers. The result would be students graduating with both work experience and contacts.
  3. Every student must receive personalized support with attention to college and career advising and accelerated instruction in reading, writing and math.

“New Mexico is already doing some of these things and doing them well. But we know that when schools do all of these things together, graduation rates increase and college attendance rates increase,” said Alvin Warren, vice president of Career Pathways and Advocacy for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, a partner with the PED in funding the report.

Ultimately, the report recommends a four-year pilot program to expand comprehensive college and career pathways, building on strengths already present in the state. Results of the pilot would guide the design of a statewide plan that shifts how education agencies and schools approach college and career preparation and ultimately how students are supported throughout their education journey.

The findings come as the New Mexico Legislature is considering a new $10 million investment in high school transformation through expanded Career and Technical Education.

This funding for the Public Education Department’s CTE initiatives would provide direct support to districts, state charters and Bureau of Indian Education-funded high schools to implement career awareness and preparation programs. The goal is to give every New Mexico high school student access to rigorous, industry-aligned Career and Technical Education and workplace experience.

More than 75% of New Mexico students who are involved in Career Technical Education are low income.

The funding request is included in the massive appropriations bill approved by the House of Representatives last week and now before the Senate.

New Mexico began supporting CTE in earnest in FY21 by launching the Next Gen CTE initiative with nearly $500,000 to support programs that build employability skills. FY21 funding also allowed 13 districts and charters to add career exploration programs. The FY23 request now before the Legislature would allow expansion to additional schools, support the report’s recommended pilot program, launch new programs of study and expand career exploration programs to reach more middle school students.

Prior to the state offering funding, only 22 districts were offering federally funded CTE. In 2021-22, state Next Gen CTE funds support 71 districts and 32 charters. Together, they offered 54 programs of study in 11 industry clusters.

The report highlights the valuable lessons learned and progress made from successful college and career readiness initiatives already under way in New Mexico, including:

  • Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
  • Blended School Year programs
  • Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSO)
  • College Horizons’ readiness programs
  • Early College High Schools
  • High School Redesign Network
  • High Schools That Work (HSTW) (Southern Regional Education Board)
  • Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG)
  • Leadership Schools Network
  • Linked Learning / Comprehensive College and Career Pathways
  • Native American Community Academy (NACA) Inspired Schools Network
  • New Mexico Work-Based Learning Initiative (WBLI-PED)
  • Next Gen CTE Initiative
  • New Mexico Regional Education Cooperatives (REC)

It also highlights several communities and schools doing this work, including Health Leadership High School in Albuquerque, where every course offering has a college and career-readiness angle.

“Preparing future young leaders for life after graduation and post-secondary opportunities requires that educators think beyond traditional strategies of instruction,” said Leticia Archuleta, executive director at Health Leadership High School. “The New Mexico Comprehensive College and Career Pathways highlight these efforts and learning opportunities for our unique communities throughout the state.”

Judy Robinson

Feb. 3, 2022

House approves $3.87B for public schools

Funding for schools included in massive appropriations bill

SANTA FE – The House of Representatives today approved a historic $3.87 billion budget for New Mexico public schools that provides funding to address the educator workforce crisis and unfinished learning along with continued investments to raise academic outcomes for Native American students, English learners, students with special needs, and students who are economically disadvantaged.

“We are incredibly grateful that these legislators understand the tremendous need for another significant investment in PreK through higher education and targeted programs to ensure equitable opportunities for every New Mexican child,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said.

“The strong alignment between the executive budget request and the bill passed today in the House shows that our state believes in the capacity of our children to excel in the classroom and succeed in life if we provide the resources they need,” Steinhaus said.

The spending request is included in the massive appropriations bill, which the House approved on a 56-13 vote. It is an increase of more than $400 million (11.7%) over the current budget for schools.

The budget would address the educator workforce crisis with $180.3 million to give all school personnel an average 7% pay increase and $76.7 million to raise teacher minimum salaries to $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 depending on tier. Together, those changes would result in an average teacher salary of about $64,000. Additionally, the budget would provide:

  • $3 million for teacher professional development
  • $500,000 to support teachers seeking National Board Certification.
  • $5.5 million for Teacher Residencies
  • $6 million for paid student teaching
  • $5 million for loan repayment for teachers
  • $20 million for scholarships for teacher candidates

New Mexico’s chronic teacher shortage nearly doubled last year to 1,000 vacancies.

Other priorities in the funding bill include:

  • $11.5 million for professional development for teachers in the Science of Reading to improve literacy in this state-sponsored Year of Literacy;
  • $15 million to the Indian Education Fund for tribal education departments, tribal libraries and Native American language programs;
  • $8 million to expand and sustain the state’s Community Schools initiative, which allows existing schools to implement specific strategies to provide students with whatever they need to be academically successful by leveraging community resources;
  • $10 million to launch an integrated, statewide approach to high school Career Technical Education;
  • $15 million for at-risk interventions, which are strategies to support students such as behavioral health, tutoring and family engagement.
  • $10 million for emergency educational technology and IT staffing.

The bill goes next to the state Senate, which could amend, approve or reject the measure in the remaining days of the 30-day legislative session, which ends at noon on Feb. 17.

Judy Robinson

Feb. 2, 2022

Kurt Steinhaus confirmed as Public Education secretary

Senate approves Governor’s cabinet appointment

SANTA FE – Kurt Steinhaus was confirmed by the Senate today as cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Public Education Department following his appointment in August by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

“Secretary Steinhaus is exactly the advocate that schools, educators, kids and families need and deserve. He has spent his entire career dedicated to improving educational outcomes in New Mexico and is uniquely qualified to lead the Public Education Department. It is clear that he has the respect of educators, stakeholders and advocates from around the state,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

The floor vote was 37-4 following a 9-2 vote earlier in the day by the Senate Rules Committee.

Since taking the helm six months ago, Steinhaus has launched New Mexico’s Year of Literacy, worked with tribal leaders on the state’s response to the Martinez-Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit, created advisory programs for teachers (State Ambassadors) and community members (the Secretary’s Community Advisory) and shaved the agency’s vacancy gap by filling 33 empty positions.

“It’s an awesome opportunity to help provide leadership across New Mexico. It’s a job I’ve been working toward my whole career,” Steinhaus said. “As secretary, I consider it my responsibility to serve as the state’s instructional leader and chief executive officer for education while working closely with school leaders and the community and setting a tone and defining the strategic direction for student success.

“My goals are to involve teachers, other education leaders, tribal leaders, the legislature, students, and universities as partners in identifying the path forward and in measuring progress. I also want to establish a broad-based coalition to support every single child in the areas of well-being and academic achievement. I want to support our teachers and all the staff who are part of the education system. And I want to do all that while building essential relationships within the Public Education Department and across the state, including legislators and deans of colleges of education,” Steinhaus said.

“I believe in the abilities of our students and staff. I support the hard-working and dedicated team at the Public Education Department – a continuous improvement agency. Together we can meet the incredible challenges facing our schools. I believe in the strength of New Mexico’s diverse communities and in the inherent value of our multilingualism, reliance, creativity, culture and compassion for one another,” he said.

Steinhaus came to the cabinet position following a lengthy and distinguished career in New Mexico public education, most recently as superintendent of Los Alamos Public Schools, the position from which he retired in May.

He began as a classroom educator, teaching from 1976 through 1988 at Alamogordo Public Schools, where he also served as a department chair.

Between 1988 and 2008, Steinhaus served in various challenging roles at what was then the state Department of Education and later the Public Education Department. His titles at the state agency included director of educational technology, director of the state data management unit, chief information officer, assistant superintendent for accountability and information services and eventually deputy secretary. In that final role he managed the multibillion-dollar agency budget and contributed to a new state pre-K initiative.

Steinhaus also directed education programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory for nine years – some of them overlapping his service at the state agency.

Steinhaus holds master’s degrees from the University of Oregon, in science, and Eastern New Mexico University, in music, as well as a doctorate of education from the University of New Mexico, where his dissertation was about statewide intervention strategies for educational technology in New Mexico schools.

“We are delighted at the action to confirm Kurt as secretary of Public Education. He fits the mold of what is needed for New Mexico schools and comes from our New Mexico school superintendent ranks, which makes him uniquely qualified to serve as secretary,” said Stan Rounds, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition of Education Leaders and the New Mexico Superintendents Association.

“Dr. Kurt Steinhaus’ nomination and confirmation as secretary of New Mexico’s Public Education Department is well deserved,” said MaryBeth Weeks, president of the New Mexico Parent Teacher Association. “I have known Dr. Steinhaus for many years, beginning in the Los Alamos Public Schools, and consider him to be a strong advocate for public education. Dr. Steinhaus has shown himself to be thoughtful, receptive to feedback from diverse perspectives, and dedicated to the success of public education at all levels. I am confident he will continue to be a leading voice within New Mexico’s education community.”

Steinhaus, 67, succeeds Ryan Stewart, who served for two years before resigning at the end of August for family reasons.

Judy Robinson

Feb. 1, 2022

New hotline offers help for quarantined students

Support available for K-12 students in both English and Spanish

SANTA FE – The Public Education Department today launched a Quarantine Response Hotline to provide on-demand technical support and homework help to students who are missing school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hotline, 800-805-1192, is available to quarantined and self-isolating K-12 students in districts and charter schools participating in ENGAGE New Mexico, a Public Education Department program created early in the pandemic to help keep students engaged in learning.

“As the pandemic evolves, we have to pivot again and again to embrace new strategies,” said Public Education Secretary (Designate) Kurt Steinhaus. “A year ago, that meant remote learning. In the current Omicron surge, we have a lot of students missing class because they’re required to isolate or quarantine. Last year’s remote-learning options aren’t always available, so offering this homework hotline is another pivot to meet student needs.”

Eligible students can call the hotline between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday to get connected to an academic success coach provided by the Graduation Alliance, the Public Education Department’s ENGAGE New Mexico partner. Video chats are also available to students needing more in-depth assistance, and callers can choose to receive help in English or Spanish.

Students who are missing school due to the COVID-19 pandemic do not have to be referred to the ENGAGE New Mexico program for ongoing support to get help from the hotline, and there is no cost to students, districts or charter schools.

The Public Education Department partnered with Graduation Alliance in spring 2020 to provide individual academic coaches for students in grades K-12 and their families who might be struggling amid remote learning. In its first year, ENGAGE New Mexico provided more than 11,000 “interventions” – the program’s term for student coaching sessions.

Find out here if your district or state-chartered school is participating in ENGAGE New Mexico.

Judy Robinson

Feb. 1, 2022

PED waives all educator license application fees

Temporary program could save some teachers hundreds of dollars

SANTA FE – Amid an ongoing educator workforce crisis, the Public Education Department announced today it is waiving all fees for license applications and background checks through the end of March to encourage New Mexicans to apply for a wide range of school jobs.

“New Mexico needs teachers and educational assistants and counselors and school nurses. The list goes on and on,” said Secretary (Designate) Kurt Steinhaus, who first revealed the plan during a Senate Education Committee hearing Monday. “By waiving the fee to get one of these licenses, we hope to send a message loud and clear that we want you and need you.”

The announcement expands on the Public Education Department’s move Jan. 19 to temporarily waive the $50 application fee for new or renewing substitute teachers and educational assistants. That aligned with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Supporting Teachers and Families program to encourage state government employees and National Guard members to volunteer as substitute teachers.

Since then, the department has received 559 applications for substitute teaching licenses (including 48 over the weekend) and issued 266. The others are pending submission of missing documents or a background check. The department also received 206 applications for educational assistant licenses and issued 102.

The Public Education Department issues 35 specific educator licenses in five categories: administrators, teachers, instructional support providers (counselors, nurses, interpreters, for example), support providers (educational assistants, coaches and substitute teachers, for example) and school business officials.

Fees vary depending on the license, ranging from $35 for an athletic or attendance coach to $320 for a teacher seeking an advanced license by submitting a professional development dossier. Applying for a first-time K-8 teaching license usually costs $150, and renewal is $120.

Every license requires a background check conducted by an outside contractor, usually at a cost of $44. That fee, too, has been waived through March 31.

“We encourage educators to use this opportunity to renew existing licenses and apply for advanced licenses at no cost,” said Seana Flanagan, the department’s director of Educator Quality and Ethics. “We are delighted to be able to offer this savings to the hard-working individuals who keep our public schools running and our children learning.”

Judy Robinson

Feb. 1, 2022

Free, virtual: Register now for Family Literacy Academy

Workshop series to help families, caregivers help kids learn to read

SANTA FE – Registration is now open for a series of three workshops to help families and caregivers learn strategies to help young readers improve their literacy skills at home.

The Public Education Department, in partnership with TNTP (formerly known as The New Teacher Project), is offering the virtual Family Literacy Academy, with sessions in Spanish and English, over February, March and April.

All workshops begin at 5 p.m. The first will be held Feb. 15 in English and Feb. 17 in Spanish and will focus on background knowledge and vocabulary. The second will be held March 29 in English and March 31 in Spanish and will focus on print concepts and fluency. The third, on April 26 (English) and April 28 (Spanish), will focus on comprehension.

Register here for the English workshops
Register here for the Spanish workshops

Participants will get information, tools and strategies to help young readers in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. All sessions will offer breakout rooms by grade level bands to give participants targeted support for building literacy skills in the home.

“You’ll learn similar techniques to what your child’s teacher is using to teach reading at school, but through fun strategies that will fit right into your daily routine at home,” said Katherine Avery, the Public Education Department’s director of Strategic Outreach. “Teachers study the science of reading, but you don’t have to have an education degree to apply science-of-reading strategies at home. We’ll get you started at the Family Literacy Academy.”

Participants will learn about “structured literacy” programs, which help children build skills sequentially and logically – starting with foundational skills like decoding symbols into words and building up to spelling, expanded vocabulary, comprehension and writing.

The structured literacy approach helps every child learn to read, but it’s essential for children with dyslexia, a learning disability that can make learning to read especially hard.

Up to 20% of the population displays signs of dyslexia by some estimates, which is why New Mexico is now screening every first-grade student for signs of dyslexia. The screening is not a diagnosis, but it helps educators intervene early on if a child needs it before those challenges become ingrained in the upper grades.

Christian Naranjo

Jan. 31, 2022

SAT adapts to evolving needs of NM students, educators

Digital platform will provide shorter assessments, quicker results for students

SANTA FE – The PSAT and SAT, standardized tests widely used for scholarships and college admissions, will turn completely digital by 2024, College Board announced recently.

The New Mexico Public Education Department already offers a computer-based version of the current SAT in school each spring. However, all SAT and PSAT assessments will transition to a new digital-based format during the 2023- 2024 school year. The digital SAT will continue to be administered in a school or test center with a proctor present. If students do not have access to either, a device will be provided on test day.

In coordination with the digital transition, College Board announced several more revisions to the SAT assessment starting in 2024:

  • The SAT will be shorter—about two hours instead of three hours
  • Students and educators will receive scores faster—in days instead of weeks
  • Calculators will be allowed on the entire math section
  • The digital SAT score reports will also connect students to information and resources about local two-year colleges, workforce training programs and career options
  • States, districts and schools will have more flexibility on where, when and how often they administer the SAT

“The announced changes to the SAT will help the evolving needs of New Mexico students and educators.” Public Education Secretary (Designate) Kurt Steinhaus said. “Not only will the digital platform allow for shorter assessments and quicker results, but providing students with more relevant college and career information will allow our students to be better-prepared for their next steps in life.”

The SAT will continue to be scored on a 1,600-point scale and connect students directly to scholarships. For additional information on the changes, visit Digital SAT Suite.

Judy Robinson

Jan. 28, 2022

Education stakeholders discuss workforce crisis

PED sponsors virtual Educator Workforce Summit

SANTA FE – New Mexico teacher ambassadors hosted a virtual summit this week to give education stakeholders from around the state an opportunity to discuss the educator workforce crisis and propose new solutions.

Ninety-one people participated in Wednesday afternoon’s Education Workforce Summit, sponsored by the Public Education Department’s State Ambassadors, a group of 24 teacher-leaders from across New Mexico who are leading ground-level efforts to build a robust and highly qualified educator workforce.

“We come together today to celebrate this profession and acknowledge it as a place of community, curiosity and creativity,” PED Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment said in opening remarks. “We need to honor this profession and move toward a strategy of healing. That’s my wish: Let’s move forward in a space of grounded hope.”

New Mexico’s teacher vacancy rate nearly doubled last year to 1,000 vacancies, according to researchers at New Mexico State University’s Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation & Policy Center. Teacher preparation programs nationally report lower admission and graduation rates. In New Mexico, 979 students completed an educator preparation program during the 2020-21 academic year, a decrease of 51 program completions compared to the year before.

John Sena, the department’s policy director, moderated a panel discussion, and Ambassadors led the breakout sessions that followed. Panelists were:

  • Miguel Serrano, Director of Human Resources for Las Cruces Public Schools;
  • Lorynn Guerrero, New Mexico 2022 Teacher of the Year and a teacher at New America School-Las Cruces;
  • Adriana Cuen Flavian, a State Ambassador and teacher at Santa Teresa Middle School in the Gadsden Independent School District;
  • Karen Ware, director NACA Inspired Schools Network;
  • Gene Strickland, superintendent, Hobbs Municipal Schools; and
  • Stacey Duncan, state director of Educators Rising NM.

Their suggestions for improving the educator pipeline included providing better funding and support, increasing teacher autonomy in the classroom, investing in community pathways and celebrating the profession.

“The perception is that it’s not cool to be a teacher,” Flavian said. “Teachers should be celebrated as superheroes.”

Ware said there are people in the Native American community who want to teach but are still working to earn a college degree.

“We see desire and commitment to community, but how do we create the pathways?” she asked. Ware also spoke of the importance of paying native language teachers at the same rate as other language teachers.

Serrano said Las Cruces has a lot of people with degrees who need an opportunity to learn more about the profession and opportunities for alternative certification.

Sena asked panelists if schools are doing a good job promoting education careers to students.

“I think we can do better,” Strickland said.

“The context of how education has been seen in our state hasn’t been pretty. High schoolers have grown up seeing their teachers not liking their jobs,” Duncan said.

The Ambassadors will compile a report based on actionable items from the summit to be presented to the HM18 Teacher Workforce Task Force. In addition, Ambassadors will continue their work through the 2022-23 school year around topics such as new teacher recruitment, veteran teacher retention and educator support.

Judy Robinson

Jan. 20, 2022

Public can see district spending on ‘Open Books’ website

New transparency portal established in response to legislation

SANTA FE — New Mexicans can now access detailed financial information about state-chartered schools, school districts and regional education cooperatives with a few clicks of a computer mouse.

Open Books is the Public Education Department’s new online financial reporting system, launched in response to Senate Bill 96, passed in the regular session in 2020.

The legislation appropriated $3 million for the department to develop an accessible financial reporting system that would allow comparison between schools, districts and regional education cooperatives on measures like administrative costs, salaries and benefits, and program costs.

“Open Books gives the public easy access to information about how educational tax dollars are being spent at the state, regional and local levels,’’ Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “We are pleased to offer New Mexicans a 21st century tool to access that information.”

The Open Books website includes financial data for school districts, state-chartered schools and regional education cooperatives. The department does not currently collect district school-level data, so that information is not included at this time. However, that data will be collected beginning in Fiscal Year 2023 (which begins July 1) and will be added to future versions of the Open Books site.

The department soft-launched the portal in mid-December to superintendents, charter leaders and district financial officers, who requested additional time to review the portal. A working group of district financial officers suggested changes, which the department continues to work on. The public launch was Jan. 11.

“Seeing the data for the first time through an analytics tool sparked some interesting questions which resulted in reworking some of the dashboards. With the help and advice of school district financial officers, we are able to launch a better tool,” said Mary Montoya, the PED Chief Information Officer and lead on the Open Books project.

The reporting system will allow anyone to determine how schools budget and spend funds, including expenditures to support at-risk students, offer bilingual and multicultural educational services and support special education students.

“Implementation is important so all stakeholders can have transparent access to see how allocations are spent. The current system does not assure that dollars are spent on students who generate the funds,” said Rep. Rebecca Dow, House sponsor of the legislation.

The portal aligns with state and national movements to improve transparency and accountability by providing the public with digital tools to easily access information on how tax dollars are spent.

A PED project team has been working for over a year to develop the online tool and will continue to refine it during the next few months. That work included holding focus groups where stakeholders suggested what information should be included and contracting with vendors to modify the existing financial database and create the new website.

PED then recruited pilot districts to provide school and special program data for Fiscal Year 2022, which began July 1.

Judy Robinson

Jan. 19, 2022

Hotline now open to report racism, bullying in schools

Black Education Act requirement now in place

SANTA FE — Students, family members and community members can now report school-based incidents of racial bias by calling a hotline maintained by the Public Education Department in compliance with 2021 legislation.

The Anti-Racism Anti-Oppression Hotline – 1-505-226-3911 – went live on Monday, the federal holiday marking the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Reports can also be submitted by text, email ( or by completing a form online at

The public can use the hotline to report incidents of racism, injustice or discrimination against anyone — not just Black students — in a school setting.

Callers will reach a trained department employee from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; if calling after hours, they can leave a message.

“Depending on the report, we will either refer the caller to additional resources or initiate an investigation,” said Deputy Secretary Vickie Bannerman, who is responsible for implementing House Bill 43, the Black Education Act. She has hired three people to assist with that work:

  • a Black education liaison, who is developing a five-year strategic plan for public elementary and secondary education of Black students;
  • a curriculum coordinator, who is working with the Higher Education Department to develop programs and instructional materials that recognize and teach Black culture and anti-racism, and that seek to improve job opportunities for Black New Mexicans in public and higher education; and
  • a hotline manager.

“I am excited about this first step that the PED Black Education Act team is taking in creating a safer learning environment for our children,” said Amy Whitfield, executive director of the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs. “A designated hotline for reporting racism opens the doors for families to be heard and appropriate action to be taken.”

The Black Education Advisory Council, also mandated by the legislation, met for the first time Dec. 12 to review language in the Black Education Act and set priorities for advising the state on ways to improve academic and social outcomes for Black students.

The state already had Indian Education, Hispanic Education and Bilingual Multicultural Education advisory councils.

The legislation, which took effect July 1, also requires:

  • Anti-racism policies in every district and state-chartered school;
  • Anti-racism training annually for all school staff;
  • An annual report to the governor and legislature on progress.

The 2020 four-year graduation rate for Black students in New Mexico was 74%, 3 points below the state average and 7 points below the average for white students

Judy Robinson

Jan. 14, 2022

Private school to pay civil fine for not requiring masks

Hope Christian drops request for hearing, to pay $5,000

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s largest private school has agreed to pay a $5,000 civil penalty for violating the state’s public health order requiring everyone on campus to wear a face covering to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Albuquerque’s Hope Christian School, which has almost 1,400 students enrolled in grades pre-K through 12, said in a Jan. 12 letter that it was dropping a request for an evidentiary hearing and paying the proposed fine. The letter was signed by Matthew Spangler, the school’s lawyer, and sent to Craig Erickson, an Albuquerque lawyer assigned to the case as an administrative hearing officer.

“Although the school does not agree that the Notice of Contemplated Action … is warranted, the School has made an economic decision to cease its dispute and conclude this matter,” the letter said. The school promised to pay the civil penalty within 10 days.

The state’s Public Health Order requires private schools to adhere to the same COVID-Safe Practices required by the Public Education Department for public schools. The PED has required face coverings for everyone regardless of vaccination status since July 26.

Officers from the Department of Public Safety on Sept. 21 hand-delivered a notice of violation signed by Department of Health General Counsel Billy Jimenez.

The Public Education Department provided the Department of Health with an Aug. 6 email in which Hope Christian Elementary Principal Robyn Taylor said the school would not require masks. Additional evidence included five photos taken Aug. 12 of unmasked individuals of all ages in hallways and an open space.

Hope Christian, founded in 1976, is non-denominational and co-educational.

The Public Education Department maintains an anonymous COVID Safety portal where anyone can register concerns and provide evidence in the form of photos, emails or other documents that COVID-Safe Practices are not being followed in schools.

Judy Robinson

Jan. 12, 2022

PED changes school quarantines to align with CDC guidance

Updated toolkit now requires boosters for staff to avoid quarantine

SANTA FE – Balancing new medical guidance with the Omicron surge, the Public Education Department today announced shorter quarantine and self-isolation requirements for students and staff.

Quarantines are reduced from 10 days to five for students and staff who have been exposed to COVID-19, and self-isolation is reduced from 10 days to five for those who test positive for the virus. Both changes align with guidance issued Dec. 27 by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and adopted Jan. 6 by the New Mexico Department of Health for the general population.

The updated guidance now requires a booster shot for school staff members to avoid quarantining if identified as a close contact. Previously, educators were not required to quarantine if they had completed the primary series – two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Those are the major changes in an updated COVID-19 Response Toolkit for New Mexico Public Schools, which the department released to superintendents and charter school leaders late Tuesday and to the public today.

“School-based infections are still relatively low, and we are cautiously optimistic that most schools can continue safe in-person learning with these modifications,” Public Education Secretary (Designate) Kurt Steinhaus said. “We remain committed to keeping students and school staff safe and healthy while maximizing opportunities for in-person learning.”

In addition to the new toolkit, the Public Education Department sent a memo Tuesday to school leaders recommending that all schools implement their Enhanced COVID-Safe Practices to mitigate spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

With 440 infections reported by schools on Tuesday and hospitals warning of a critical shortage of available beds, “those who need care may not be able to receive it,” the memo said.

In the fall, New Mexico public and private schools were required to develop and post a plan of Enhanced COVID-Safe Practices to implement in case of a COVID surge. The goal is to keep as many schools open for in-person learning as is safely possible.

The Public Education Department is monitoring school-based COVID cases daily, and sends notifications if case numbers reach 3% of a school’s population. The notification recommends implementing the Enhanced COVID-Safe Practices. If case numbers reach 5%, a school is required to implement the Enhanced CSPs.

As of Tuesday, 12 of New Mexico’s 847 public schools were above the 5% threshold.

The Test to Stay program is unchanged in the new toolkit except that testing now occurs on days one, three and five or on days two, four and five. Previously, testing was on days one, three and five or two, four and six.

The Test to Stay program allows school close contacts to continue coming to school and participating in school activities if they test negative on prescribed testing days.

In the memo, the Public Education Department assured school leaders that despite test shortages nationally, the Department of Health has secured adequate supplies of rapid antigen tests to implement the Test to Stay program. The state’s testing contractor, Premiere Medical Group has increased staffing but absences due to COVID infections have caused interruptions in testing schedules, the memo said.

Judy Robinson

Jan. 11, 2022

Special ed ombud seeks volunteers in every district

Position established by 2021 legislation to help families navigate program

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s new ombudsman for special education is seeking volunteers from all 89 school districts in the state to make sure every student needing special education services has an ally to help navigate the system.

“One person cannot do this for the entire state,” said Michelle Tregembo, who was hired in June to run the one-person Office for Special Education Ombud as a division of the New Mexico Developmental Disorders Council. “We would love to have a volunteer ombud in every New Mexico school district so we could serve as the coordinating and training hub.”

The office, which officially opened last month, and the council were established by legislation passed in the 2021 regular session. It was a priority bill of the governor’s. Previously, special education students and families relied on a network of advocacy organizations to help them request services, negotiate individual educational plans and raise concerns on behalf of a special needs child.

“This is a huge step forward to better serving our students with special needs,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “While the ombud’s office is not housed within the Public Education Department, we consider her work part of our mission and will do everything we can to promote and support it. For starters, we are encouraging districts and special education directors to get involved and help recruit volunteers for this program.”

The council plans to recruit regional directors, hire more staff and train volunteers with a goal of having an advocate in each district, said Alice Liu McCoy, director of the New Mexico Developmental Disorders Council.

“We’re developing a very rigorous training certification program,” McCoy said.

The only requirement to volunteer is a desire to help special needs students and their families and a flexible schedule in order to attend Individualized Education Plan meetings during the day as needed.

“It could be anyone. It could be a parent. It could be a retired teacher. It might also be younger people who are interested in getting into education,” said Tregembo, a former vice principal of Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque with 25 years of experience in special education.

In 2020, students with disabilities made up 15% of state graduates and they had the lowest graduation rate of any group at 66.4%.

The special education ombud serves as an independent advocate and watchdog for public school students and provides comprehensive support for families navigating the special education system. Duties include ensuring that students and parents receive complete and accurate information about the student’s rights, adequate services to meet the student’s needs and timely responses when they raise questions or express concerns.

Already, Tregembo is working with almost two dozen families, but she expects that number to grow quickly as word spreads, making it impossible for one person alone to represent every special education student in the state.

Students with disabilities were one of five student groups identified in a 2018 ruling in the Martinez-Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit on education equity. The court ruled that New Mexico was failing its obligation to provide adequate education to these student groups, which also included Native American students, English learners, highly mobile students and those who are economically disadvantaged.

Nearly 300 special education teaching positions statewide remained vacant at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, along with 280 vacancies for special education assistants, according to an analysis by New Mexico State University in September. That represents 28% of all teacher vacancies this fall.

Judy Robinson

Jan. 3, 2022

NM 2022 Teacher of the Year announces platform

Focus will be on individualized education

SANTA FE — New Mexico 2022 Teacher of the Year Lorynn Guerrero will focus on expanding pathways to graduation to create a more individualized experience during her one-year tenure representing the state’s teaching profession, which began Jan. 1.

“The traditional pathway can’t be the only pathway,” the high school teacher from Las Cruces said. “I didn’t really understand before, but my students face so many obstacles. Parenting is just one. They are working jobs to help support their families, and then the one car for a family of seven breaks down. Listening to my students’ stories made me realize it doesn’t matter when you get your high school diploma as long as you get it.”

Guerrero started a program to help teen parents stay in school at New America School-Las Cruces, where she teaches English Language Arts. She would like to see more programs implemented across New Mexico to help students overcome obstacles to graduation.

Guerrero began her career in 2006 in Hatch, where she taught both middle and high school students. She joined Organ Mountain High in Las Cruces Public Schools in 2012, then moved to the state-chartered New America School-Las Cruces, where 97% of the students are economically disadvantaged.

Guerrero succeeded 2021 Teacher of the Year Alisa Cooper de Uribe effective Jan. 1. Cooper de Uribe teaches at New Mexico International School in Albuquerque.

“I am very pleased and honored to see Lorynn representing New Mexican teachers this coming year, especially given these historic times. She is knowledgeable, personable, and persevering, and my best advice to her is to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity possible. This is the chance of a lifetime to add her voice to the broader conversation and share her valuable perspectives and expertise with communities of learning,” Cooper de Uribe said.

The New Mexico Teacher of the Year award was established in 1963. Each year, all New Mexico school districts and charter schools are invited to nominate an outstanding teacher to become New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year and to represent New Mexico in the National Teacher of the Year competition. New Mexico’s Teacher of the Year also acts as the spokesperson for the state’s teaching profession.

The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is the title sponsor for the New Mexico Teacher of the Year program for the fourth year and will contribute up to $10,000 worth of support and professional development opportunities for Guerrero.

In addition to teaching, Guerrero is currently working on a master’s degree in educational administration, which she expects to complete in May. Her bachelor’s degree in secondary education is from New Mexico State University. She has a Teacher of English as a Second Language endorsement from Eastern New Mexico and an advanced placement certification in literature and composition from New Mexico Highlands University.

Listen to the NM Public Education Department’s Instruction Interruption podcast in which 2022 TOY Lorynn Guerrero is interviewed by 2021 TOY Alisa Cooper de Uribe.

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Page last updated May 22, 2023