Colorado expert hired as education consultant for New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has hired a Colorado expert as her education policy adviser as the state struggles to reverse a long-term trend in which a majority of students in public schools do not read can and mathematical standards.

The governor’s office announced Scott Groginsky’s appointment Thursday and said he would focus on improving outcomes for K-12 students and continue working to improve access to higher education.

New Mexico has ranked at the bottom when it comes to educational outcomes for decades. National student assessment results, released earlier this fall, showed that only 25% of the students tested were proficient or better in math, and about a third were proficient or better in science and literacy.

Officials in New Mexico and nationally have blamed the coronavirus pandemic for losing ground in the classroom. The Lujan Grisham government halted in-person tuition in March 2020, and it would be many months before state education officials would ask districts to return to full-time in-person tuition.

Lujan Grisham, who will begin her second term in January, said Groginsky’s experience with evidence-based education policy was invaluable.

“The Governor recognizes that improving the education system at every level is a critical step to empowering all children and families in New Mexico,” Groginsky said in a statement.

Previously, Groginsky was the special adviser on young children to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and a senior assistant on young children to the Democratic members of the House Education and Labor Committee. He also worked for the National Head Start Association and the US Department of Education.

Many educators across New Mexico have acknowledged that the release of spring exam results was a wake-up call and that there will be more pressure to make improvements during the legislative session beginning in January.

Legislature and the Lujan Grisham government also remain on hook to ensure that New Mexico provides adequate education for Native American students, English learners, and those who come from low-income families or have disabilities. In 2018, a state county found that students had unequal access to qualified teachers, quality school buildings, and other instruction that was inclusive and tailored to their cultural background and needs.

Lawmakers have increased recurring funding for public schools by more than $1 billion since the ruling. Although some progress has been made, legislative analysts outlined numerous recommendations to ensure the investments pay off in a briefing published in September.

The briefing said that given the learning loss associated with the pandemic, New Mexico faces an increased need to ensure resources are dedicated to evidence-based programs to help students catch up.