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New Mexico

10.20.11 Schools Chief Says She Needs Help Getting Ed. Reforms

Hanna Skandera, who has run into controversies since her designation this year as state education secretary, is reaching out to superintendents and educational leaders around New Mexico in the hope they'll help with reshape an education reform package before next year's legislative session.
In a letter sent to the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators, Skandera touched on several of the elements of the educational reform plan she is pushing in tandem with Gov. Susana Martinez.
One element of the plan allows parents to transfer their children from failing schools a to a higher-rated facility.
In a wide-ranging discussion with the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, Skandera repeatedly emphasized the idea of moving those students into a "virtual learning" environment — which could include home — where they could set their own educational path by taking courses at a pace that allows them to keep up. These virtual learning options would offer more choice in course work, too, she said.
Though the state's Higher Education Department does include an Innovative Digital Education and Learning (IDEAL) program, Skandera said there may be other options to pursue for this initiative. The state just submitted a grant to the Jaquelin Hume Foundation to raise funds for a study on digital-learning resources to determine what the state has to offer and what it needs to expand this plan.
She said her dream would be to see an individualized, virtual-learning program set up.

07.28.11 Report Calls on New Mexico to Fulfill Online Learning Promises

To help ensure New Mexico students get the individualized learning opportunities online charter schools offer, a report issued by the Rio Grande Foundation says New Mexico policy makers should remove unnecessary regulations that cap charter student enrollment and the number of charter schools that may open.
The report,"Enchanted Future: The Promise of Virtual Education in New Mexico" was co-authored by Lance Izumi, Koret Senior Fellow in Education Studies and Senior Director, Education Studies, at the Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento snf Vicki (Murray) Alger, a PRI Education Studies Senior Policy Fellow. 
The report points out that during her successful 2010 campaign for governor, Susana Martinez pledged to bring the "Florida Reform Model," which includes a large virtual education component, to New Mexico. The writers also had praises the award-winning Innovative Digital Education and Learning New Mexico (IDEAL-NM) program, but challenges the state to do more.
"The challenge now is fostering a competitive online learning landscape to promote continuous improvement, innovation, and efficiency among a variety of online education programs-not just state-led initiatives," according to the report.
According to the writers, full-time, multi-district virtual schools are another virtual learning option, but they have not yet
taken hold in New Mexico. Such schools are permitted, and several school districts in partnership with education management companies have applied to operate such programs. As of the fall of 2010, however, the New Mexico Public Education Department had not approved any such applications.
"Policymakers should monitor this state of affairs to ensure public - and private-sector providers - have the opportunity to serve students," Izumi and Alger write. "Now is the time for New Mexico to expand on its successes and lead the way."
Click here for full report.

01.25.11 Schools Get Federal Money for Distance Learning Programs

Two New Mexico school districts have been awarded nearly $1 million in federal funds to expand educational training programs and access to health care services in rural communities, according to the Associated Press.
Money for the Gallup-McKinley County and Jemez Valley school districts comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.
The New Mexico Democrat
says the Gallup-McKinley County district will receive nearly $500,000 to help 18 schools connect and create a first-time video teleconferencing system. Teachers and students in 10 communities will be able to share courses, initiate new courses and offer professional development for faculty.
The Associated Press also reported that Jemez Valley schools will receive more than $475,000 to connect eight schools through distance learning equipment that will allow them to offer advanced placement and language classes.

07.27.10 Expansion of state's virtual education program centerpiece of 'Graduate New Mexico'
Growing IDEAL-NM (Innovation Digital Education and Learning), New Mexico's state-led virtual school is the No.1 priority in the state's education reform movement.
Called "Graduate New Mexico," the goal is to bring back 10,000 dropouts, addres the achievment gap, and improve graduation rates in the state.
In a August, 2009 speech, Gov. Bill Richardson unveiled the statewide initiative to improve education.
“To sustain New Mexico’s growing economy and workforce, all New Mexican’s must at the very least graduate from high school. We must accept that in the 21st century, to secure a job that will support a family and provide a decent quality of life, a high school diploma is a must,” Richardson said.
“Incremental gains are good, but not good enough. We must take bold steps in our reform effort,” added New Mexico Education Secretary Veronica C. García.
New Mexico education officials plan to use $8.9 million in federal stimulus money as the initial investment in the program.
“It is going to take a statewide community effort if we are to ensure that every New Mexico high
school student graduates from high school ready to contribute to New Mexico’s economy. Graduate New Mexico. It’s everybody’s business,” said Richardson.
Click here to see a 2010 Power Point presentation about the program and the role IDEAL-NM will play.

New Mexico has a state-led virtual school. It is called IDEAL-NM (Innovative Digital Education and Learning New Mexico), and was created as part of the 2007 Statewide Cyber Academy Act.
In 2009-2010, more than 1,500 students attended New Mexico's virtual school.
About $2 million was appropriated in FY 2008-2009 for continued IDEAL-NM operations.

In 2009, Governor Bill Richardson announced the “Graduate New Mexico” initiative to address the drop-out rate in the state. This initiative includes an expansion of IDEAL-NM to make online courses available to up to 10,000 students who need to make up credits to graduate.

New Mexico does not have a virtual charter school that offers courses to students throughout the state.