Ronchetti Unveils Education Plan, Will Catch our Kids Up, Direct More Money to Classrooms
Ronchetti Plan Aims to Fix Lujan Grisham’s Failures in New Mexican Classrooms

Albuquerque, NM — Today, Mark Ronchetti unveiled his multipoint education policy plan that will aim to catch our kids up and direct additional dollars to classrooms and teachers. 

“We need to completely rethink how we approach education in New Mexico. “Our current governor has completely failed at educating our kids, and she set them back years with her extreme school closures,” said Ronchetti.

The troubling test results released last week by the Public Education Department have made it clear our education system is not serving our children. Over two-thirds of students in our state are currently unable to read at proficiency, an urgent problem Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Public Education Department have failed to solve. New Mexico is dead last in academic achievement across the country. 

Governor Lujan Grisham shut down our schools far longer than other states and kept them closed even after health experts said it was safe to reopen. Her extreme approach failed to stop COVID, as New Mexico has the 6th highest COVID death rate in the nation. As a direct result of her misguided shutdowns, our kids are way behind academically. And the governor does not have a plan to help them catch up. 

“My education plan will immediately address all the issues our students are facing in the classroom. I will make it my top priority to make up for lost learning time, direct more dollars to the classroom and out of the education bureaucracy, and protect parents’ rights and accountability in our schools.”

“As governor, I will also expand public school options so New Mexican children aren’t beholden to bad schools just because of their zip code. I will fight to better prepare our students for the workforce, intervene early and focus on literacy, and ensure our schools are safe and our kids have the mental and emotional health resources they need.”

Mark Ronchetti’s Education Plan  (the full plan can be found at MarkRonchetti.com)

I. Make Up for Lost Time

Even before COVID, New Mexico was grappling with a learning crisis. Then, the Governor shut public schools for over a year – longer than most other states. New Mexico students lost more than 406 million in-class hours of instruction while our schools were closed, and academic growth suffered. The Governor’s administration has neglected to acknowledge the learning loss that occurred during the pandemic, they’ve too often assumed that children will simply catch up, and they have no plan for identifying the students most affected and getting them back on track.

  • Require school districts to spend their COVID-relief funds on classroom learning interventions, directed at helping those who have fallen furthest behind, as opposed to capital projects or other programs not centered on learning.
  • Launch school-based summer academies, short academic programs designed to help struggling students master the basics and get back on grade level over the summer. 
  • Increase meaningful and strategic instructional time throughout the school year – not a one-size-fits-all approach, but a school-by-school commitment to getting kids more time in the classroom.

II. Put More Education Dollars in the Classroom

Mark would change state law to limit the growth of administrative spending in education, directing the lion’s share of new education dollars into classrooms – including additional instructional coaches, teacher leaders, academic resources, and interventions for struggling students.

Additional dollars to the classroom will also be targeted to help retain and recruit new teachers to help bring down class sizes and improve the teacher-to-student ratio.

III. Protect Parents’ Rights to Engage in Their Child’s Education

Parents are a child’s first teacher, and even after a child enters school, they continue to motivate and support them on their educational journey. Parents are also critical partners with their child’s classroom teacher, and they have every right to be aware of and participate in the education of their child. As governor, I will make sure parents:

  • Know and have a say on what their children are learning.
  • Understand at all times where their children stand academically and how schools are performing.
  • Know how education funding is being spent – all the way down to the school level.
  • Are able to send their children to the public school that best meets their needs regardless of zip code.

IV. Better Prepare Our Students for the Workforce

Some students will choose college after graduating high school. Some will enter the workforce. We need better preparation for our students no matter the path they choose. For students who will enter careers after high school, we can do a much better job ensuring they have the tools to be successful.

Mark’s plan includes:

  • Helping students earn work certifications while still in high school, so they can be as employable as possible, as quickly as possible.
  • Students who complete their high school course requirements by the end of the 11th grade should receive a scholarship to spend their entire senior year in an apprenticeship, internship, or career-focused postsecondary education, similar to a program that recently launched in Colorado called Path4Ward.
  • Mark would expand trade and vocational schools, and better align our high school and community college course offerings with the workforce shortage areas and industry growth target areas in New Mexico.
  • Mark would make it easier for experts in their field – electricians, nurses, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, and others who have knowledge to share – to teach relevant subjects in middle and high school, which would also help alleviate our teacher recruitment challenges.

V. Improve the System School-by-School, Focus on Developing Great

Leaders

Too many students languish year after year in a public school that is failing to educate them well. Mark believes (and research shows) that no school has ever been turned around in the absence of a great leader. Mark’s plan will make sure:

  • Chronically low-performing schools would undergo leadership changes. 
  • The State’s very best principals would earn six-figure salaries and be given more autonomy in how they lead their school. Successful principals should be treated as the CEOs of their schools, not as middle managers in large district bureaucracies.  
  • Schools led by great principals would take on assistant principals who would train for a year or two under their leadership, then be deployed to lead schools of their own.
  • Successful school leaders would be paired with principals in need of help, and they would engage in an active mentoring relationship. 
  • The highest-performing teachers in each school district would be encouraged and funded to enter principal development training.

VI. Early Intervention: the Key to Success

By the third grade, every student should have the ability to read; unfortunately, New Mexico ranks 49 th in the nation in literacy. Students who cannot read by the third grade have a harder time learning, are more prone to discouragement in later grades, and are more likely to drop out of school.

Mark’s plan for literacy growth hinges on three things:

  • Expectation that every early-grade teacher is trained every year in the best strategies and science on teaching literacy; 
  • Instructional coaches and support staff are prioritized toward English Language Arts classes in grades K through 3;
  • Both parents and students should know their reading level – and how it’s changing – on a month-by-month basis, with regular conversations between parents and teachers about what needs to be done inside and outside the classroom to improve their reading skills.  

VII. Attack the Truancy Problem

We know this for certain … If students are not in class, they cannot learn. With over 40% of the students in the state’s largest school district chronically absent – nearly double the rate of absenteeism just a few years ago – we must change this systemic failure by: 

  • Use COVID funds to hire and build teams in high truancy schools to focus exclusively on getting children back to school and/or finding education alternatives that meet the needs of the child and their family.
  • Create high-risk classrooms with lower student-teacher ratios in high-risk schools for children experiencing high rates of truancy. Teachers should not bear the burden of trying to adapt lessons to keep higher performing students engaged while meeting the needs of chronically absent students, while chronically absent students will benefit from closer interaction with teachers and pace of learning.
  • Encourage the opening of more bi-lingual charter schools to address the needs of our Spanish-speaking population.
  • High-school age students not regularly attending school will have their driver’s licenses revoked.
  • Enforce the Compulsory Attendance Law.

VIII. School Safety and Attention to Mental, Emotional Health

We need to do more to recognize and address the mental health needs of our young people, including investing our education resources in a more robust mental health system. Implement a new program aimed at placing retired law enforcement and military in our schools as part of faculty.

Click here to read Mark’s full education plan. 

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