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PRESS RELEASE

February 6, 2002

SBE News Conference Honoring Schools No Longer
In School Improvement

(Text of News Conference)

MICHAEL DAVIS, State Superintendent of Public Instruction (WELCOME: 2 min.)

I want to open today's announcements with brief introductions. Joining us are:

· State Board of Education President Flora Sánchez
· State Board members…
· State Representatives…
· State Senators…
· Superintendents…and
· Staff and students from Coronado High, Jemez Valley Elementary, Salazar Elementary and West Las Vegas High.

It is a particular honor to gather today on Public Schools' Day at the Capitol! It is a further pleasure and honor to be joined by the movers and shakers who have set a high bar for student and school performance. Because of their vision, we are implementing an accountability program that is reasonable, accurate and equitable for the state's students and schools.

The goal of the program has been to raise the level of learning for all children in New Mexico, and as we have witnessed through the schools gathered here, we are meeting with success.

I now invite President Sánchez to open this special ceremony in recognition of the Coronado High, Jemez Valley Elementary, Salazar Elementary and West Las Vegas High.

FLORA SANCHEZ (CEREMONY HONORING SCHOOLS: 10 min.)

Helping students, schools and school districts to improve is the ultimate goal of the Accountability Program. Rating schools is not easy. Simply put, the program is public education stepping up to its responsibility to all children.

Today is a celebration of educators who wake up every day committed to helping students improve, and four school communities in particular.

The educators at these schools have taken seriously our challenge to step up to their responsibility to children. They have taken steps to ensure that the data they provide accurately reflect their schools' progress and student growth and they have implemented teaching strategies tied directly to student needs.

Today, because of their outstanding efforts, they are no longer on school improvement. They have improved their ratings for two years despite being among those schools facing the greatest needs and opportunities for improvement in our state.

Today we congratulate:

· Coronado High School, with the Jemez Mountain Public Schools in Gallina
· Jemez Valley Elementary, with the Jemez Valley Municipal Schools in Jemez Pueblo
· Salazar Elementary, with the Santa Fe Public Schools in Santa Fe and
· West Las Vegas High School, with the West Las Vegas Public Schools in Las Vegas.

Their journey to improve school and student performance is notable both in their efforts and the results achieved.

I first invite representatives from Salazar Elementary forward to receive our congratulations. (Pause for representatives to step forward.)

· At Salazar, the school implemented a school-wide literacy program and involved the community at-large in working one-on-one with students every day. With grant funding, the school is providing tutoring in reading for students in danger of not meeting standards. The 6th grade received exemplary points in three out of the five subjects - mathematics, reading and science - and in all its growth data. And growth in four of the five areas in 5th grade was also exemplary.

Now, I invite representatives of Jemez Valley Elementary to step forward.
· At Jemez Valley Elementary School, the school increased its focus on reading, writing and mathematics instruction, including professional development. The school instituted a family reading night as part of its school-wide focus on literacy and instituted phonics instruction at grades K through 4. Teachers were provided with training in the knowledge of the reading process and developmental stages of children.

Now, I invite representatives of Coronado High to step forward.

· Coronado High launched an after-school tutoring program partially funded by a School Improvement Grant and placed a stronger emphasis on academic achievement. Coronado has a unique story. The school was identified for improvement in 1999. Last year, it met standards and this year it exceeds standards. The school principal received tremendous support from the district's superintendent and school board and the full commitment of the teaching staff in making improvements.

And finally, I invite representatives of West Las Vegas High School to step forward.

· West Las Vegas High School was the first high school west of the Mississippi to adopt the Yale School Development Program aimed at systemic change. Parent and community involvement increased, with emphasis on supporting students' social, personal and academic needs. In 2000, the school received a high-improving incentive award and for each of the last two years the school has had exemplary attendance. And in 2001, the school went from probationary to exceeds standards in dropout.

At each of these schools, strong leadership has been a key guiding factor. These schools, and their leaders, serve as models for continuous improvement.

Overall in New Mexico, more students are in school, families are engaged in their children's educations and school communities are ensuring that children attend school in environments that are safe, secure and supportive.

And, with improved student attendance and dropout rates, safety and parent and community involvement come better achievement and student outcomes. All of this bodes well for the future of public education in New Mexico!

Over the past year, the Department of Education has directed its resources to schools with the greatest needs, sacrificing, in some cases, the work traditionally undertaken by staff.

· Our school improvement staff has worked with the schools and school districts to effect change. Our approached has been student-centered.

· We have helped schools to identify barriers to school improvement. Staff has helped in analyzing data on school and student performance in order to identify goals and objectives. Our review of teaching and learning, student achievement data and related factors, teacher preparedness, parent and community involvement, leadership and management organization and school climate has provided a framework for success for schools needing to improve.

· And, we have worked with schools to target professional development needs. Critical questions have been asked. For example, we assume that teachers who go through four-year training programs are all knowing. But are they experienced in working with the individual issues in their classrooms?

We're committed to continuing this approach to school improvement and hope to report more success stories each year.

Thank you Salazar Elementary, Jemez Valley Elementary, Coronado High and West Las Vegas High for all you do to improve student outcomes and for your success stories.

FLORA SANCHEZ (Statement on Public School Governance: 10 min.)

And now for the second part of our announcement. We cannot celebrate public schools in New Mexico without speaking of the system of public school governance that has long provided children with a vision for the future.

There are six proposed joint resolutions pending before the Legislature to change the state's system of public school governance…


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