April 25, 2005
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Jennifer Chavez
Public Information Officer
(505) 476-0393
jchavez@ped.state.nm.us

Secretary García Announces Recommendations from Closing the Achievement Gap Conference

(Santa Fe, NM) On Saturday, April 23, 2005, Secretary García’s Council on Excellence and Equity met as a follow up to the two-day conference held on April 21 and 22 in Albuquerque on Closing the Achievement Gap. The Council made five key recommendations to Secretary García which she will be pursuing over the course of this year. The Council’s recommendations were as follows:

1. Community Conversations: The council has recommended that the Secretary of Education hold at least 12 regional community conversations around the state engaging community stakeholders with school personnel to address the achievement gap. The hope is that all districts will create their own councils for excellence and equity to continue addressing this problem.

2. Aligned Professional Development: The council recommends that the Public Education Department work with teacher preparation program to ensure an aligned system of professional development to ensure that best practices in the teaching of math, science and reading. Best practices must also be shared for teaching Limited English Proficient Students. Further, the PED intends to design its professional development activities around these areas of focus.

3. Legislation: The council recommended four major legislative priorities. The council has agreed to focus its primary attention to health related initiatives due to the preponderance of data that shows an irrefutable connection between health, physical fitness, nutrition and the achievement gap. Initiatives such as: expansion of physical education, junk food in the schools, elementary breakfast programs, obesity prevention, etc. must be expanded. The second legislative initiative is the “Grow Your Own Teacher” model which recruits high school seniors to major in education and provides incentives for them to go back to their communities to teach. The third initiative is to create enabling legislation that will promote other health and social services agencies to partner with schools, thus promoting the “Community Schools Concept”. The last initiative is to amend the Indian Education Act so that the focus is not limited to education but to the holistic needs of students.

4. Public Relations Campaign: The council urged the Secretary to keep this very important issue in public conversation.

5. Plan Next Year’s Closing the Achievement Conference: The council has vowed to triple attendance, bring national speakers, and ensure that there is broad-based participation and provide a showcase for the best practices in closing the achievement gap.

Secretary García remarked, “I am energized by the enthusiasm and commitment from the Excellence and Equity Council. They have embraced the notion that the Public Education Department must engage with the entire community if we are to be successful in raising achievement for all students. My goal is to see New Mexico as the national leader in closing the achievement gap.”

Tonight, Secretary Garcia will be hosting a community conversation entitled, “Closing the Achievement Gap” in Bernalillo on Monday, April 25, 2005 from 5:00-7:30 pm. The community conversation will be held in the cafeteria at Bernalillo High School located at 224 N. Camino Del Pueblo. The Bernalillo community conversation will be held in conjunction with the celebration of the 11th anniversary of the Even Start Family Literacy Program.

The community conversation in Bernalillo is the first of a series of conversations, which will be held this fall in several different communities across New Mexico. These conversations are designed to probe the audience for greater understanding of the root causes of the achievement gap as well as finding lasting solutions. Parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators and community leaders are encouraged to participate in these conversations.

The Schedule for the Bernalillo Community Conversation is as follows:

5:00 pm – 5:30 pm Even Start Recognition
5:30 pm – 6:15 pm Community Conversation Part I
6:15 pm - 6:30 pm On Site Dinner served
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm Community Conversation Part II

For additional information and to confirm your attendance call (505) 867-7870.