New Mexico’s 2017 NAEP scores: thank God for Louisiana or Alaska…

The 2017 NAEP scores are in and the news is (once again) not pretty for New Mexico. Arguably the most important single area of student scores is 4th grade reading which, to her credit, Gov. Susana Martinez made a point of emphasis during her time in office. She certainly faced a great deal of resistance throughout her administration and, whether you supported the Gov. or opposed her (or were somewhere in between) for the last eight years, the sad truth is that New Mexico’s 4th grade reading scores on the NAEP remain right where they were prior to Martinez coming into office.

NAEP results for New Mexico and other states can be found here. 

Overall, New Mexico’s 4th grade reading results exceeded those in only one other state: Alaska.

See map below:

In the area of mathematics, New Mexico also saw little in the way of results and is locked in 49th (this time in front of Louisiana).

What happened? Who is to blame? It depends on who you ask and what your party allegiance is. At the Rio Grande Foundation we watched the Legislature repeatedly thwart Martinez’s ideas and personnel (like banning social promotion), but we were frustrated that the Governor failed to advocate for school choice more forcefully.

Regardless of what happens, New Mexico’s education system continues to fail its students and it’s not because of too little K-12 spending or underpaid teachers. 

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7 Replies to “New Mexico’s 2017 NAEP scores: thank God for Louisiana or Alaska…”

  1. Gov. Martinez proposed a requirement that third-graders learn to read before they are promoted to fourth grade. The legislature blocked this move. The low fourth-grade reading score is a direct result.

    I do not expect this to improve. Every Democratic candidate has promised more school funding with less accountability. So teachers will make more money but will continue to promote illiterate children. And they will insist that test scores really don’t matter.

    1. You are correct and that is something I cite in the article. There is no question that Martinez was thwarted in much of her reform efforts. I do think she could have been more effective in making her case for needed reform (also including school choice), but the fact remains that New Mexico children are failing and being failed by the system.

    2. The Democrats just don’t get it that if “They can’t read Dick & Jane, they don’t go to 4th Grade”

  2. As long as New Mexicans tolerate this really crappy performance from our schools, we will rarely attract new businesses and the jobs they bring, to New Mexico. Why would a CEO be interested in bringing his employees to a State that is First in Crime and Second to Last in Education? Imagine how hard that is for the Chamber of Commerce or Albuquerque Economic Development to sell a prospective CEO

  3. Nice write up Paul. I have a piece on NAEP coming this evening as well.

    My one push is that there is some evidence that NAEP scores correlate with state education spending. If you’re a data person, and I know you are, this evidence is compelling:

    In Education Next, Jackson explains that his research shows that states that made bigger cuts saw worse NAEP scores between 2007 and 2015. (We wrote about this study earlier this year.) Jackson also suggests that the impact of school funding stacks up over time — which means it will take a while for NAEP results to bounce back.

    “If my hypothesis is correct, then NAEP scores will likely not return to 2013 levels until per-pupil spending has returned to pre-recession levels for about three years,” Jackson writes. That could take until 2021.

    1. I’ll look at this paper, but it is a myth that New Mexico is a low-spending state when it comes to K-12. If you just look at Census data we spend more than our neighbors, but if you look at spending adjusted for income levels, New Mexico is 6th-highest:

      An interesting report from Arizona State University shows NM teachers are pretty well paid:

  4. After reading the actual research paper which described in detail the research methodology used to produce the results described in Jackson’s article, I’m rather disinclined to draw any strong conclusions from these results. See

    The research employed a difference in difference methodology comparing school districts with a higher percentage of state funding (which tended to have a larger reduction in funding during the recession) with those with a higher proportion of local and federal funding. The basic assumption here is that these two groups would have had the same pattern of outcomes if they had had the same funding sources.

    Although the researchers do try to control for other explanatory variables (state level unemployment rates, percentage of free and reduced price lunch children etc.) there are any number of potential omitted variables when comparing districts with different percentages of state funding that the authors’ relatively simple model specification wouldn’t account for that could have changed dramatically during the recession. Districts with higher percentages of state funding are not chosen at random and in fact are often those with lower property tax bases, higher percentages of minorities or are in states with non-typical economies (such as New Mexico).

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