By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer
Antonio Martinez said he looks forward to getting his driver’s license when he turns 16 years old.
But Gov. Bill Richardson’s new education initiatives has the Marshall Middle School seventh-grader worried he might have to wait a little longer to get it.
Starting next school year, New Mexico eighth-graders will have to be near or beyond proficient in the standards based assessment and ninth-graders need a 90 percent attendance rate to be eligible for a driver’s license when they turn 16. Failure to meet one of the requirements results in a six-month delay in eligibility and failure to meet both delays their eligibility for a year.
“That’s jacked up,” said Martinez, who doubts he can meet both benchmarks.
Christian Rodriguez, a Clovis High School sophomore, said the initiative puts an unfair requirement on getting a driver’s license.
“It feels like they’re going harder on our generation,” he said. “I bet they didn’t have to study as much as we do.”
The initiative also delays eligibility for a year for students who drop out of school before their 16th birthday.
The initiative is one of six Richardson signed last week to increase graduation rates, motivate student achievement and commitment to education, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
Yucca Middle School Principal Allan Dropps said the initiative offers enough of an incentive to motivate students to do better in school.
“Anything that helps us motivate students (is a good thing),” he said.
He believes it will curb chronic absenteeism in some students because driver’s licenses are something most students look forward to getting.
“It’s the first step into adulthood,” he said. “And that’s part of what schools do: Teach (students) how to become young adults.”
Yucca eighth-grader Alek Mendoza said the initiatives would encourage her because getting her driver’s license is exciting.
Kelsey Estes, a Yucca eighth-grader, said the initiatives give students taking the standards based assessment test a tangible reward for doing well on the test.
“Most of the times no one even tries,” she said.
Public Education Department officials said the department is still working on the details on how to send student information to the Motor Vehicle Department.
Other education initiatives:
• Elective Credit for Environmental Protection Community Projects: High school students could earn up to one credit by participating in environmental conservation projects.
• Electronic Teacher Encyclopedia of Exemplary Math and Science Lessons: A database of video demonstrations on how to teach math and science concepts.
• In-Residence-International Benchmarking Initiative: The Public Education Department will hire for one year a staff of math and science education experts from Asia to be resident-advisors.
• PED “Parents College”: The department will conduct seminars to help parents succeed in school.
• Exemplary Educators Network: A 12-member board of New Mexico Educators will help inform education policy and best practices.