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Monday, October 19, 2015

PARCC Tests: Glass Half Full Or Half Empty? Plus: NMSU Aggies: Out Of The Game; Prospect Of Ending Program Surfaces, And: Fresh Ideas To Pop ABQ Convention Biz? 

Take your pick. The glass is either half full or half empty. Nowhere is that seen more explicitly than in the wildly differing reports from the state's two leading newspapers on the controversial high school PARCC test scores released by the state Friday. Says the ABQ Journal:

Nearly three-quarters of the class of 2016 achieved a high enough score on the PARCC English exam to qualify for the state’s graduation requirements. . . 

But the New Mexican lead goes like this:

Thousands of New Mexico students will have to retake one of the most divisive standardized tests in order to meet the state’s new scholastic standards, according to performance data released Friday.

Whatever your view, you can understand why parents of all political stripes are working to scare up the $20,000 a year tuition for private schools like the ABQ Academy.

Longtime education advocate and former APS School Board member Kathy Korte comes with this:

More talking around in a circle. (Secretary of Education) Skandera knows she is on shaky ground instituting this test as a graduation requirement. All these "alternatives" to getting a diploma--ACT, AP, SAT and PSAT should have always been primary and not secondary competency exams. For kids not going to college and not taking the aforementioned tests, she could have instituted other competency exams (PARCC or otherwise). What a complete failure to our students.

POOR LAS CRUCES

The news:

Las Cruces is one of the poorest cities in the U.S., according to a special report by financial news website 24/7 Wall St. The website looked at the 25 richest and 25 poorest cities in the country. Las Cruces is the 23rd poorest with a median household income of $39,502, a median home value of $135,600, an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent, and a poverty rate of 29.6 percent.

NMSU economists say Las Cruces remains in recession.

OUT OF THE GAME?

As the downsizing of the state continues in the decade ahead, we will continue to see stuff you thought you would never see. This could be one of them--a move to drop the football program at NMSU:

Few teams in the history of sports have lost more, for longer, than NMSU football. . .The Aggies haven't been to a bowl game since 1960. They haven't won eight games in a season since 1965. Over the past 40 years, they have four winning seasons. . . They have arrived in Gainesville on a 10-game losing streak. Which is not as bad as their 18-game losing streak in 2012 and 2013. Which was not as bad as their 27-game losing streak from 1988 to 1990.  . .For the current fiscal year, according to budget numbers provided by the university, New Mexico State expects to transfer $1.8 million from its other funds to balance the team's budget of $4.3 million. (The athletic department as a whole expects to need $4.6 million to square its budget of $16.9 million.) Compare that to Texas, Alabama, Michigan, LSU, Oklahoma and Notre Dame: One study says that these six FBS football programs each brought in more than $100 million last year.

NMSU President Garrey Carruthers is adamant that NMSU football will not be placed on the chopping block. We can only add that that pledge only holds while Carruthers remains behind the head desk. Don't say we didn't tell you. . .

FRESH AIR

This is one of the more refreshing ideas to sweep into ABQ in recent years--replace the calcified ABQ Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB)--charged with drumming up city convention business--with an out-of-state firm with fresh ideas:

An ad hoc committee has recommended the city of Albuquerque continue using ACVB to bring meetings, events and tourists to the Duke City – work the ACVB has handled for the last 35 years. The recommendation remains subject to City Council approval, but fellow bidder California-based Catalyst Creative already has plans to fight the committee’s decision.

ACVB has had the contract for a whopping 35 years yet convention business remains in the cellar here. New thinking, new people, new ideas, new investment. Around here those are fightin' words. Good Luck, Catalyst Creative. Give 'em hell.

OIL SLICK 

It has been a slick business for state policymakers tracking the potential price of oil in the years ahead as they make budget plans. We hit the topic last week and received a reminder from the Legislative Finance Committee that their latest oil price prediction came in August.

It says for the budget year that began July 1 and ends June 30, 2016, the price is expected to average $51.54 a barrel. For  the budget year starting July 1, 2016 the price is pegged at $56.22. Predictions have been adjusted downwards as the oil slide continued. The price today is in the high 40's, meaning anticipated oil and gas royalties to the state could again be adjusted downward.

When lawmakers meet in January they will craft a budget for the budget year starting July 1 of 2016.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Reader Jim McClure, a native of Chicago, comes with this solution to the historic crash in voter turnout that ABQ experienced at this month's city election:

I suggest a Chicago-style solution to our voter turnout dilemma: Hold municipal elections on the Day of the Dead.

Funny, Jim. But, you know, those potential voters six feet under may be more interested than the ones with their heads above ground. Viva Dia de los Muertos!

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