Jon Austria/The Daily TimesSecretary of Education Hanna Skandera talks to parents and educators during a recent forum about how they can better understand
Jon Austria/The Daily Times Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera talks to parents and educators during a recent forum about how they can better understand and use the new state grading system at the CATE building on Thursday. (Jon Austria)
FARMINGTON — Few parents showed for the last-minute public meeting held with Secretary of Education-Designate Hanna Skandera and local educators.
“Maybe they didn't want parents to show up,” said Mitch Burns, parent of a second- and third-grader at Country Club Elementary School. 
The Public Education Department announced Tuesday late afternoon that it hoped the public would attend its Thursday morning meeting with local educators. 
Burns and a handful of other parents did show, though the information seemed redundant, and did not answer all their questions. 
“It's a start. I at least understand it better than AYP,” said Burns. 
The new A through F grading system applied to schools replaces the former Adequate Yearly Progress system, which for years left the majority of schools floundering without much feedback on how they might improve themselves. 
In 2011, about 87 percent of New Mexico's schools failed AYP. If the state continued using those same standards this year, about 98 percent of those schools would have failed. 
The new system launched this year aims to assess schools based on various components, all of which are individually graded. 
 The schools are graded on test scores, ability to improve test scores, and also overall learning environment. High school grades also factor in graduation rates and ability to prepare students for a college education or career.
Since all 831 schools received their first report cards, the Public Education Department has engaged with its audience an “unprecedented” amount, Skandera said. 
The department's school grading web page alone has had 500,000 hits alone since the school grades' release, she said. 
Yet, looking at the grades takes more than a glimpse, as the department provides a wealth of information about each school's student population and its performance during standardized testing. 
“I believe in data,” Skandera said. 
Most educators still were unsure of how to interpret all of the data, and how accurately it portrayed the strengths and weaknesses of each school. 
“This gives us real data to focus in on ... but it's difficult to make the transition with the new Common Core standards,” said Richard “R.J” Macsalka,  district instructional coach for Central Consolidated School District. 
The Common Core curriculum is readily being adopted by 48 states in the country in an effort to standardize learning around the country. 
“We're unveiling this report card, but we're also making this transition to new standards,” said Macsalka. 
The secretary answered all of her audience's questions, though not always the answers they wanted to hear. 
“I don't believe there's a magic bullet in education,” Skandera said. “But we can use these components to make our schools better.”
The secretary tentatively has scheduled similar regional meetings in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Roswell, all expected to be open to the community.