Managing Editor, Santa Fe New Mexican
Santa Fe, NM
In – I really don’t remember the year – I’m going to say about 10 years ago, it was when the town was flourishing economically, it was growing, and we saw that in Santa Fe the fastest-growing segment of population was immigrant Hispanic. And what developed in Santa Fe was a very clear achievement gap. It’s become a common term now but at that time it was not so common – in schools. The gap between [the] achievement of established kids and students who were mostly minority, mostly poor – however you describe those segments demographically. In our case he was very much ethnic – Anglo and Hispanic. And that gap was evident, and it looked as though it was going to continue to grow. And indeed it has.
We took that piece of information and developed it into a significant long-term project. And we laid it out for readers over a course of several days in a classic newspaper project. And I think [we] really got beneath the surface and understood what were the sources of that achievement gap, and what were some strategies to overcome it.
But, for that particular issue, we did more. I worked in partnership with a local college and with a group of professionals to organize a community roundtable on the issue – a daylong forum of information and goal setting. It was professionally facilitated, so at the end of that day we actually had a concrete set of goals. And we had earned – asked for and earned – the reception of – a willingness to listen and receive our report from legislative leaders and the head of the State Department of Education, both of whom attended the forum and heard the –- participated in the last session.
It would be overstating the impact of that to say we got, right away, a dramatic reform in New Mexico, but the – that forum did inform a series or a package of legislation meant to tackle the achievement gap.