The New Metrics Initiative: A Student’s Opinion
posted on August 23, 2017 by Laurel Meister
If students grasped the opportunities that await them here, they would see that New Mexico’s vibrant culture and strongly woven community foster an ideal learning environment. As a graduate of Sandia High School and a current student at Trinity University, I regret that I learned to love New Mexico only after packing my bags for Texas. I think that was because my high school education remained well within classroom walls when it could have urged me into the surrounding community I was never able to fully appreciate then. Now my home gives me a sense of New Mexico’s great potential.
My optimism has deepened after interning with the New Mexico Center for School Leadership over this summer. The Center’s New Metrics Initiative is one of the projects that most inspires me. The Initiative draws on the collective knowledge of local educators and community leaders and identifies the most critical skills for students entering New Mexico’s workforce. The Initiative seeks to develop better tools for assessing students’ grasp of those skills. The New Metrics Initiative seeks to modify our methods of evaluation to truly capture and represent every student’s full potential as students interact with their community.
Traditional school standards suggest that my high school experience was a success. With a high grade point average, a transcript loaded with AP classes, and leadership roles in multiple organizations, I was well prepared to enter a competitive university. But my achievement was the product of a stellar support system and a distinct understanding of how to follow the rules. Playing the game of school taught me a great deal of the content in books and on tests, but I still did not know how to study without a guide, talk to a stranger over the phone, or apply for an internship. Though I never perceived my community’s role in my education, that a caring and affluent support system – something many students lack – greatly benefited me.
The New Metrics Initiative’s assessment practices are intended to provide students of all backgrounds with the opportunity for success both inside and outside the classroom. There are currently six or so innovative charter schools in Albuquerque participating in the New Metrics Initiative. At the last New Metrics Initiative convening I was fortunate to meet Emma Apodaca, a recent graduate of Amy Biehl High School. Emma presented her Senior Learning Project, which reflected the lessons she learned over her four years of high school. The Senior Learning Project is an excellent example of the kind of student a creative high school can produce, and the kind of meaningful education that the New Metrics Initiative hopes to cultivate. Emma’s presentation highlighted her strong grasp of class content, showed her involvement in a variety of service projects, and demonstrated ongoing support from her teachers and community.
Emma’s presentation serves as a test bed for a New Metrics Initiative “tool” to evaluate student success. This tool has been compiled from the criteria that participating schools have deemed important, such as flexibility, community engagement, creativity, and sense of purpose. These criteria far exceed the expectations I experienced at my traditional high school – they go much deeper into what fulfilling learning looks like. Emma met the criteria of the tool even though she had never seen it before. Emma’s Senior Learning Project, for me, represented of the kind of education available at a school that not only encourages students to learn outside the classroom but also provides the resources to allow all students to thrive. Creative and challenging assessments like the Senior Learning Project inspire students to reach beyond traditional expectations – and 360 degree support helps them along the way.
Using creative assessment models is not new to the world of education. Last semester I had the opportunity to attend a conference where Rick Wormeli discussed the very same methods that the New Metrics Initiative has developed. Wormeli is an award-winning educator who has traveled across the country teaching the methods that work best in his own classroom. His book Fair Isn’t Always Equal discusses the need to differentiate instruction and assessment. Wormeli writes that, “…to maximize students’ learning at every turn, including giving them the tools to handle anything that is undifferentiated [… we are required] to do different things for different students some, or a lot, of the time in order for them to learn when the general classroom approach does not meet the students’ needs.” The New Mexico Center for School Leadership has another name for this method, called “personalized learning.” Specialists in gifted education like Joyce VanTassel-Baska began using the term “performance-based assessment,” which looks at student projects similar to the Senior Learning Project to “judge the acquisition of higher level skills and reveal the student’s full intellectual capacity.” Wormeli, the Center, and VanTassel-Baska examine different aspects of the same concept: challenging students whenever possible and providing deep support when necessary.
The New Metrics team of sharp, local educators further develops the tools that are already on the cutting edge of education, discovering how they can best aid New Mexico’s students. This local wisdom begins when schools urge students out of the classroom and into the community and keep them coming back to the enchanting place we call home.
 Rick Wormeli, Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom (Portland: Stenhouse Publishers, 2006), 3.
 Joyce VanTassel-Baska, “Performance-Based Assessment: The Road to Authentic Learning for the Gifted,” Gifted Child Today 37 (2013): 41.