Access, Governance, State Advocacy

Finding the Time: How New Mexico is Easing Data Burdens and Supporting Data Use

Finding the Time: How New Mexico is Easing Data Burdens and Supporting Data Use

Teachers do amazing things—but they can’t add more hours to the day. From pandemic-related learning recovery to adjusting practice to meet student needs, teachers have long cited time as one of the most significant challenges to their practice. In 2018, DQC’s own polling found that teachers listed time as the biggest barrier preventing them from using data to support student learning. Supportive state leaders, however, can play a major role in helping to fix this seemingly intractable problem. The New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) seeks to do just that. By recognizing the extent of administrative reporting requirements, establishing a clear role for the state in supporting districts, and working to streamline confusing processes, New Mexico is on track to ensure that data is timely and actionable for those who need it most.    

Last May, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an executive order to the state education agency to reduce administrative burdens for teachers and administrators by at least 25% to “ensure that teachers and administrators spend as much time as possible focusing on educating students.” NMPED’s initial study found that school and district personnel spend around 10,500 hours on administrative reporting requirements—30% of which is mandated by state statute and 59% by federal law. This reporting process includes 244 data collections and application narratives across 24 bureaus each year. A lack of staffing in smaller, local education agencies makes this especially burdensome.  

NMPED’s final report, authored by Improve, LLC, includes several recommendations for easing data collection and reporting requirements, which Governor Lujan Grisham’s office says will ease the administrative burden by 34% and cut teacher paperwork by 41%. These efforts will return valuable hours to teachers as they work to support students during recovery. NMPED’s recommendations include:  

  • Using data mapping to reduce duplicative data collection and identify data without an owner. As data moves between systems, data mapping is an important process to match data to its source. Doing so saves time by reducing duplicative and unnecessary data requests. The report also recommends using a data rubric to review data elements and ensure standardization.  
  • Making system improvements. The report calls for a review of disparate information technology systems and data use needs—including studying the feasibility of implementing a statewide student information system and special education and individual education plan systems. Automatic reporting systems save time and money, and enable the state to make anonymized data available for researchers.  
  • Streamlining processes. NMPED recommends consolidating grant applications. To demonstrate an already implemented measure, the report illustrates how reducing the state’s Perkins application from 36 pages to seven pages reduced burden by around eight hours per district. 
  • Sustaining improvements through governance and accountability. A data governance council would oversee project management and communication of the Student Teacher Accountability Reporting System and Nova, a real-time, automated data collection.  

States must build the capacity to invest in their data systems to ensure efficiency, access, and usefulness for those who need data to support students. To start, DQC detailed various funding streams, including ongoing streams and emergency relief funding, that states can use to bolster data infrastructure. And as states engage in this work, the federal government should consider new investments in programs to upgrade outdated systems, which increase burden, and provide guidance to ensure that state leaders have the support they need to ensure data can be efficiently and safely transferred between systems.   

By streamlining collection processes, addressing technical challenges, and detailing the need for improvements to system infrastructure, New Mexico is on a path to not only save time for educators and administrators, but to ensure that data works for students and families.