In the spring of 2015, New Mexico governor Susana Martinez signed into law House Bill 282, which requires common course naming and numbering for lower division courses offered by the state’s colleges and universities. The bill calls for faculty in each discipline to “reach mutual agreement on the material to be taught and the competencies to be gained” and to “ensure that substantially all the content agreed to among the institutions as the content to be covered by a course is in fact covered in that course. . . .” A deadline of August 1, 2017 has been set for fulfilling the goals of the law, which are meant to help transfer students in all areas of the common core transfer without unnecessary loss of credit or unpreparedness for upper division study.
Faculty across the state may find this goal difficult to achieve, since no funds or resources have been allocated by the state to expedite conversations on how best to proceed. Analysis published by the state’s Legislative Education Study Committee points out that HB 282 does not introduce new legislation, but is meant to ensure the common course naming and numbering system mandated by similar legislation passed in 2005. At that time, NMHED created two separate task forces, one for articulation and one for assessment, in an attempt to fulfill the legislative mandate.
In a 2008 report, NMHED stated that the Assessment Task Force was created “to ensure that New Mexico’s public higher education institutions are assessing General Education courses and that there is sufficient equivalency among courses.” In 2012, the New Mexico Assessment Task Force (NMATF) made recommendations to NMHED for renaming itself as the Student Learning Task Force (SLTF) and for redefining its role. Unfortunately, NMHED never responded to NMATF’s proposal, so the task force, lacking direction or communication from NMHED, decided its initial charges had been completed and consequently voted to officially disband in April of 2013. NMHED was informed of the decision, but never responded to the email announcing the task force’s dissolution. Currently, faculty teaching English at colleges and universities around the state do not yet know how the state plans to achieve the goals of HB 282. While informal conversations have begun, there appears to be no plan for working toward the new bill’s mission.
In their analysis, the Legislative Education Study Committee noted that 16 states in the U.S. use a common course-numbering system and 36 states guarantee transfer of associate degrees. In spite of this, faculty across New Mexico’s 24 community colleges, colleges and universities are not necessarily convinced complete standardization of the core would be of benefit to all, as some lower level courses are meant to prepare students at least in part for upper level study in specific programs. It is unlikely the state will be able to fully accomplish the bill’s goals without committing any resources toward resolving substantial curricular variations still existing in New Mexico’s core courses.