Administration Initiatives and Interagency Collaboration

Access to Quality Early Learning

A child’s brain develops at a rapid pace in the first five years of life, especially before they turn 3. Access to high-quality child care with an experienced and well-trained workforce can have a significant impact on this brain development, especially for at-risk children, narrowing school readiness gaps. At the same time, high-quality child care, collaborative education outreach, and other interagency collaboration promotes family economic security and bolsters the state’s economic output.


Number of Providers Per Quality Level
FY20 FY23
2 Star Licensed Homes and Centers 399 336
2 + Star Licensed Homes and Centers 89 140
3 Star FOCUS Licensed Homes and Centers 99 111
4 Star FOCUS Licensed Homes and Centers 58 53
5 Star FOCUS Licensed Homes and Centers 296 324
Total Quality Providers (3 Star Focus, 4 Star Focus and 5 Star Focus Only): 453 488
Total 941 964

Figure 21: The number of licensed and STAR-quality child care providers

High-Quality Child Care Programs

New Mexico defines High-Quality Child Care programs as those that successfully meet and maintain the criteria at FOCUS STAR-Levels 3, 4 and 5. FOCUS on Young Children’s Learning is that New Mexico’s Tired Quality Rating and Improvement System TQRIS. Having moved out of the pilot phase in 2016, FOCUS has been fully implemented since 2019. FOCUS provides early childhood program personnel with the criteria, tools, and resources they need to improve the quality of their programs. This includes training, resources, and on-site support through consultation. Since the implementation of FOCUS the number of programs in STAR levels 3-5 has increased by 285%.

There are currently 488 quality providers participating in FOCUS across New Mexico; to date, 111 providers have reached FOCUS 3-STAR, 53 have reached 4-STAR, and 324 have reached 5-STAR. The rest are nationally accredited and participating through New Mexico PreK or are currently working toward earning their FOCUS 3-STAR rating.

Collaborative Education Outreach

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) is committed to working collaboratively to improve access to educational resources for families in every county of the state.  The Education and Engagement Steering Committee facilitates: the creation of activity kits and coloring books to support intergenerational home learning, literacy and discovery; the DCA Invite an Educator website for teachers and librarians to connect to educators at DCA museums, historic sites, and other cultural institutions; development of travelling exhibits that bring DCA exhibits to rural communities; and online educational resources for students, teachers, and families. 

In FY23, DCA published A is for Artist, an alphabet coloring book featuring the work of 27 New Mexican artists. Over 30,000 collaborative activity kits and coloring books were distributed statewide through public libraries and direct to the public.  Monthly meetings with the Governor’s Commission on Disability identified needs and strategies to make cultural institutions accessible to all.  Weekly community outreach meetings gave DCA staff a chance to learn more about the challenges and aspirations of the families we serve. Using principles of Universal Design for Learning, DCA prioritizes access to education for all New Mexicans regardless of reading level, language preference, or learning style. 

The divisions of DCA support educational programs, exhibits, and services, with dedicated Education staff committed to making culture, history, science, art, and literacy relevant and accessible to all New Mexicans. 

Outreach to Underserved Communities

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) prioritizes outreach to underserved communities, reaching every county of the state with valuable educational and cultural opportunities. 

While many tribal communities remained closed for health and safety, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, in partnership with the New Mexico State Library’s Tribal Library Program, created takeaway projects distributed through libraries.  At the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in the last year they distributed almost 800 activity kits to New Mexico’s pueblo communities.  The bilingual educator from the Museum of International Folk Art worked with Gerard’s House, which serves primarily Spanish-speaking families experiencing loss, to lead therapy and summer camp sessions for children.  At the Jemez Historic Site, Instructional Coordinator Marlon Magdalena provides tours in both Towa and English languages to students from the surrounding community of Jemez Pueblo.  The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science offers regular sensory friendly hours during their Relaxed Nights, just one part of a larger effort to make the museum more accessible to all.  Statewide, the State Library supports Summer Reading through public libraries, including in tribal and rural communities, making it easy for kids to stay engaged, learning, socializing, and ready to return to school in the Fall.  This program, which is especially important to underserved communities, included almost 2,000 events and 23,000 registered youth participants.  The Wonders of Wheels mobile museum delivered in-person programming to 8606 children in every county of the state, featuring photography, music, art, and hands on educational activities.  This year the Poet Laureate, Lauren Camp, even joined the WoW team for readings at libraries around the state. 

Early Childhood Education

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) supports early childhood literacy and bilingual literacy through programs that engage families in reading, art, music, play, and cultural empathy.  These programs give parents a chance to form supportive networks and give children a chance to learn social skills.     

The New Mexico History Museum’s Hochberg Early Childhood Academy offers museum visits and educational programs to Head Start and Santa Fe Public School preschoolers and their families, allowing them the opportunity to explore and engage in hands-on history. 

The Museum of International Folk Art provided monthly Family Mornings to support early education and early literacy, focusing on pre-literacy skills and building cultural empathy, while creating a safe and welcoming environment for parents and their young children to build social skills and social networks. The National Hispanic Cultural Center provides monthly programs for children from infants to 4 years old and their caregivers to provide bilingual introductory arts experiences and social interaction.  Their Early Childhood Bilingual Storytime for children 3 to 5 years old offers literary and arts experiences through story, music, movement, creative play, and artmaking. 

Career Exploration

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) provides many opportunities for young people to develop interests and learn about careers in a variety of art, history, science, and culture fields.    

The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum provides many opportunities to introduce young people to careers in agriculture, working closely with schools and organizations like 4-H to provide hands-on learning.  The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science partnered with the Franklin Institute to offer students a summer program to increase interest and confidence in pursuing STEM Careers, geared to communities commonly underrepresented in STEM professions. 

In the Spring the New Mexico Museum of Space History collaborated with school districts on a downlink with the International Space Station astronauts.  Students had an opportunity to learn what it was like to live on the Space Station and ask the astronauts questions.  The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science held Mars Day on May 5, featuring 13 Mars Mission planners and scientists from the Jet Propulsion Lab with 554 students and 30 teachers attending.  

Teacher Development

The New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) works hands-on with teachers and future-teachers to develop classroom skills that incorporate New Mexican culture and primary resources into the curriculum.   

DCA Education staff provide professional development to current and future teachers.  Students from the New Mexico State University Education Program come to the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum to learn how to incorporate museum-style activities into their classroom.  They review best teaching practices and learn strategies for using cross-curricular activities to improve collaboration, speaking, reading, and writing skills.  The New Mexico History Museum works with the Santa Fe Community College to offer practicum credit hours to those seeking Early Childhood Education Certificate.   The New Mexico Museum of Art is expanding its online resources to tell New Mexico’s history through art and primary sources in the collection.  Working closely with teachers on an advisory panel, this project supports the incorporation of art in lesson plans and student projects.  The New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies creates curriculum content resources, including lessons tied to state standards, making it easy for teachers to incorporate into the classroom.