[9/19] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

This week is a special update that brings two guest writers sharing their experiences in New Mexico's education system, from quite different perspectives. We also find broad support for school choice from Millennials, smart cities using data in innovative ways to improve public education, and continued challenges in recruiting and retaining a diverse teaching force. The work is never ending but together we move forward.

As always, your feedback is welcomed, as are social media and other sharing. Here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: NEWS] Perspective on School Grades Once Again Ignores Equity. Albuquerque native and founder of the recently approved charter school Albuquerque Collegiate, Jade Rivera, shares a poignant reminder of the pernicious inequity that persists across public education and in our own backyards:

    "In a recent op-ed in the Santa Fe New Mexican, entitled “Ignore the state’s grading system for schools”, David Soherr-Hadwiger, professor at UNM, writes about the great opportunities his daughters received at three campuses within Albuquerque Public Schools and his frustration about the grades received by these schools under the Public Education Department’s school grading system.

    Reading the op-ed, I experienced a flurry of intense emotion, both personally and professionally. Personally, I am a product of APS, a proud alumnus of Montezuma Elementary School, Jefferson Middle School, and Albuquerque High School. Numerous experiences highlighted in the article reflect my own experience at these schools. Sixteen years ago, my single mother was among the “dozens of families” that Mr. Soherr-Hadwiger writes about that transfer their children into Jefferson to gain access to its academic offerings. I took AP courses at Albuquerque High, including AP calculus from Mr. Jimmy Phillips, who was instrumental in my decision to become a mathematics teacher myself.

    I benefitted tremendously from the educators and academic programs at these schools. However, I know that those same opportunities were not afforded to every one of my classmates, particularly those who came from low-income households, and who identified as ethnic minorities. If you read beyond the single letter grades of these schools, dissecting the school grade reports, you can see that this inequity remains true today.

    The school grading system is an assessment of how a school is performing. Is it a perfect encapsulation of 100% of the things happening at a school? Of course not, but it gives us a high-level picture about the statistical performance of a school and its students. This year Albuquerque High received a “D” letter grade. Looking more closely at the school grade report, we know that the school did not perform well in “current standing”, which assesses if students are on grade level. The report shows that currently 29% of all students are proficient in reading and 14% are proficient in math. The vast majority of students are not meeting grade level targets, and while that is an issue in and of itself, the greater issue I see is that of inequity among subgroups. 60% of white students are proficient in reading, while only 22% of Hispanic students are proficient. Again, white students surpass the all student math proficiency with 42% deemed proficient, while a mere 9% of Hispanic students are identified as proficient. Hispanic students, who account for nearly 80% of the student population, are being outperformed by their white peers by nearly 3 times in reading, and over 4.5 times in math. As a member of the Hispanic community, that is something I cannot ignore, particularly as I think about what this means for my community.

    Does this mean there aren’t Hispanic students in AP courses at Albuquerque High, gaining scholarships to prestigious colleges and universities? Absolutely not. But it does mean that those AP courses and college admissions are likely not representative of the larger school population. When I attended Albuquerque High 10 or so years ago, I was often one of few Hispanic students in the AP classes, and when I opted to take regular government, instead of AP government, I was asked how my “gen pop” class was, because that’s what students called it. To be frank, my “gen pop” class was not remotely rigorous or challenging, but it was the first time I had a class where I was in the ethnic majority.

    In response to Mr. Soherr-Hadwiger’s suggestion to parents to ignore school grades based on the positive experiences of his daughters, I would urge him to reflect on the privilege and hubris of such a suggestion. Certainly, inquiring families should talk to other parents about the doors that have opened for their children, but understand that the experiences of one child cannot reflect the broader experience of all children at any given school.

    For parents and families, I would advise getting all the facts and information possible. Get qualitative information from other parents, and look at the quantitative data in a school grade report. Get to know everything you can when making a determination about what doors can be opened for your child at any given school. Remember that knowledge is power, and if we hope to flourish as a community, it is critical that we understand the inequities that exist and then fight for equitable power and knowledge, for all students and families in our community."
  • [LOCAL: NEWS] New Mexico Needs Fresh Ideas, Not Tired Politics, To Move Forward. Offering a perspective straight from the classroom (and a stark contrast to the stale perspective of Sen. Stewart of Albuquerque, who we'll recall is adamant that "we don't know how to teach poor kids") longtime educator Rachael Stewards is kind enough to share a counter and constructive narrative: 

    "My participation in the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network invigorated my energy and helped me find my voice as a teacher in New Mexico. The relationships I built with other teachers from around the state, as well as the conversations I was able to have with PED officials, increased my capacity as a teacher leader in the state. My year in the NMTLN allowed me to better understand policy and protocol coming out of the PED and how it impacted me as a teacher and my students. The openness and transparency with which our PED works is unique and an opportunity for teachers to have a voice in public education."

  • [NATIONAL: SURVEY] Across All Millennials, Support for School Choice High. In two recent national surveys, researchers found broad support for various forms of school choice, with support highest among Millennials of color. Specifically, charter schools garnered "support from 65% of African Americans, 61% of Asian Americans, 58% of Latinos, and 55% of whites." This comes as no surprise from the generation accustomed to on-demand options in all facets of their lives and who grew up with a distrust of large institutions following the 2008 Great Recession. The question remains whether we as adults have the courage and fortitude to enact the fundamental changes our students are asking for - and desperately need.
  • [NATIONAL: RESEARCH] Smart City Data Helping to Solve Education Challenges. A recent article highlights examples from Chicago to Nashville to Fresno and also finds that, for cash-strapped school districts, partnering with the community is sometimes the only way they can leverage data to improve student experiences. One such data-sharing agreement in Nashville, TN "has helped Metro Nashville Public Schools improve students’ reading skills. By looking at data on which types of after-school initiatives are effective, educators were able to alter the programs’ curricula to support better outcomes."
  • [NATIONAL: CERTIFICATION] Teaching Licensure Remains Barrier for Diverse Teachers. In fantastic reporting from Matt Barnum over at Chalkbeat, he finds systemic and financial hurdles continue to keep teachers of color out of the classroom, where our students need them most. With a teacher workforce that hovers around 80% white nationwide, many of the requirements intended to ensure teacher quality instead becomes burdens "of tough certification rules borne by teachers of color". The five primary issues he uncovers are:

         1. Undergraduate GPAs requirements "which excludes half of Black and over one-third of Hispanic college graduates";
         2. When they take traditional teaching exams, Black and Hispanic candidates fail more often;
         3. A new kind of test has shrunk the gaps, but Black candidates continue to fail at higher rates (see graphic below);
         4. All of those teaching exams cost a lot, especially if you have to retake them; and
         5. Alternative pathways attract more teachers of color, but some states limit them.
Teacher Certification Exam

10 Things You Need To Know About New Mexico's Acting Secretary of Education Christopher Ruszkowski

As many of us read in the op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal on Monday, New Mexico has a new acting Secretary of Education, Christopher Ruszkowski. Any glance at the comments section reveals that education continues to be a divisive and all-too-often mindless conversation in New Mexico. We are long on rhetoric and short on optimism and new ideas. Any attempt to try something new is met with fierce resistance and misplaced nostalgia for "the way things used to be." The reality is that the world is changing at a pace much faster than we're prepared for and we can either work hard to catch up or remain lagging far behind.

I know Christopher to be a no-nonsense champion for students (even if that means some adults are put off) and as someone unwaveringly focused on educational equity. He's also human, takes his fair share of missteps and is eager to learn from those mistakes. My hope is that we'll continue to focus on the future of education in New Mexico and not, as Christopher shared, stay “wedded to the 20th century way of doing business”, instead focusing on “what’s best for children.” I also know Christopher wants to and has experience working across lines of difference to help redefine a new possible for New Mexico - and that he wants to be held accountable to outcomes for our kids. Let's do that and be critical friends supportive of our students.

My hope is we'll approach Christopher's tenure as we should all education policymakers in New Mexico, with optimism and a "trust, but verify" mindset. I'm a big fan of healthy skepticism though in New Mexico that frequently shows up as cynicism instead. We're lucky to have Christopher here but we also owe it to our kids to continue to push him and NMPED, prod them, question their decisions and develop solutions in the field. The best ideas on behalf of kids don't live in Santa Fe, but rather in the field with educators. We are a beautiful, culturally rich state in desperate need of news ways to bring forth our heritage and history in the 21st century. Our kids need it, our communities need it, our economy needs it and, frankly, the future of our state depends on as much.

So, while I've had the opportunity to better know Christopher over the past year, I think all New Mexicans should better understand the person now at the helm of public education in the Land of Enchantment. Below I share some key things to know about our new acting Secretary. Number ten, the Delaware piece, in particular is a must-read. I've included the entire blog post as it's from someone who worked side-by-side with Christopher for years, and I know that Delaware is missing his leadership right now. In unabashed Buzzfeed fashion, I present The Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Christopher Ruszkowski:

  1. His is the son of immigrants, including a Polish immigrant who grew up in a German work camp and his family fled war-torn Europe, arriving in Chicago in 1950;
  2. As the son of an Eastern European immigrant, his favorite pierogi is potato slathered in sour cream;
  3. His began his career in education teaching middle school social studies in Miami through Teach For America;
  4. He has never had a full cup of coffee, despite thousands of hours spent in coffee shops;
  5. He was part of the inaugural cohort of the Future Chiefs fellowship at Chiefs for Change
  6. He holds a Bachelor’s in political science from the University of Minnesota and represented the state of Minnesota as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship;
  7. While in Delaware, he led the creation of their "Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators for All Students";
  8. He attended public schools in Chicago and Minnesota and has worked in public schools in Miami, Boston, San Francisco and Louisiana
  9. Since coming to New Mexico, he's helped form a "Secretary’s Teacher Advisory", a newly-formed New Mexico Teacher Leader Network intended to amplify teacher voice and create statewide communities of practice around teacher craft; and
  10. Delaware's loss is New Mexico's gain. From "Why Delaware Education Will Miss Christopher Ruszkowski" on the excellent Fiercely Urgent blog, which is maintained by a fierce local education advocate, Atnre Alleyne:

Christopher Ruszkowski’s six-year tenure at the Department of Education (most recently as the Associate Secretary of Teacher & Leader Effectiveness) came to an end in April [2016]. Rumor has it he rode off into the sunset en route to a position as Deputy Secretary in the New Mexico Department of Education. His detractors likely collectively exclaimed “it’s about time.” His longevity at the Department (serving on the leadership team in the Lowery, Murphy, and Godowsky administrations) belied his so-called aggressive brand of education reform and the numerous calls to have him ousted. His no-holds-barred style, Chicago-bred candor, kids-before-adults policy-making, and unmatched commitment to President Obama’s Race To The Top (RTTT) agenda (originally signed on for  by all Delaware stakeholders) made some view him as part of the problem with education reform. 

But his departure is a huge loss for Delaware.

Full disclosure is in order before I proceed. Christopher was my manager at the Department for four years and became a friend. So perhaps I am completely biased on this topic. Or perhaps, my front row seat during his tenure means I really know what I am talking about. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

But in today’s edu-blogosphere and dominant discourse you can only be either/or. False choices prevail and caricatures are commonplace.

So some will say Christopher is a corporate education reformer, teacher hater, over-testing proponent who is systematically dismantling our education system. But others could say he is the product of a first-generation immigrant, working class family who made his way through college on a golf caddie scholarship and eventually became a social studies teacher in Little Haiti, Miami. Some could say he is an overpaid edu-bureaucrat who seeks to enrich himself and advance his career at the expense of overworked educators and under-resourced students. But others would say he is a teacher-turned-teacher coach-turned-education policymaker whose passion for students fueled his 70-hour work weeks.

These days, you’re either a Delawarean who cares about kids or an outsider who cares about the next position a pit stop in The First State will afford you.  False dichotomies. Instead of delving into details, nuance is neglected, straw men arguments are erected, and facts are rejected.

But here is the reality: Christopher is like almost everyone in the education sector–his motives are pure, he subscribes and commits to a particular philosophy about how to improve the education system, he has made personal and policy mistakes, and he has done a ton of good at the same time. There’s no shortage of commentary about perceived policy mistakes and/or personal attacks, so I’ll be heavier on the good here.

Christopher’s URGENCY will be missed.
Every day there are large numbers of students being taught in classrooms that are shortchanging their potential and attending schools where many more well-to-do folks would never send their kids. There are teacher candidates accumulating “Easy A’s” in teacher preparation programs that are not preparing them for success in the classroom. And there are teachers who never receive the quality feedback, leadership support, and resources to thrive in their work. Almost everyone would agree that these are things that need to be fixed. But few have demonstrated the urgency Christopher did to make progress on such issues. 

Christopher had no shortage of opposition and ample opportunity to spend his summer at Rehoboth and do nothing on many of these issues. Yet, during his six-year tenure,standards were raised for teacher preparation programs, scorecards were shared publicly to assess Delaware educator preparation programs, teacher evaluation changes were made that educators believe have enhanced the system, and an incentive program was established to retain talented teachers in high poverty schools.

Yet, one of the fair criticisms of RTTT and the work Christopher led is that major reforms (new standards, new assessments, new educator evaluation systems, etc.) were implemented concurrently and with haste. Sustainable and impactful initiatives take time and the folks implementing on the ground often felt like they were in a pressure cooker. But to be honest, many of the changes Delaware stakeholders committed to in their RTTT plan would never have been accomplished if operating on the normal pace of change in education.  At the normal pace of the establishment, my 14-month old daughter wouldn’t see any change until she started her freshman year in high school.

Common sense improvements move at a snail’s pace in the education system. While few think our state’s school funding formula is adequate, for example, it hasn’t changed in around 70 years. Delaware’s starting salaries for teachers are the lowest in the region and there’s consensus that we need to reform our compensation system. Yet, the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation & Careers (CAECC) has been meeting since 2014 (and conversations on the topic were ongoing for many years prior) with no result. Inertia is the modus operandi in education and there are too many decisionmakers in the system who lose sight of the students impacted while they do their decades-long political dance.

Christopher’s focus on EQUITY will be missed.
When the US Department of Education (USED) required all states to analyze data, engage stakeholders, and develop a plan to ensure low-income and minority students have equitable access to great educators, many states responded as one would expect: they asked “what’s in it for me?” There were no federal funds tied to this mandate and there was little USED could do to ensure compliance. But instead of phoning it in like many states, and despite internal pressure to make the plan a lower priority, Christopher seized the moral imperative and led his team (and the state) in the creation of Delaware’sExcellent Educators for All Students plan. The document was based on newly-released data on educator equity gaps and over a hundred conversations with parents, teachers, policymakers, etc. across the state.

But policymakers are known for making elaborate plans and paying lip service to issues of equity in education. They would rather pay homage to the complex, intractable, and structural nature of problems of equity than create solutions within their sphere of influence. Now, Christopher can definitely be criticized for implementing solutions too small to address the structural roots of inequity.  He was not reforming housing, policing, or poverty per se. But he was not one to let such criticisms paralyze him in prioritizing educator equity in his work, and in doing his part to make the system better.

So Christopher launched an “Equity Fellowship” in partnership with the Delaware Academy of School Leadership’s Principal Preparation Program that incentivizes becoming a principal in a high-need school. He also launched a program that provides financial incentives for highly-effective teachers to continue teaching in high-poverty schools. In the latter program, 92% of highly-effective Math & English teachers were retained in schools participating in the program over the last two years as compared to 85% in all other high-need schools.

Christopher’s focus on TALENT and DIVERSITY will be missed.
Christopher practiced what he preached about the importance of high-quality talent in the education system. As a result of Christopher’s leadership, thousands of educators can apply for a job in Delaware districts through a centralized portal–Join Delaware Schools. He also supported Delaware school leaders’ talent development through programs like the Relay National Principals Academy Fellowship (over 25 Delaware school leaders have attended this prestigious year-long fellowship to-date). Within the Department, he was the driving force behind the state’s summer fellowships, new internship programs, and new partnerships with leading national organizations. Last summer, he launched a new summer program, “Educators at Catalysts”, that brought several classroom teachers onto his team at the Department.  This year, the program is being implemented Department-wide.

And then there’s how he attracted and selected talent into key positions. The standard operating procedure in the education sector is to post a position on your website for two weeks and hope and pray that someone good applies. Christopher was notorious for aggressive recruitment and for reposting positions until he found the right candidate. Using the “corporate” playbook, Christopher managed to assemble a team with a Delaware Principal of the Year, a former Delaware district HR director from one of the state’s largest districts, a former NASA education programs leader, a district administrator from Seaford who had policy experience at UD, a PhD from Emory, and more. Somehow he managed to convince people to take substantial pay cuts to leave Delaware districts to work for the DDOE, and in some cases, to relocate to Delaware from around the country (Texas, Atlanta, D.C., etc.). At the same time, he managed to assemble one of the most racially diverse teams at the DDOE in an education system that struggles in this area. It’s no surprise then that Christopher was Delaware’s representative at the US Department of Education’s “Our Students, Our Leaders” convening of 50 leaders seeking to close the demographic gap between students and leaders in the education sector.

Christopher’s willingness to SAY WHAT OTHERS WON’T will be missed.
Christopher generated a lot of controversy during his tenure because he said “crazy” stuff. For example, he brought the wrath of the Delaware Association of School Administrators upon himself when he claimed that “there seems to be a problem of either will or skill” among Delaware administrators that leads to an evaluation system where 99 percent of teachers are effective or better.

Christopher definitely knows better than painting any group with a broad brush. He just had a penchant for  using hyperbole to provoke important conversations about teacher and leader quality, equity, standards, and expectations. But his comments were not necessarily “crazy” because they weren’t true.

National research would suggest that some teacher evaluation ratings are inflated because administrators would rather avoid the paperwork needed to help a struggling teacher improve (will). Other studies have found that some administrators are less skilled in conducting observations and teacher evaluations (skill).

The things he said were “crazy” mostly because he said things that others know to be true but rarely say out loud. Insiders know the politics, the power brokers, the ineffective people, the stall tactics, and the system flaws that lead to mediocre results and certain kids getting a raw deal. The prevailing culture of nice just requires that such topics are only mentioned in off-the-record conversations.

So his absence means we’re all less likely to see “crazy” quotes in the paper that upset people. It also means we’re more likely to see closed door conversations emerge in the public sphere as sanitized soundbites. Except in the rare instances when decisionmakers are brazen enough to tell the truth…

Just a few months ago during a public meeting, Representative Jacques admonished the DPAS-II Advisory Committee to align with the policy he had already “shaken hands” on in a backroom deal with others in the “good old boys” network. But that did not register as a “crazy” comment among the teachers’ union, administrators’ association, district leaders, and PTA representatives on the committee. Maybe because it is the crazy they have come to know and love.

Christopher Ruszkowski: "What brings me to and keeps me in the work"

[6/19] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues - 

As news of Secretary Skandera stepping aside came across the newswire, the predictable polarity around education made its inevitable appearance. While I am both thankful for the Secretary's service and excited to see what she pursues next, I'd be remiss not to say a few more words about her legacy in New Mexico.

Education is a divisive topic. The stakes are high and nearly everyone of us has attended some sort of school, making us all "experts" - with an opinion. Additionally, as a state we dedicate nearly 60% of our roughly $6 billion annual budget on preK through college education. Despite what many say, we spend about as much as we can on public education in a state which continues to languish economically. Do we spend that money as wisely or effectively as we need to? No. But is there much more blood to squeeze from our high desert stone? Nope; at least not until we modernize our economy, revolutionize our schools and reclaim our independence from the federal government and oil and gas.

Many people I love and respect disagree with the policies and practices of the NMPED under Secretary Skandera. That's all and good - and indicative of a healthy, robust republic. Let's have those policy and philosophical conversations. However, the degree to which Secretary Skandera's personal character has been and continues to be attacked is troublesome. As many of us know first hand, the realm of public leadership is an unending and often thankless one. That comes with the territory so you'll get no sympathy from me.

Though, for those of us who have met the Secretary, it's immediately apparent that she cares deeply about New Mexico and our students. She has relentlessly pursued an agenda to drastically improve education opportunities for all of our babies, regardless of skin tone or zip code. Was there much to be desired with communication from NMPED to teachers and parents? Absolutely. Has she ruffled feathers along the way?  Of course. But that's often what we need in my beloved homeland.

So, as we think about our next Secretary and Governor let's work collectively, in spite of our disagreements on education, to ensure our next leaders are as focused and invested in our students as Hanna has been. My work will be to ensure that no matter the political party of our next state leader, New Mexicans will prioritize education policies and practices to ensure our students become the future community, civic and business leaders we need. Now, here's this week's roundup:

  • [LOCAL: SURVEY] Proving that we have a long way to go in reimagining what's possible from public education in New Mexico, The Leadership Conference Education Fund’s second annual New Education Majority Poll found that three-quarters of Latino parents believe “U.S. public schools are doing a good job preparing Latino students for success,” a 10% improvement over 2016. Optimism is a noble cause though we have a long way to go to equalize a public education system which chronically underserves Hispanic and low-income students.
  • [NATIONAL: NEWS] The future of education is a system based on what our students have demonstrably learned instead of how long they've sat in assigned seats. In a big step away from the "Industrial Education" model of the 19th and 20th centuries, students graduating from Maine high schools must show they have mastered specific skills to earn a high school diploma. Maine is the first state to pass such a law, though the idea of valuing skills over credits is increasingly popular around the country. This approach is highly applicable here in New Mexico where we rely more than most states on homegrown talent graduating high school with the skills needed to create and join local businesses to drive our economy.
  • [NATIONAL: NEWS] As I've repeated over and over, spending money on education is important but it isn't everything. According to the74million.org, "Schools in the U.S. spent $344.3 billion on classroom instruction in fiscal year 2015, accounting for 60 percent of day-to-day expenditures, a figure that includes spending on salaries for teachers and instructional aides, according to the Census Bureau." So, even as spending on students ticks up nationally, our kids aren’t proving to be doing much better academically. Fourth- and eighth-graders across the country did worse in mathematics in the 2015 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) than they did in 2013, the last time the test was given. In reading, eighth-graders again performed worse in 2015 than in 2013, while fourth-graders’ scores remained stagnant. New Mexico is roughly in the middle of the pack for per-pupil spending at $9,725, yet we are dead last for nearly every NAEP category. We see yet again that the "how" of education spending is just as important as the "how much".
Nation Per-Pupil Spending + NAEP Scores

[4/12] For Our Future: This Week's Education News & More

Friends & Colleagues -

Spring has sprung, as has education news from across New Mexico and the country. This week I'm providing independent analysis and a summary table of U.S. News' recently released New Mexico school rankings. While there are certainly some highlights, the report is another reminder of the tough and necessary work ahead. Here's the latest round up:

  • [LOCAL] The governor and NMPED have made tough compromises on our statewide teacher evaluation system, NM Teach, including:
    • Doubling the number of sick / personal days teachers can take before it affects their evaluation from three to six;
    • Student test results now reflect 35% of a teacher's evaluation, down from 50%; and
    • Classroom observations are now 35% of a teacher's evaluation, up from 25%.

While the changes in and of themselves are common-sense and reflect the latest research on incorporating student data into evaluations, that our evaluation system remains unwritten into law is worrisome. We are well past the need to codify our approach into law and move the discussion forward to how we evolve the system over time, not whether we should have one at all.

  • [LOCAL] Leadership New Mexico member Scott Turner issues a call to action for New Mexico to expect and do better for our students.
  • [LOCAL] U.S. News has released their 2017 rankings of best high schools in New Mexico. While side-by-side comparisons must always be contextualized, the fact that 4 out of the top 10 schools are public charters is noteworthy. Especially in a state where there are roughly the same number of APS elementary schools as there are charter schools across the entire state. See below for a summary table I've created and some quick analysis:
    • There is large alignment between the rankings and our school grades with 8 of 10 being "A" schools;
    • The top three high schools are relatively small with enrollments of 614, 340 and 69 total students, respectively;
    • There are alarming gaps between low-income students and their peers; see the "LIC Proficient" and "Gap" columns; and
    • We still have far to go; only the top three schools have "College Readiness" scores of 50 or higher and only Cottonwood Classical is above 80.
  • [NATIONAL] Here's a nifty and brief reminder from The 74 Million, including a 2-minute video, explaining what exactly charters schools (publicly funded but independently operated schools that are open to all children and tuition-free) are and are not.
  • [NATIONAL] While we don’t all agree on the future of education and the best ways to get there, we must still interact with one another respectfully. That’s my view which is shared by a bipartisan coalition of two dozen education leaders who have published a white paper providing guidelines on how to forge a “productive dialogue” on race, social justice and education reform.
2017 New Mexico U.S. News High School Rankings

All Eyes on ESSA

As you’ve likely seen, the fireworks in Santa Fe are well underway. And while there’s plenty of energy around the state budget, and marijuana legalization, public education is the hottest topic in the roundhouse.

Important within these conversations is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). For those unfamiliar with ESSA, it is the new federal law guiding public education. Every state must submit an ESSA plan to the US Department of Education this summer.

This week New Mexico First released a report detailing their community conversations from across the state. The “New Mexico Rising” tour collected feedback in six communities, speaking to nearly 2000 people including 700+ teachers.

If you haven’t already, I suggest you check out the report and PED’s corresponding follow-up. NMPED has stated they will immediately take action on the feedback in the following ways:

  • Increase efforts to recognize and celebrate the teaching profession
  • Reduce the amount of time spent on student assessments
  • Support legislation to decrease the weight of student growth in teacher evaluations
  • Increase the number of days teachers can take off without penalty from three to five

These are encouraging responses which incorporate community feedback while also ensuring student achievement remains front and center. We must always have clear, in-depth data on how our students and schools are doing. There is strong evidence that consistent, high standards positively impact student learning.

Over the next few weeks and months I will continue to provide updates on New Mexico’s ESSA plan as it has serious implications for our schools and students. ESSA is our opportunity to maintain a high bar of expectations, not lower expectations which would leave our students further and further behind.

It is imperative we hold the NMPED accountable to create an ESSA plan that upholds high expectations while also embracing the uniqueness of the Land of Enchantment. Let us as parents, grandparents, tías and tíos remain engaged in the process to ensure our children receive the education they need to be New Mexico’s future leaders, business owners, teachers and citizens.