Letters to the editor

Skandera needs better plan

TWO YEARS ago, Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera achieved five of her 10 goals for changing education in New Mexico. Last year, she achieved only three.

Due to this decline in her effectiveness and achievements, her evaluation should be downgraded from A to C. If this decline continues over the next year, that is, if she does not achieve at least four of her remaining two goals, we should expect Gov. Susana Martinez to dismiss Skandera from her position at that time, consistent with PED protocols.

I hope this example illustrates that, while previous measures of teacher performance in New Mexico may not have been sufficient and may no longer be acceptable, that does not ineluctably lead to the conclusions that the changes Skandera has proposed for evaluations are the correct ones, or even sensible.

In particular, the measures that PED has proposed do not even allow for accounting for previous success at improving or continuing student achievement. Until PED is able to devise more sensible measures, it does not make sense to implement the half-thought-out ones that have been proposed.

I remain confident that Skandera and the PED can do better if they think more and try harder.


Los Alamos

Just too many students

SECRETARY-DESIGNEE Hanna Skandera’s dismissive attitude toward class size is the perfect example of how myopic the current administration is when it comes to education. I will grant that smaller class sizes do not guarantee better test scores. This obsession with scores, however, blinds far too many from seeing the bigger picture.

As a parent of a sophomore, I do not want my son’s teacher to have up to 171 students a day. This is a guaranteed way to exhaust our teachers and depersonalize education for everyone. And as a middle-school teacher, I see 167 students a day. It is not possible for me to really get to know that many students.

I do guarantee that the current edicts from Santa Fe have me making plans for retirement.



Student ‘learning,’ alright

CONCERNING SECRETARY of Education-designee (Hanna) Skandera’s plea for New Mexicans to drink the Kool-Aid: We high-school students are already learning from PED’s “reformed” educational system. As a student here in New Mexico who(m) this “reform” is aimed to benefit, let me tell you what it has already taught me:

• I learned that I mean nothing more to my state than a test score, and how well I perform on one of these tests will soon dictate how much my teachers get paid.

• I learned that I should try and get the best teachers I can while I can. Good teachers are quitting because they are worn out and tired of being forced to comply with a direction in education that compromises their professional and educational beliefs.

• I learned that this “reform” is not geared toward helping students, but rather the coffers of corporate testing companies.

• I learned that I should not become a teacher because it would mean entering a career where I would not be treated as a professional, I would have to teach to a test, I would be overworked and I would be underpaid.

• I learned that I am lucky to be graduating this year because it means that I will be narrowly escaping a new education system that sucks the joy out of learning and focuses on redundant and excessive testing that unnecessarily stresses students and teachers.

Finally, and most importantly, I learned that my teachers are right; there are many opportunities to stand up for what I believe in and to take action against the injustice and incompetence that Skandera’s PED has created.


Los Alamos

We need to focus on kids

NOBODY DISAGREES that the education of New Mexico’s students must be better. We all share the concern that school-aged children need to be as well prepared as possible to face the complex challenges of the future. At issue, instead, is the way to go about improving their education.

Teachers and administrators must be an integral part of the process as they are the ones who work with students every day. Families, or what passes for a family in New Mexico these days, must be more involved. It is startling to learn how many students go to school hungry and under-nourished only to return “home” and have to fend for themselves. Many of these children rely on the school system for the only decent meal they get in a day.

Of course, the students themselves must be taught to understand and appreciate that it is only through hard work and a solid education that they will thrive and prosper as adults.

The current Martinez administration, in association with the New Mexico Public Education Department, has instead adopted a top-down approach in which they, non-educators, dictate to schools what is needed, in the form of testing and canned curriculum, to improve the lot of students. Testing is not teaching, and the secretary-designate at the PED is not an educator.

… Just where does the allegiance of the secretary-designate truly lie? To the children of our state or the companies that benefit by her decisions?



Why rename diplomas?

RE: REP. Mimi Stewart’s dual diploma proposal

It will grant a “diploma of excellence” to students who have earned one, and a “general diploma,” previously called a “certificate of completion,” to students who have somehow sat through classes without qualifying for a “diploma of excellence.” It is not clear to me whether a “general diploma” recipient will have better qualifications than the holder of a “certificate of completion.”

APS Superintendent Winston Brooks wonders if requirements of the lottery scholarships can be met by students who have “certificates of completion.” A dual diploma system, he says, would reduce confusion. Really? If you are confused by this, think about prospective employers. What exactly does receiving a diploma mean under this proposal?

A rose is a rose. If you need to have a diploma to win a lottery scholarship or qualify for certain jobs, renaming the “certificate of completion” a “general diploma” will cause only confusion. A “certificate of completion,” while honest in its own right, is NOT a “general diploma” no matter how much Stewart likes the name. After all, the purpose isn’t to reward students with a diploma for staying in school, but to prepare them for a productive life after graduation.

I am so surprised, given the need to improve N.M.’s educational standards, that anyone who knows how to think would take this proposal seriously. It is a further lowering of educational standards, a clouding of clarity and a very bad idea.



Same ol’, same ol’ in NM

THE RECENT “Education Week” rating of K-12 education by state lists N.M. in 48th place out of 50, pretty much the same as when I arrived here in 1975.

If I was trying to raise a lawn and all I got was brown scraggly stuff and my neighbor, Colorado, had a lush green yard, I would go ask him what he was doing right that I was doing wrong. Common sense, right?

Does the New Mexico education system exhibit any signs of common sense?

The Albuquerque schools have made Wednesday a half-day of school, right in the middle of the work week, for as long as I can remember. So much for common sense. …

It is clear that the N.M. Department of Education administrators/bureaucrats are responsible for this deplorable situation. Albert Einstein said “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Einstein had common sense.

Therefore, start by eliminating the Wednesday half-day of school. It doesn’t work. This should move us up about 10 spots in the ratings, and eliminate the detrimental effect that it has always had on teachers, parents and students.

The purpose of administration is to enable the workers to do their jobs. Therefore, leave the educators – the teachers – alone to educate. If the administrators insist on meaningless, counter-productive reports, forms, paperwork, rating and testing systems, then let them circulate it among themselves. This should immediately move us up about another 15 spots, then on into the 21st Century.

Am I an educator? No, but then neither are those PED administrators and bureaucrats – 48 out of 50, remember?



Lottery scholarship smart

THE LOTTERY scholarship is the single smartest thing the state of New Mexico has done in decades, if not centuries.

It makes higher education accessible to thousands of families and raises the general educational level of the state. It is true we live in a state that is both economically poor and poor in natural resources. To attract industries that will not put tremendous strain on our infrastructure and water resources, we need to attract industries that require a more highly educated populace.

Higher education is roughly correlated with higher wages. Higher wages produce higher spending power. Higher spending power puts more money into the state economy. …

Ultimately, by raising our state’s educational level and increasing our attractiveness to creative and high-tech industries, by raising the qualifications and wages of our populace, and by keeping more highly qualified people in-state, the lottery scholarship will pay off far more than it costs.



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