—by Jeff Tuttle, Golden Apple Fellow—
I met today at the National Hispanic Cultural Center to represent the Golden Apple Academy, with people from the Legislative Education Study Committee, Senator Padilla, Ellen Bernstein, Susan Patrick of iNacol, the Coalition for Excellence in Education, PTEC, the LANL Foundation, board members from APS, teachers, parents, and students in a meeting initiated the New Mexico Center for School Leadership, and sponsored by the New Mexico Learning Alliance. The regular gathering of stakeholders in New Mexico education is necessary for the continuity of conversation of our values as a state, and what we want to bring to our children for the future of New Mexico. The status of education in New Mexico demonstrates the need to broaden the conversation beyond the NM Public Education Department, and it was a sign of hope to have such representation from many organizations and individuals at the meeting today. A discussion summary is here. (Jump to the most pressing action)
Take Aways and Next Steps
It was an honor to be amidst an impressive group of individuals and organizations concerned with education in our state. I would like to work toward a more cohesive educational conversation in New Mexico, a commonly used repository for the continuation and advancement of this conversation, and public access for action. My post here is toward that ideal, and to serve as my impressions of the direction of conversation.
We, in the group, have the common experience that the current evaluation system of students, and therefore teachers and schools (because those evaluations are built from there), is lacking.
My personal experience with the evaluation system is exemplified by the evaluation I signed today, October 26th 2017, the day of this revision. My “effective” rating would have been “highly effective” or better, except for the test scores of the 45 students I had last year. Well, I had only 21 students last year. The failure of the PED to even properly count the number of students I had in my class should serve as warning for its ability toward higher math functions, like addition.
Similarly, the school where I work received an “F” this year, and then a later apology from the PED that a miscalculation had artificially driven our school grade down, it was not an “F”. The “school grades” news article in the Albuquerque Journal was long since to press, and our entire community is affected by the misinformation.
The appearance of objectivity, the reductionistic simplicity of accepting quantitative data for what should be assessed qualitatively, is an abdication of the responsibility of relational accountability. The pretense of making learning a data-set and students a product of schools rather than people with complexity, however convenient for policy, has broken down at every level in the above examples. That is just my own experience, for just this year.
We now need to create a new infrastructure to support a more complete system of assessment. We will need criteria, auditors, and educators who are trained in the assessment of student products according to that criteria.
This will begin a recovery for teachers to be trained as professionals with judgment and agency, rather than the trend to move teachers into compliant, undertrained, assembly-line workers.
With regard to teachers as professionals, meetings such as these should be counted as professional development for interested teachers, so that teachers are encouraged to participate in these and any conversations about education, and the community is informed about education from a teacher’s perspective. Until that becomes standard practice, meetings such as these should be planned to accommodate teachers who cannot attend. The teacher’s professional judgment needs to be fostered and counted.
The most pressing action, no matter a person’s affiliation, is to create a more publicly accountable Public Education Department, with protections against the gridlock that lead us to this rendition. It is imperative to reintroduce a democratic process into the issuance of education policy, and executive order type “rule” needs to come under a more scrutinous process. The current example of why we need to change that structure is the near adoption of the New Mexico “version” of science standards, discussed here.