Letters to the Editor (01/18/2012)

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Improved education requires support

Editor’s Note: The following letter first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal’s Business Outlook section on Monday, Jan. 16. Dr. Wilson refers to a previous letter to Business Outlook from Paul J. Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a research institute that describes itself as being dedicated to increasing liberty and prosperity for New Mexico’s citizens.

I agree with some comments Paul Gessing made in the Jan. 2 Letters to Outlook. He stated workers produced by our education system must compete not just with Americans, but with workers from around the world and that “we will only survive and thrive … with an educated and competitive workforce.”
He encourages the business community to press the Legislature for educational reform. The Journal’s lead editorial on the same day, “Education Reform Too Crucial Not To Pursue,” supported pressing for some types of reform in the upcoming session and questioned the wisdom of some others.
New Mexico’s superintendents and other educational leaders are also pressing for significant reform to be supported in the upcoming session. They note in their recent position statement, “The current competitive global economy is challenging the United States’ dominance … and America’s public education must increase students’ abilities to compete in this environment. The state governors … responded to this challenge by commissioning and supporting the development of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which will be fully implemented and assessed by 46 states beginning with the 2014-15 school year… There is an increased need for skilled workers who are critical readers, problem solvers, creative thinkers and who are mathematically adept. The well-executed implementation of the CCSS will ensure that students are receiving a high-quality education … The implementation of the CCSS is a progressive step forward in instilling education equity across this great state, but the CCSS must be implemented with training, resources and the support necessary to ensure success for all teachers and students.”
New Mexico’s educational leaders … believe we need a real focus on this initiative complete with funding for appropriate instructional materials to support this new curriculum and for additional days of necessary teacher training and instruction, resources for early intervention programs and strategies to assure that all students are well prepared for this shift in curriculum, and a limit to the new initiatives that distract from this critical effort.
Some of the reform initiatives that are being pushed are not proven or based in fact. For example, there has been a push to dismantle the three-tiered teacher licensing system. The Journal stated incorrectly that 99.9 percent of our teachers are currently rated satisfactory. The fact is that 99.9 percent of the teachers who apply for advancement to the next tier are rated satisfactory — but those who are not performing at that level cannot and do not apply to advance to the next level. Only a limited portion of teachers apply to advance each year. While the licensure system might be improved by aligning more closely with the expectations of the CCSS, a major overhaul based on false assumptions, would detract from real school improvement.
Similarly, purchasing and mandating new statewide short-cycle assessments, when every district is already administering short-cycle assessments, in the two years before the full implementation of the CCSS and the new national assessments that go with those standards would be another distraction.
New Mexico’s educators are hard-working people putting forth Herculean efforts with ever-dwindling resources to improve the quality of education for our students and the quality of life for our citizenry. They are looking to all of us to support them. Let’s do so.
Dr. Cheryl Wilson
Retired past president
New Mexico School Superintendents’ Association and former superintendent of Socorro Consolidated Schools