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New Mexico Teachers Fight Against ‘Blame and Shame Game’

Protesters at the AFT New Mexico rally in Santa Fe chanted, “One, two, three, four, kids are not a test score!” AFT-New Mexico photo

A fired up workforce in New Mexico is fighting a Summertime battle against a “reform” scheme by Gov. Susana Martinez (R) that would hurt, not help, the state’s public school students.

Last week, hundreds of teachers, educational assistants, secretaries, parents, students and community members protested the state Public Education Department’s (PED) plan to impose a system that would link teacher evaluations to student test scores.

Martinez refused to consult with educators in drafting the plan and is pushing it through by an administrative rule change after the legislature rejected her proposals this spring.

The protest by members of AFT New Mexico occurred in Santa Fe outside a PED hearing. The public testified overwhelmingly against the plan, and chanting from outside could be heard inside the hearing room.

The governor’s plan will place enormous pressure on educators to “teach to the test” to the detriment of developing critical thinking skills, said Stephanie Ly, president of AFT New Mexico, which represents 23,000 education professionals.

Our schools should aspire to be more than just test prep factories. This plan is being rushed, with little input from parents or from teachers, just to give the governor talking points for her re-election campaign. The PED exists to serve kids, not the governor’s political ambitions.

AFT New Mexico reports Martinez’s plan incorporates a flawed “value-added model,” despite broad agreement among experts that they are not reliable or valid to use for teacher evaluation. For educators who do not teach in the tested subjects of math and reading, their evaluations would be linked to the school’s overall scores—meaning an award-winning band teacher could be penalized for math scores she has no control over.

Ellen Bernstein, president of the 7,000-member Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF)/AFT, said the governor is just playing “the blame and shame game.”

Rather than setting schools up to fail, the state should give our schools the resources they need to succeed. It is fitting this rule is being implemented under a waiver to No Child Left Behind, because this rule will leave New Mexico’s children behind.

Anti-Union Media
Days prior to the hearing, the Albuquerque Journal inflamed the issue by pushing an attack line against the teachers’ union that had originated in the governor’s office. The paper ran an article and an editorial that incorrectly interpreted state law to imply that the union has improper access to contact information of the workers it represents.

The union called the timing of the Journal’s effort “quite curious…but rather than writing about the pros and cons of one of the most important changes in education policy in a decade, the Journal decides to trumpet a pseudo scandal to attack teacher unions.”

AFT New Mexico and ATF submitted a written comment to the PED outlining an alternative plan to improve teacher evaluations and accountability.

“We have a better way to improve evaluations and accountability,” Ly said. “Education policy should be driven by educators, not bureaucrats and politicians.”

Read Ly’s column about the reform plan here.

Albuquerque Teachers Federation/AFL-CIO Law Student Union Summer Intern Brandon Ortiz contributed to this report.

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