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American Federation of Teachers-NM keeps heat on NMPED

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Education > Teachers’ group presents petition to state to curtail student testing

By Tris DeRoma

An organization aligning itself with New Mexico’s education reform movement recently made its move on the New Mexico Public Education Department, dropping off two petitions with it collected on a recent bus tour of New Mexico.
One of those petitions, created by Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, had 3,000 signatures.
Ly personally dropped off the petition with Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s education secretary in mid-December at New Mexico’s Public Education Office in Santa Fe.
The petition, which can be found on Move.org, is asking residents to help reform New Mexico’s public education system.
“We want curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning, not testing, and that includes art, music and the sciences. We want to put the public back in public education,” a statement in the petition read. “The top-down policies of the last decade have not worked. It’s clear that austerity, competition, division and hyper-testing have not and will not help our students. Top-down edicts, sanctions, mass school closures and denigrating teachers will not move the needle in the right direction. Our children and our schools deserve better.”
Throughout 2013, “Promise For New Mexico’s Future” has been crisscrossing the state, gathering information through public forums and polls about how the state is managing its recent attempts at education reform.
This year, the NMPED has rolled out a number of rules and regulations revolving around “Common Core” and “NMTeach.” Common Core is a national program designed to give students a deeper, fundamental understanding of mathematics and English.
NMTeach is the state’s answer to a waiver from the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act.
According to some teachers here in Los Alamos and across the state, the NPED’s rollout has been too hasty and disorganized, causing undue stress and interference with their abilities to teach children.
A few days after Ly dropped off the AFT’s petition, the NMPED’s spokesman, Larry Behrens, responded.
“This petition is the latest tactic by the status quo to distract from discussing what is truly important: our students and their achievement,” Behrens said in an email. “For years, New Mexico has ranked near the bottom nationally when it comes to academic achievement and during that time these special interests saw no need for a petition,” he said. “One number not counted in this petition is 70. That is number of students New Mexico loses every school day. We wish the special interests pushing this tactic would focus on students instead. Our students deserve better.”
In response to Behrens’ statement, Ly said “putting students first means that we sufficiently fund our schools and do reforms that are proven to improve student achievement. The latest PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) reports show that in the past 12 years our corporate-driven reforms and overtesting is not improving our students’ education,” she said.
“Therefore, New Mexico’s PED’s are the true status quo and are negatively affecting New Mexico’s students,” she said. “It’s our obligation to the students, educators and taxpayers of New Mexico to provide the best education to New Mexico kids, and that means stopping the ineffective corporate reforms that have been in place for over 12 years in this country.”