'Keep the Promise' keeps at it

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Education > Organizers looking to reform key policies

By Tris DeRoma

Participants in the “Keep the Promise Bus Tour” met up at the National Education Association offices in Santa Fe Monday to assess how it went, and what impact it had on their mission to reform some key policies concerning student testing, wage structure, teacher evaluation as well as other issues.
Leading the discussion was the president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, Stephanie Ly. Other participants included Ellen Mills, president of the Los Alamos Federation of School Employees; Karyl Ann Armbruster, a retired teacher from Los Alamos; Isidoro Herrera, also of AFT NM; Charles Goodmacher, UniServ Director, Government Relations, National Education Association, New Mexico; Jared Ames of Working America and Ian Esquibel, executive director of Learning Alliance.
“Keep the Promise For New Mexico’s future” calls itself a group of “concerned citizens, businesses and organizations who are committed to ensuring a quality education from birth to career for our children, students and our future,” according to a statement on their website.
The bus tour was to gather input from citizens across New Mexico as to what they wanted to see changed or improved when it came to New Mexico’s public education system.
The tour started Dec. 9 and went until Dec. 13, stopping in Albuquerque, Belen, Socorro, Chaparral, Las Cruces, Silver City, Gallup, Grants, Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Los Alamos, Taos and Santa Fe.
According to Herrera, the bus tour went well, with many people signing the 3,000-signature petition, which they later dropped off at Santa Fe’s capital building.
“I thought it was really good. We got out there, had a lot of visibility, and had a lot of people signing the bus,” said Herrera.
According to Ly, the bus will make an extra stop in Santa Fe at the beginning of the next legislative session, which starts Jan. 20. They plan to park in front of the Roundhouse to raise even more awareness about education reform.
Ly also added there are talks to bring the bus across the country, since many of the things the New Mexico Public Education Department is introducing into the school system this year are national programs being introduced in other states too. That would include Common Core and similar student testing and teacher evaluation programs.
New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system is called “NMTeach.” It was created in response to a waiver the state received from the No Child Left Behind Act.
“We’re actually thinking of bringing it across the country after the legislative session,” Ly said. “But that’s going to take a lot of coordination … we aren’t there yet.”
They also want to do another push for their petition drive.
Some of what they learned from the bus tour was presented at a televised “Town Hall” meeting broadcast on KNME TV Thursday night.
Some of the findings include giving students a voice in teacher evaluations, taking the politics out of public education, basing evaluations more on what teachers do rather than how they do it, and restore previous commitments to class size and funding.
Mills was hopeful that the petition and the bus tour will have some sort of impact that will help her teachers as well as the students.
“I think we have momentum, which I’m pleased to see, and what’s also great is that we have other groups from various communities and organizations that are working together for the same purpose. It really is about education,” she said.