Panel seeks to slow PED mandates

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By Tris DeRoma

A panel of parents, teachers and administrators called the “Study Group for Teachers’ Concern” are hard at work drafting a letter that will eventually find its way to the education secretary of New Mexico’s desk. 

The letter is a critique of the state’s recent rollout of several programs, which include Common Core Standards, Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, (PARCC), End of Course exams, and the new teacher evaluation system, called NMTeach. NMTeach is the program the state implemented as an alternative to No Child Left Behind.

The letter is asking the New Mexico Public Education Department to reevaluate certain details of these programs as well as come up with a more organized approach in implementing them. 

In a draft letter obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor, the panel stated, the “‘...all at once approach is proving disruptive to our primary mission: educating students. A more graduated approach to implementing major initiatives would improve implementation of these programs and gain broader acceptance from all stakeholders in Los Alamos: students, teachers, parents, administrators, and the (Los Alamos School) Board.”

The draft letter also included general requests as well as specific ones. 

Specific requests include allowing the Los Alamos Public School System to tailor the NMTeach program to its needs, and having the NMPED provide “sufficient” funds to help in training teachers master the requirements of these new programs.

Bigger requests included allowing LAPS to replace the End of Course Exams with the district’s own LAPS Common Finals exam system as a teacher evaluation tool, and to declare this year as a “hold harmless” year that will be used to evaluate the program itself, and not the teachers.

“...clearly identify 2013-14 as a hold harmless year with results being used to improve and refine the evaluation process,” said a statement in the draft letter. 

Notice that the panel was drafting such a letter came up during a presentation before the Los Alamos Board of Education by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gene Schmidt. The letter was part of a broader progress report on what the committee and the district is doing to deal with the mandates. 

The school board, whose members also contributed to the letter, generally approved of what the SGFTC is doing.

Board Secretary Matt Williams commented that he’s been in touch with Los Alamos state representatives over the issue, and that he hopes the letter will have some impact. “I think it’s important for people to know that it’s getting out of hand, where the administration of education and the documentation of education are now more important than education itself,” Williams said.

Board member Dr. Kevin Honnell recommended that once the final draft is completed, it should be put to a vote whether to send it on to the NMPED.

“..whatever form our response to PED takes, we should put it out to a vote to our faculty and our principals that ‘yes, this represents our position, I’m on board with this or no, this doesn’t represent my position on what I need.’”

The board later voted to have a final draft of the letter approved or disapproved by late November so they can send it to the state office by early December.