Friday, April 8, 2011


The following was in the ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL on April 6th. It was written by Ellen Berstein, President of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.

An updated Wikipedia definition for irony might include the two headlines from last Saturday's Journal. The first, School's Shortfall May Be 4 Percent, describes how Governor Martinez's Education Secretary-Designate, Hanna Skandera, is relinquishing any responsibility for one of the biggest mitakes in school funding history. The second, Teacher Evaluation Plan Moves Ahead, calls for more accountability from classroom teachers. Ironic.

The Public Education Department (PED) under-projected statewide enrollment by 3,500 students. That's a big mistake---so big that it will have a devastating effect on our school. This will mean another $37 million cut on top of $30 million already slashed from eduction funding. School districts in New Mexico already suffering from three years of drastic cuts no face $67 million lessin funding from the state.

If a superintendent, school principal or teacher had made a mistake that harms kids' educational opportunities like this, you can be sure the administration would hold accountable those responsible----and do so in a public manner. Who is responsible for the inept accounting here and why wasn't it brought forth during the legislative session?

It appears that during the session, the education budget was created on the basis of profoundly wrong information provided to our lawmakers. This was due to what: Incompetence? Malicious misinformation? Regardless, the lawmakers responsible for funding our students' educaiton deserve real information when they debate how propose cuts will harm public education.

If this grievous mistake is allowed to go uncorrected, schools may be forced to:
* Decimate essential services for students like nursing, counseling, library/media, and more.
* Fire thousands of teachers (adding to the staggering unemployment figures) and severely overload classes.
* Cancel the last month of school.

All of the above would really hurt kids' education. What won't hurt kids?
* Doing as Rep. Rick Miera suggested---call a special session to correct this mistake.
* Restructure the PED and channel half of its $39.7 million budget to schools.

As for that other headline, the governor is moving forward with her plans to ourhaul the teacher and principal evaluation system by measuring the "value" of each educator using dubious standardized test scores. It's clear that the governor wants greater accountability. But, she can't have it both ways ----holding teachers accountable but not her own education department.

Let's take a broad view of this "value" issue. Some school districts and states have embraced a Value-Added Method for measuring growth. Unfortunely, this method relies on narrow and flawed standardized tests with these scores used as a sole or predominant measure.

Thousands of tachers across New Mexico come to work each day and make a difference with students who may be homeless, undernouished, lacking in family stability or, in other ways, at a deficit in their developing skills. Teachers make commendable gains with all students, but good teaching is much more than a student test score. Don't get me wrong, teacher evaluation cannot ignore the importance of student learning, but we must do this right.

The research community strongly cautions against reliance on standardized tests---even when superficialy sophisticated value-added methods are used. Researchers warn that standardized test scores are not sufficently reliable and valid indicators of teacher effectiveness. And, standardized tests are not instructionally-sensitive.

But, by what standard should an education department be evaluated? What should happen when a department of state government make such a profound error that negatively affects every student and educator in the state? What "value" should be assigned to the PED? Accountability begins at the top.

So, let's shake up the status quo. Let's create a 360 degree educational accountability system in which everybody responsible is accountable. Let's measure the "value" of everyone from the teacher a the so-called bottom of the system to Educaiton Secretary Skandera at the "top". I think it clear who would get the rewards in that system.

1 comment:

stART said...

Agonizing, isn't it? :-(