COMMENTARY: New Mexico educators work for student reading success every day, usually without sufficient support. Even in these conditions, many positive programs are being moved with support from administrators and local school boards.
Too often news coverage regarding education matters fails to appreciate the positive approach toward student success promoted by the National Education Association-New Mexico and practiced by educators on a daily basis.
Solutions must begin with all of us. Working together we can improve educational and quality-of-life indicators for children in this state. This work will take teamwork from all organizations, parents and public schools. We need to listen to the voices of all concerned. We need to respect the educators who teach our children.
“Education is a shared responsibility,” notes NEA-NM Vice President Mary Parr Sanchez. “All parties should quit the blaming game and turn instead to addressing the needs of children in a collaborative approach.”
A recent Albuquerque Journal editorial mischaracterizes our position about mandatory retention of students in third grade based on standardized student test scores. NEA-New Mexico advocates for positive, proactive policies and evidence-based programs to achieve greater student success in reading:
- Provide more intensive remediation (including one-on-one help where needed) if students are struggling to read at all grades, but especially up to and including third grade.
- Parents, teachers of record for each student, the school administrator, and related education professionals of the district should form a team approach to determine whether a student should be promoted to the next grade. These student assistance teams (SAT) meet to decide collectively if the student should be retained or promoted.
- Provide for screening assessment in the first nine weeks of the school year.
- Measuring student performance on a single test score is pedagogically wrong. Quality education systems evaluate student performance on multiple measures and consider the individual student’s needs.
- Provide support so schools can provide individualized reading plans to include strategies for the parent to help their child at home and require that help be explained in the parent’s native language.
- Sufficiently fund K-12 and public pre-K schools and programs to allow for these programs to succeed.
- Sufficiently fund educator and community services like nutrition, counseling and health for students who need it most.
- Support community schools.
- Allow educators to encourage curiosity, creativity and critical thinking, rather than testing, to inspire students’ lifelong love of learning.
Patterson is the president of the National Education Association-New Mexico.