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Editorial: NM students 2; education status quo 0

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Last week a state district court judge threw out a wrong-headed challenge to the new state teacher evaluations that finally put student achievement front and center. It was the second such loss by opponents in as many years. The Supreme Court rejected a similar challenge last year.

Can we move forward now and try to make this system better through discussion and cooperation instead of a fight to stop it at all costs? For the kids? The kids who are languishing at the bottom of important national student achievement rankings?

Or do we have to continue the fight, treading water as an entrenched establishment argues that the deck chairs are just fine, thank you, and taxpayers, business leaders, parents and students run for the lifeboats – leaving or never relocating to the state, or adding their names to the thousands already on private and charter school rolls or waiting lists?

Second Judicial District Court Judge Shannon Bacon’s ruling took apart critics’ claims one by one and reaffirmed state education chief Hanna Skandera’s authority to implement the evaluations. That should give pause to petitioners state Sens. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, and Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and Albuquerque teachers union president Ellen Bernstein.

But it likely won’t. Bernstein has already said she’ll just redirect her opposition efforts.

This reform process is in the early stages and PED should be open to dialogue on how to improve it, without dropping the key component of a focus on student achievement.

Instead of trying to stop it at all costs, critics should focus on the fact that New Mexico students’ reading and math results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, better known as the nation’s report card, are flat or worse under the systems they have championed over the years. That under the system they are fighting for – a system rejected by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, an Obama administration appointee – 99 percent of teachers are rated as satisfactory.

Of course other issues need to be addressed, such as poverty and language issues. There is a clear need for more early childhood programs. Instead of trying to collaborate across the board on these issues, the critics are driven by a union agenda that is about work rules and conditions – and not about student achievement.

Bacon’s ruling puts the score at status quo 0, New Mexico students 2. For the benefit of the students who can’t read or do math, it would be better if those dedicated to stopping the improvements for political reasons would instead work to improve the program, and quit fighting while they’re behind.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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