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Editorial: Arne Duncan jumps into the teacher-transfer fray

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Just days after the Journal featured a front-page story on the impasse between Albuquerque Public Schools and the teachers union over the district wanting the ability to transfer teachers to meet instructional needs, the Obama administration announced it will require states to ensure such transfers so that poor and minority children have an equal chance to have high-quality teachers.

It’s a national class assignment that should re-enforce APS’ position and encourage the Albuquerque Teachers Federation to re-evaluate its stance. After all, under the announcement by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the state Public Education Department has less than a year to come up with its plan to show how it will increase the number of highly skilled teachers in high-need schools and reduce the number of teachers put in situations they weren’t prepared to handle.

The system could be a bitter pill that amounts to marching orders from Washington, D.C., via Santa Fe, or it could be sweetened via a multilevel, collaborative effort. Guess which one has a better chance of valuing and respecting teachers – and thus succeeding.

Duncan hasn’t laid out consequences for states that don’t comply – though federal funding is always the stick behind any D.C. carrot – and says he’s “optimistic the overwhelming majority of states want to do this and have the heart for this work. The solutions have to be local.”

At the state and district level in New Mexico, he’s very likely right. Important strides have been made in education in recent years, including grading schools based in great part on how well they educate their students and evaluating teachers based in part on how much their students improve. The guiding principle behind these reforms, as well as the transfers, is something great teachers have always focused on: what’s best for the students.

Duncan has handed out his transfer homework, something districts like APS have been trying to do for years. New Mexico has until April to submit its plan. It’s time the state’s educators and administrators join forces to come up with a system that works for teachers and students – who must come first.

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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