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King can set NM right with education plan

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As a professional educator, I believe that Gary King’s recent announcement of appointing a highly qualified person as the state’s education secretary, opening the Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education and declaring a moratorium on high stakes testing if elected governor presents several steps in the right direction.

The current secretary of education designate has never been a teacher or school administrator. Her actions are driven by Chiefs for Change, a national sub rosa effort to privatize education for the benefit of for-profit corporations, of which she is a highly esteemed member.

These companies see a huge dollar market in education spending. Their primary motives are dollars, not the well-being of our school-age children. Our kids have become pawns in a chess game orchestrated by forces disconnected from our local communities, doing a disservice to both them and our communities.

Early childhood education is known to lay effective groundwork for cognitive functioning, responsible social behavior and self-regulation. Children enrolled in early childhood education are more likely to graduate from high school, own homes, have stable marriages and earn more money than those who have not had such exposure. They are also less likely to have trouble with the law.

Opening the Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education is a far-sighted step that will pay huge social and economic dividends in future years.

Research on the Texas model of high stakes testing and top down accountability which was the basis for No Child Left Behind shows overall poor results. This model is the very same one the Martinez administration is pushing.

Texas leading its peers and the nation? A decadal analysis of educational data reported that over 10 years Texas dropped 21 places in fourth grade math, four places in fourth grade reading, eight places in eighth grade reading and made a slight improvement in eighth grade math, from 22 to 18.

High stakes testing has become a proxy for important goals our communities want for their children: college and/or career readiness, responsible citizen participation in community affairs, physical and psychological well-being and healthy self-esteem.

Educational focus on high stakes testing is an inadequate substitute for these goals. High stakes testing takes our eye off the ball, making King’s moratorium another welcome idea.

Rudolfo Chavez, of Española, is director of a federally funded program to assist highly qualified teachers earn their master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, with emphasis on English language acquisition.

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