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Criticism of PED teacher prep proposal mounts

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Ridiculous, overreaching, premature.

That's how speakers at a public hearing Tuesday described a rule proposed by the state Public Education Department that would allow the agency to oversee educator preparation programs.

Although the PED has cited state statute that allows it to create an accountability reporting system, some think the rule's evaluation system – which would implement site visits and a scorecard system – was out of the statute bounds.

The PED's proposal would allow the agency to decide whether teacher prep programs can keep operating, regardless of whether the institution is private or public. National accreditation groups, such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, currently have that job.

Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education President David Peercy called the rule “a very bad idea” and “nonsense” at an APS committee meeting Monday night, saying the national accrediting bodies have the training and expertise to oversee educator preparation programs.

Most of the speakers Tuesday felt that the PED still needed to address significant flaws in the rule, which the department proposed putting into effect by the end of the month.

Dawn Wink, director of teacher education at Santa Fe Community College, read a letter that expressed concerns among college of education deans from across the state, including the University of New Mexico's Salvador Hector Ochoa, New Mexico Highlands University's Virginia Padilla-Vigil and Northern New Mexico College's Joaquin Vilá.

Wink told the Journal that the deans' stance on the rule boils down to being willing to embrace accountability, but being concerned about the scorecard system proposed.

The scorecard would rate the programs on an A to F scale, mirroring PED's K-12 grades that have caused statewide pushback from schools. The report would take into account acceptance rates of candidates into the program, how they do on performance and licensure tests, and how those who complete the programs are rated in NMTEACH, a controversial state teacher evaluation system.

The scorecard would also look at teacher retention in the state, teacher placement into high-need areas and diversity of the cohort, over which the deans feel they have little, if any, control.

PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski said improving teacher prep is a multifaceted process and the state “must leave nothing to chance when it comes to preparing aspiring teachers for our students.”

Penny Garcia, dean of the Eastern New Mexico University College of Education and Technology, also signed the letter and noted that ENMU in Portales attracts a high volume of students from Texas who often move back home after graduation, a fact that would affect their score on the retention factor on the evaluation.

She also said major components of the rule are still being developed and it's premature to put it into place this month. ENMU Board of Regents member Dan Patterson called the rule “blatantly ridiculous and possibly unlawful.”

Attorney General Hector Balderas sent a letter to Ruszkowski that reiterates concerns from leaders of education prep programs on whether the “Legislature's mandate is being met” with the rule.

Kersti Tyson, an associate professor at UNM College of Education, returns to her seat after speaking during a hearing at the Public Education Department on proposed rules changes. Around 15 people in the field of education gave public comment during the hearing in Santa Fe, Tuesday May 1, 2018. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal

Because the rule may be susceptible to legal challenge, Balderas wrote, “I encourage you to take pause in the rulemaking process to ensure that these institutions and the Department of Higher Education, as well as parents, students and teachers, are truly collaborative partners in this undertaking.”

Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron said PED officials have met with her department multiple times and that the Higher Education Department agrees that the current system needs improvement.

Some of the speakers at the public forum thought the PED's rule was headed in the right direction to achieve that.

“The topic of teacher preparation has come up often in various meetings throughout our state; however, there is a lack of transparency regarding the effectiveness of the training new teachers are receiving,” said Hope Morales, director of policy for Teach Plus New Mexico.

Morales said she thinks the rule addresses a big problem affecting the state: teacher training accountability. But she also told the Journal she thinks the rule can move forward only with continued collaboration from teachers and districts.

Ruszkowski said the review process should take about a month and “all feedback will be considered.”

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