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Teachers union attacks PED policy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The largest teachers’ union in the state is calling out the New Mexico Public Education Department, saying the state agency is “failing” the community with its “more rigorous intervention” or MRI measures and the way in which PED determines MRI is flawed.

And the Albuquerque Teachers Federation is advocating for parents to exercise their right to keep kids at Hawthorne Elementary School – which PED labeled as an MRI school after the school got six F school grades in a row – despite new PED measures that require the district and school to show parents all of their other schooling options.

The union passed out fliers Tuesday night at Hawthorne during an informational meeting that read, “Our school is not failing. The NM Public Education Department is failing us.”

Albuquerque Public Schools had submitted improvement plans for Hawthorne to PED, but they were denied last month. Instead, Hawthorne was required by PED to “champion and provide choice,” in which the school shows other schooling options for parents, makes sure parents are informed of higher-performing schools in the area and helps transfer students, if needed.

PED also is requiring the district to give Hawthorne students higher preference than any other students when transferring or enrolling in another higher-performing school, if that’s what parents choose.

“Soon parents will receive a form asking parents if they want to send their student to another school,” the flier says. “You have the right to keep your child at Hawthorne elementary, with the trusted teachers who know Hawthorne families.”

PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski called the fliers “another shameful example of how the Albuquerque teachers’ unions are working to block student improvement.”

“They either need to step up and do what’s right to help turn around our schools, or get out of the way and stop blocking progress,” he wrote in an email to the Journal.

Public Education Department Chief Christopher Ruszkowski.

And he said ATF is trying to keep families and parents in the dark.

“They flex their political muscle every time something positive is happening for our students – even in the face of an entire generation of students being underserved,” he wrote.

The fliers also highlight positive programs at Hawthorne and point out improvements planned for the next school year, such as an extra hour of learning each school day and an extended school year.

In a letter sent to PED earlier this month, APS acknowledged the school must champion and provide choice but said the district would move forward with its planned improvements in addition.

Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein

ATF President Ellen Bernstein said the union is fundamentally against the school grading system and, therefore, the MRI system, saying it is “failing students.”

The school grading system has been a point of debate across New Mexico. Some say it is a credible, research-based way to measure student growth, while others say it is a complex, inconsistent measuring tool that doesn’t work for each school.

“Our students … have sadly become the victims of a political game that is attempting to disgrace Hawthorne Elementary and displace students,” the flier says. “We need to prioritize students and teachers, not government grandstanding.”

Bernstein told the Journal that neighborhood schools are crucial to both the students and the community.

When the state agency chose “champion and provide choice,” it said Hawthorne will remain open but will close at the end of the 2020-21 school year unless the school earns a C grade or better this school year, next school year and the 2019-20 school year.

“PED should support rather than punish,” Bernstein said about Hawthorne.

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