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Dropping PARCC indicates education might be headed in the right direction

As the New Year begins, educators across New Mexico are bracing for a new semester of teaching and for the changes headed their way under the leadership of recently sworn-in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

As such, only a few days after officially taking office, the governor has sent a clear message by signing executive orders putting a halt to the contentious PARCC test and the faulty system used to evaluate teachers in New Mexico. For many, this is regarded as a positive sign, one indicating that we might finally be headed in the right direction.

As a longtime educator who has continuously been immersed in the battle to demand equity in what remains an inequitable educational system and has worked extensively in preparing future teachers, hearing Lujan Grisham’s inauguration speech and now witnessing the doing away of PARCC in one swift move has left me hopeful.

I am hopeful that after eight long years of what seemed like a never-ending nightmare in education, great change might finally take place.

Lujan Grisham spoke of this being the moment for us all to roll up our sleeves and work together to transform a broken system that has failed our children for much too long. She spoke of lifting the morale of educators, of increased pay and the repair of outdated buildings. Although I completely agree this is a great start, we can’t stop there. After working for over 20 years in education, what we are in need of is not just superficial or quick-fix changes. In order to truly achieve the transformation Lujan Grisham seeks, deep systemic changes must be made that involve more than boosting morale and a coat of paint.

To begin with, our educational system needs to be directed by leaders that break far away from the regurgitation of policies and practices that haven’t resulted in much change and that continue to lack innovation. The educational system has long been broken and is in desperate need of nothing short of a complete restructuring across all facets – from teacher recruitment and preparation, curriculum, evaluation, assessment, professional development, among so many others.

I imagine a future where education is so highly valued that a great number of bright and talented individuals desire to be educators because they are regarded – and paid – with the respect they deserve. As such, we must move away from the churning out of warm bodies to investing in more Grow Your Own Teacher programs where institutions and families play key roles in developing teachers who represent, understand and love the communities in which they teach.

I envision the use of curriculums across all classes that teach children compassion, analytical thinking and the development of critical consciousness. Curriculums that are based on the traditions, cultures and philosophies of the people of this land that teach individuals to disrupt hierarchies and demand all forms of justice across society. For far too long, curriculums have represented only one side of history.

We need to create school environments where all children thrive, feel respected and are treated with dignity. Schools must not only welcome families and the larger community but also be part of the redesigning and reimagining of education. A major failure of the current educational system has been the exclusion of these voices.

These are not easy tasks to achieve and cannot be be overnight, but with intent, collaboration and a commitment to revolutionize the system it can and must be done.

As Lujan Grisham stated, this is our moment. Yes, this is absolutely true and it is our hope as educators and parents across New Mexico that we will finally witness change not just for the few, but for all of the deserving students across the state.

Virginia Necochea is a research assistant professor in the Teacher Education and Educational Leadership Program at UNM.

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