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Gov. ignored 700 teachers with stroke of a pen

As I read Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s recent memo regarding replacing the PARCC exam, I was disheartened to see this decision made so quickly, and with so little consideration of the teachers in New Mexico. As a member of the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network (NMTLN), I was empowered to have my voice heard by PED, and the novelty of having around 700 teachers around the state, from every district, represented at the table through voluntarily working alongside PED to discuss educational policy was something of which other states were envious. Consider that six states attended our 2018 Teacher Summit to see how New Mexico could get so many teachers excited to share their years of experience in the classroom with those who make policy and funding decisions. I can tell you, it’s because the NMTLN gave them a voice. It gave a voice to teachers with 30-plus years of teaching experience, nationally recognized educators, teachers who are Milken award winners, the New Mexico teachers of the year, charter school leaders, administrators, and parents of children who attend these schools. Everyone had a seat at the table to work alongside PED in making decisions that impact the classroom.

Then, Gov. Lujan Grisham signs an executive order to end PARCC. As a teacher in the classroom, I can tell you that parents were seeing their children improve, and they understood that the bar being set in New Mexico was rightfully comparable to the bar set for children all over the country. Where did the NMTLN come in to the decision to end PARCC? It didn’t. We weren’t asked, there was no meeting held to hear our opinions and experiences, and in one swipe of the pen, we were ignored.

Then the governor issues a memo on Jan. 10. PARCC will be replaced with New Mexico Standards Based Assessment in Math and English Language Arts. A step back. A loss of years’ worth of longitudinal data – no, just because it’s based on Common Core does not make it equivalent to PARCC. A loss of untold hours of training, preparation, celebration and alignment. A pass on learning from states like New Jersey and Tennessee, which moved away from PARCC only to spend tens of millions of dollars searching for a replacement. Where did NMTLN come in? It didn’t. There was no discussion on the replacement test nor consideration of what we had to say about PARCC.

There is a lot to say about the validity of the PARCC test and the lowering of standards represented in the NMSBA, and many will say it more eloquently than I can. But I cannot ignore that hundreds of teachers across New Mexico have given their time, their money and their passion to being heard about education policy, and in just 10 days, they were all forgotten or willfully ignored. We need to remember those whom policy has impacted. We need to hear the supporters of PARCC, as well as the critics. We need to listen to the teachers who give up their evenings and weekends to join the NMTLN venues to share their experiences on issues exactly like these, which impact our classrooms, our students and our state. All of the stakeholders deserve to be heard, not just those with an elite early access to the governor. Teachers don’t deserve to be ignored and I ask that Gov. Lujan Grisham remember us as she moves forward with what is sure to be an exciting legislative session.

Jacob Kolander is a 17-year veteran teacher in New Mexico.

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