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NM’s kids deserve education accountability

New Mexicans are capable of so much, and our kids deserve the most.

I know the power of a great education because I’ve been lifted up my entire life by incredible teachers who challenged and inspired me to find strong core values, fall in love with learning as a lifelong pursuit, and aspire to do the most good, even when it’s hard. My teachers in Los Lunas Public Schools, like so many of the educators I have the privilege to learn from every day, chose a calling that often feels impossible, because their belief in kids runs so deep.

You don’t have to understand every facet of education to know the power that great teachers have. Students feel it when they find surprising joy in a math lesson that pushes them to explain their thinking, or when they discover the ability of words to convey complex meaning because their teacher asked them a dynamic question. Families see it when their child comes home beaming with confidence and self-assurance, despite living in an age when being a kid seems more difficult than ever. And as an advocate who works alongside leading educators across the country every day, I know New Mexico has what it takes to lead a future that is rich with educational opportunity. But we have to build on the progress we have already made.

As we look ahead to the next legislative session, I call on our state leaders to maintain high standards and accountability. Families need clear, reliable information about students’ schools that helps them advocate for what their child needs. Teachers also need observations rooted in student learning and timely data that helps them understand where they can improve. We know we need to make improvements for the students who are in our schools right now, and we have to be honest about the current reality to structure better support.

We must also ensure increased funding is spent on proven interventions that prioritize the students who need it most. I am proud that my home state continues to increase its investment in public education, but investment without transparency or focus on proven interventions won’t yield results. Worse…, without strong oversight, increased investment can exacerbate intra-district inequities, which is why we must ensure the money is reaching the students who need it most.

The work of teachers gets harder every day, and it is not smart to expect them to go it alone. Within their work week, every teacher should have robust opportunities to collaborate with their peers and continue their own learning with the support of expert leaders to bring strong lessons to life. Many New Mexico schools already have capable teacher leaders who can support their colleagues to create stand-out teaching experiences when there is dedicated time to co-plan and receive feedback. That’s how we can ensure every student has great opportunities to learn, no matter their classroom, and lift up teachers as the expert professionals they are. Let’s not get distracted by “flavors of the month” in education to the detriment of what we know accomplishes strong teaching and learning.

We are blessed with creative, resourceful, diverse students who dream big dreams, and we have schools full of passionate educators who expect the most for them. We come from a rich multicultural heritage that already reflects dimensions of the inclusive, justice-oriented future of our wildest dreams. We have families who love in big ways and who know the value of hard work. Now is the time to fight for kids like our future depends on it – it does.

Adan Garcia is a native New Mexican and board member for NewMexicoKidsCAN.

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