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The Eastern New Mexico News 

Local educators know what's best for local students

 

Last updated 1/9/2017 at 4:46pm



A report released last week said public schools in New Mexico don’t fare well when compared to others across the nation.

For the third year in a row, Education Week magazine looked at college and career outcomes and K-12 achievement and other data, and determined we rank 49th in the nation in quality education.

Reasons range from poverty across the state to lack of spending to lousy teachers, depending on the agendas of those answering the questions.

Never fear: Lawmakers are going to fix this.

Unfortunately, they’re going about it all wrong, as usual.

One example is Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, who has the latest, greatest concept for determining whether teachers are doing their jobs effectively.

To be fair, his idea for improving the teacher evaluation system is partly reasonable, especially the part that begins with blowing up the system we have now.

The problem is he wants to replace it with a system that still involves “uniform statewide standards.”

We think Santa Fe might not be the best place to decide whether teachers in Melrose or Logan or Portales are doing their jobs when compared to teachers in Roswell or Albuquerque or Las Cruces.

As Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Jody Balch correctly points out, “There’s not one shoe that fits everybody.”

The professional educators already in place at each public school should decide the standards for their staff members and hold them accountable.

What if we went with a system like this:

• The local school boards hold the superintendent responsible for educating local children.

• The superintendent holds the building principals responsible for making sure the students learn to the best of their abilities.

• The building principals are responsible for producing good teachers.

If anything goes wrong, the taxpayers — remember them; they actually fund the public schools — will kick the school board members out of office and get new ones, who will also be tasked with inspiring that superintendent, etc., etc.

Oh, wait. We already have a system like that ... at least we did until Santa Fe lawmakers decided they could do better and made the mess we have now.

We don’t think more local control will drastically improve standardized test scores, but we’re not so sure standardized test scores should be the way to measure success in education.

And the teachers who administer those tests certainly should not be judged by student scores from those tests, which is largely the case in New Mexico.

Standardized tests may give us broad comparisons worth discussing and debating, but they don’t prepare brain surgeons or auto mechanics for their life’s work.

Why would a state want to judge its teachers’ abilities on whether they can teach trivia to people whose interests are as diverse as building bridges or dismantling nuclear weapons or cooking healthier burgers?

Wouldn’t it be better for teachers to spend their time teaching practical skill sets specific to a student’s needs?

Public schools may not be the best place to teach anybody anything because we all learn in different ways in our own time, not always in group settings. But educators in Floyd or Texico or Tucumcari are far more likely to recognize and meet the needs of students they see every day than can bureaucrats in Santa Fe or Washington, D.C., who have never heard of Dora or San Jon.

Smart people should know this.

Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc.’s editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rob Langrell and Editor David Stevens.

 
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