Thursday, August 18, 2011

Recommendations from NM's Latino/Hispanic Education Improvement Task Force

ABQ/ OPINION: Adopt Bold Plan to Fix Education
By Garth Bawden & Antonio D. Herrera [Latino/Hispano Education Improvement Task Force]
ABQ Journal
August 18, 2011

Only 13 percent of New Mexico schools made “Adequate Yearly Progress” in educating our future work force. Our Latino/Hispano Education Improvement Task Force sounded the alarm about this crisis three years ago.

There should be no higher priority than to educate our children. Lawmakers, business leaders, educators and the community all agree on this point. Yet, New Mexico fails to educate more than half of our student population. Without an educated workforce, is it any wonder we are one of the poorest states?

Gov. Susana Martinez promised “bold education reform”, then brought in Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera and eight other outsiders to fix us. Skandera promised a bold plan by April 2011 – four months ago. That’s fine, but do they really think a group of outsiders will fix New Mexico’s crisis?

We are not blaming anyone in particular. We believe all New Mexico stakeholders share responsibility – and will share the consequences – of our broken education system. As members of our community, we ask: What can we all do to solve this crisis? Our statewide task force has no high-powered paid consultants, but we would like to offer our own bold 10 point plan.

1. First, address the “New Reality.” Our “ethnic minority students” compose nearly 75 percent of New Mexico’s population and are actually now the permanent majority. This new reality must be addressed with concrete proposals that address why schools are failing the vast majority of these ethnic populations.

2. Create a statewide climate for educational change. There are 89 school districts in New Mexico. Every community should initiate a local campaign to eliminate the achievement gap by addressing its unique needs and resources.

3. Implement the mandates of the Hispanic Education Act addressing the Latino education crisis in New Mexico.

4. As a result of Serna vs. Portales (1974), the federal courts mandated that bilingual and bicultural education be taught, and that every educator demonstrate cultural proficiency skills. These proficiencies must go far beyond organizing a taco day or celebrating ethnic holidays.

5. Every high school graduate should be proficient in two languages. Most of the global community has at least dual language skills. Let New Mexico lead the way in this country.

6. Start using accurate numbers to count dropouts. Schools only count dropouts during the last four years of school. Dropouts need to be counted for the other eight years. How can we identify solutions without accurate numbers?

7. Address the individual needs of children and stop jamming them into universal “one-size fits all “educational models. Then assess and keep track of their achievement growth through guidelines that address their linguistic, cultural and economic backgrounds.

8. Provide state, city and county employees one hour a week release time to tutor and mentor an at-risk student. This, alone, would provide individualized attention to at least 150,000 at-risk students!

9. Actively involve every parent in all stages of their child’s education at every school.

10. Invest in education. Education budgets have been slashed to their lowest level ever. Properly fund an adequate education for every child. Redirect existing resources – money and human – to educate our students properly. Or, tap our financially sound “rainy day” permanent fund to confront our education crisis. As taxpayers, it is our responsibility to adequately fund appropriate and sufficient education for children from preschool through post-secondary education.

New Mexico has been declared the flagship state in addressing the Latino education crisis. The failure to acknowledge and assure the education of our majority population costs every New Mexican. We have a moral and legal responsibility to reverse this reality.

We challenge everyone to improve on our bold plan. Better yet, we challenge every community to design and implement a bold, responsive and responsible plan. The future of our state depends on it.
My Thoughts:
A few of the above 10 points are really great ideas.  I especially like the idea that NM lead the way in dial language proficiency and, if that ever happens, I hope that the state would recognize Native American languages as a valid second language for today's high school students.  The list also has a general tone of community involvement and grassroots efforts helping lead the way to change.  I definitely agree that change will happen more readily when whole communities begin demanding and putting forth effort to make it happen.  
I am wondering, however, why the entire list says nothing about what happens in today's classrooms.  It was, perhaps, kind of the task force to avoid blaming teachers, but the items on the list seem somewhat peripheral compared to implementing more effective classroom practices.  It's not that I think teachers aren't trying their hardest, it's just that we can't really ignore what happens inside of classrooms (including students' presence or lack thereof) if we hope to make real changes in our NM educational system.  And if there is no way to maximize the hours that students spend inside of classrooms, then we are doomed - taking more data, learning language, and mentoring are helpful but not enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment