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Susana Martinez: “I’m so pro-teacher it’s not even funny”

By   /   November 7, 2013  /   24 Comments

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE — A teacher evaluation plan promoted by Gov. Susana Martinez has sparked protests from some educators and unions accusing Martinez and the Public Education Department of being anti-teacher but Martinez defended her reform measures, telling New Mexico Watchdog, “I’m so pro-teacher it’s not even funny.”

The Republican governor and PED Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera are calling for a new assessment program that calls for up to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to come from student achievement testing.

DEFENDING HER REFORMS: Gov. Susana Martinez insists that education reform is essential in New Mexico and that she supports rank and file teachers.

DEFENDING HER REFORMS: Gov. Susana Martinez insists that education reform is essential in New Mexico and that she supports rank and file teachers.

That has led to fierce pushback from opponents who say there’s too much emphasis on testing and allege Martinez and Skandera are unfairly targeting teachers.

“I’m so pro-teacher because I want to reward that profession as it should be rewarded,” Martinez said Wednesday after giving a speech in Albuquerque. “I don’t want an excellent teacher or school leader to be treated the very same as a teacher who walks into the classroom and merely says, ‘Read chapter 12 and leave when the bell rings.’ ”

But on Oct. 22 in Albuquerque, a rally was held denouncing the teacher evaluation system and Martinez-backed reforms.

And on Wednesday night in Las Cruces, a school board meeting centered on the evaluations as well as a requirement that would penalize teachers for missing too many days of work. Right now, teachers in Las Cruces are given 10 sick days per year under their contract with the school district.

“I don’t know when teachers became public enemy No. 1,” Mary Parr-Sanchez, a Picacho Middle School teacher and vice president of the state NEA teacher’s union branch, told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “It feels that way sometimes.”

At the Albuquerque rally, a number of anti-Martinez and anti-Skandera signs were on display, including one that portrayed the governor and PED secretary-designate with bloody fangs.

Stand4Kids NMa group critical of Martinez and Skandera, has established a Facebook page with more than 3,000 “likes” and the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO New Mexico union has filed a lawsuit against the evaluation plan.

“Our kids are crying because they don’t want to be in school, they’re tested to death,” Alamosa Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Pamela Irvin told the Albuquerque Journal last month.

When asked why there’s been so much opposition, Martinez said, “I think it’s because the information about what we plan on doing in allowing to raise those teachers up and raise their profession isn’t getting out all the way down to the teachers themselves. That’s why we’re improving on our communication because we want them to know.”

Opponents have argued that Martinez and Skandera haven’t listened to their concerns and since neither of them have classroom experience, the governor and secretary-designate don’t understand what educators face each day.

Martinez supporters include an Albuquerque charter school, Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science. whose principal attributes a more robust teacher evaluation program with dramatic increases in reading and math.

Martinez believes a better evaluation system should take the place of an assessment system that has seen nearly every New Mexico teacher deemed as competent, while student reading scores and drop-out rates consistently rank 48th and 49th in the country.

“I think it’s really important to separate our really good teachers,” Martinez said. “We want to reward them. You can’t have 99 percent (deemed) effective teachers and — when I first took office — 63 percent graduation rates. You can see that the math doesn’t match up. So we have to assess teachers based on student performance and progress. There has to be a link.”

Here’s NM Watchdog video of Martinez defending her education measures:

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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Rob Nikolewski is the National Energy Corrrespondent for Watchdog.org. He is based in Santa Fe, N.M. Contact him at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @NMWatchdog.

  • Elizabeth

    Maybe the governor should worry about the poverty level and the economy & then read some of the research on how a child’s education is effected by their socio-economic status . She is deflecting there real issue for the dismal scores students get on national exams and blames the teachers instead of the kids parents and the lives they lead at home.

  • Linda Horn

    Math and science are fine, but they don’t produce a well-rounded student. The arts are important as well. When I was a VOLUNTEER for Art in the Schools in Albuquerque, I found many students became more engaged and successful in other subject when art was offered – even at a paltry hour a week. I’d like to know how the Governor feels about that, and your opinion as well.

  • Wallace Anderson

    Give this woman a break. ALL SHE WANTS TO ACCOMPLIS IS TO GIVE KIDS A FUTURE AND CHANCE FOR SUCCESS.

    The math doesn’t ad up with such a poor graduation rate. Being 48 and or 49th in achievement is nothing to be proud of in this society. How can we have 99 per cent competency in our teachers?

  • Wallace Anderson

    Typing error should read accomplish.

  • BonNet Gurule

    Assessing and evaluating should be done by the administrators, not micro managed by the state. My experience has been that the top officials in the state are always trying to implement rules when they have no idea how to do it. implementing this reform seems like someone is going to sell the state another set of goods to solve the problem, make money on us and leave us. NOT!

  • Susan

    Martinez states she is “Pro-Teacher”. This comment makes me laugh. She nominates an unqualified Skandera to be the head of education in New Mexico. Skandera didn’t attend public schools or ever teach in public education. Skandera’s “reforms” have crippled and are crippling public education in New Mexico. Teachers aren’t the problem with public education. There is no one factor that can be identified accurately except poverty. Try increasing the length of the school day with a pay increase for teachers for this addition time working with students. Somehow hold parents accountable for poor student behavior and attendance, put teeth into attendance and behavior requirements and dollars into hiring people to enforce them.

  • Coleen lizewski

    We have never heard how the excellent teachers are being rewarded. That must be part of the miscommunicatiion…or wait…no communication. In all I have heard and gone through this school year, there was never any talk of rewarding excellent teachers. After the first round of evaluations it is apparent that they are not as effective as the Governor believes them to be. I will try and continue to strive for excellence in my profession and on my classroom, but every so often this issue gets under my skin and makes me very disappointed and sad.

  • Kimber Sanchez

    99% of teachers are effective but 63% graduation doesn’t add up … that’s because you forgot to factor in what goes on in the OTHER 17 hours of the students’ day. Parental influence, teen pregnancy, low-socioeconomics, drug-use, just to name a FEW factors that can influence a child’s education. If you really want to see what teachers are facing, spend more than a half-hour in a classroom … without the presence of cameras and each district’s head-honcho. Then you’ll see what a real classroom is like.

  • shannon

    If only she realized how little control teachers have over testing… yes some students do their best, but others just don’t care or their participation in their own education is minimal! If a student doesn’t like me, they could blow it on purpose… teachers don’t mind being held accountable We want that! BUT HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE FOR THINGS I CAN CONTROL!

  • Jose Barela

    Governor Martinez is always showing up at our schools in Rio Rancho to take credit for the hard work done by our teachers, administrators, board and community. She and Hanna Skandera have had nothing to do with the success of the district. Two of our school board members, Don Schlichte and Divyesh Patel tell it like it is. Go to the link below.

    http://www.rrobserver.com/opinion/columns/article_516e0580-4333-11e3-bf64-001a4bcf887a.html

  • Elizabeth Austin

    I find it revealing that she called teaching an “industry” and the VAM (value-added model) which was designed by GM to increase car profits, is being used to assess children. My children are not “products!” My kids are so much more than bubble tests that impinge on teaching time. Did you know the “End of Course” exams that have been designed by PED will be given the week of April 1st this year? 7 weeks before the end of school they will be tested on the entire year’s curriculum. If somebody walked into my CNM classroom and gave a test on the content of the entire course 7 weeks before the end of the semester, there are entire UNITS of study we will have not begun! Yet my kids’ teachers will will be evaluated by this flawed system! Top down approach does no work. APS did a pilot of a new system last year and NMPED threw it in the trash bin. That is not a collaborative process. Wake up folks! We need thoughtful reform, not this political firestorm.

  • Sarah

    @Wallace Anderson, please see Elizabeth’s comment above, The evaluation system was showing competent teachers bc the districts have worked hard to create and maintain competent teachers. There are numerous other factors at work here and the administration can’t or won’t deal with those real problems- instead they are using teachers as scapegoats. It’s shameful.

  • http://Facebook Brenda marmon

    Blaming the teacher for the poor performance of their students by docking their pay or job threats is the wrong way to go. Have the parents pay for the repeat classes their students have to take. Have parents pay for the repeated tests that the state requires. Have the parents pay with volunteer time, and even their cash. For poor parents, dock their food stamps a few dollars. When parents have to pay for the apparent ambivalence of their students for academic achievement, then you will see the affect change. When parents care,then they will work with the teacher, resulting in academic success.

  • D Engels

    If I was a welder I would gladly be evaluated by my success in welding. We are not taking into account the student’s responsibility in taking ownership in their education when we test them. I am willing to be evaluated, but by something I have a direct and sole impact on. Also SBA’s do not test every subject and secondary teachers need a direct correlation for growth in their subject. Oh wait, that means another test for the students.

  • Del Hansen

    Isn’t it interesting that flat lined or dipping production is blamed on teachers, who are hobbled with the incompetent policies of the current NM PED. When a team is going down the tubes, morale is in the toilet, and people are leaving, one does not place blame on the beaten-up players. You fire the manager. it is just about time to fire the manager. Gov. Martinez is tenaciously protecting a bad manager. Fire the manager, Gov. Martinez. If you love teachers, you won’t continue these failed policies.

  • K. Morrison

    She is NOT simply interested in improving schools. Her claim is that the math doesn’t add up. She needs to look at the source of the drop out rate. It has NOTHING to do with teacher performance. I live in New Mexico and I commute with my children to Texas schools because i don’t want to teach in New Mexico, and it appears to be getting worse as time passes. Politicians and legislators need to wake up to what is really going on here. Martinez/Skandera have no clue what goes on in a classroom and they are the ones regulating. The people in the classrooms are PROFESSIONALS. They went to college and studied and worked to become educators. But we are regulated and evaluated to death, along with our students. If you think this “reform” is a good thing, you need to do more research. Look at an actual test. Read the questions. You will find that the students are doomed from the start, and if their performance is how teachers are evaluated, then we will be losing good teachers left and right. If you look at other states, when the government starts using charter and magnet schools as their main supporters, you can guarantee that those officials are absolutely anti-teacher, and anti-public school.

  • Keith

    I don’t disagree with teacher evaluations in general, but I do disagree with how this program was rolled out. The only positive thing I can say is that the Teachscape website runs better than the Obamacare website. Regardless of whether I agree with it or not, Obamacare was thought out much better than this evaluation system. I’ve heard it described by the Governor’s administration as “trying to build an airplane that’s already in the air.” If we taught our classes that way, we should be fired. That’s one reason why our district requested a one-year delay in implementation, which was completely disregarded by the governor’s office. I’m a politically conservative educator, and I have never voted for a democrat, but I believe I will seriously consider it in the next election. If any democratic opponent shares any of my beliefs, they will probably get my vote. Any politician that forces something that is so seriously flawed and poorly though out into law, does not deserve my vote. The governor really needs to go out and listen to some good teachers before coming to conclusions.

  • Keith

    An addendum to my prior post: The governor says that teachers that miss too much school should be penalized. According to this evaluation tool, missing more than one day a year is too much. The governor would rather have sick teachers in class spreading whatever they have to the kids, who will then miss more school. The only exception is FMLA leave. That does not count against a teacher, but an absence has to be multiple days before that can apply. By then you’re labelled “ineffective.” That makes no sense whatsoever.

  • Diane

    There is a difference in what goes into a good weld, but it takes a village to teach a child. A student’s success is impacted by all the teachers he/she encounters. You cannot tease out who the good ones are. When you start rewarding a few teachers for that student’s achievement, you break down the collaboration and strength of the teaching process.

  • allison33

    Pro teacher?!? NO WAY! For one thing, the days of a teacher ever saying “Read chapter 12 and leave when the bell rings” are long gone. That may have been in her own experience many years back, but not today. She needs to spend time shadowing teachers to see how the profession has changed. She has no clue.

    This will be the beginning of a long downward slide for all of NM public schooling and education if Skandera is allowed to have her way. Obviously, she’s been able to get the NM governor to drink that particular kool-aid——manufactured by Skandera’s mentor Jeb Bush in FL. They do this for the money. Your real problem is Skandera, a well-known corporate elite type of “reformer”. Education in NM was dead the day she was hired.

    Actually, you CAN have 99% effective teachers AND a 63% graduation rate because teachers are not the ONLY variable in student success. Too much emphasis on high-stakes test scores anyway. Many students blow them off.

    Why not address the two-thirds of a student’s life that is spent OUTSIDE of school?

    Sadly, looks like NM will now become the next FL, the next NC—–both of whom took imperfect educational systems and deliberately made them worse, made them failing systems where no teacher worth his salt wants to teach.

    Listen to the real professionals here, folks, and that’s the teachers, NOT the politicians with their own agendas, which are not educationally sound.

  • charlie23

    It is patently unfair to teachers to hold them accountable for things way beyond their control, which is what Martinez is doing. The GM model of accountability should never apply to human beings. Won’t be long now until teachers start to flee NM. Wait for it.

  • James McClure

    This sounds like the same fight they just had in Mexico. There the teachers actually staged violent riots because they refused to be held accountable for their work — but they lost.

  • http://GovernorGordon.com DavidGordon

    The common theme here – other than the current administration’s ignorance – is the 17 hours children spend outside of schools. We operate from a condition of scarcity imposed by the extraction policies of the banks and dis-economic programs of the powers that be. As Governor it will be my mission to create a State Public Bank and keep our investments in our state, in our people and dedicated to our progress.

    I will get government out of education other than providing excellent environments for learning. Bring back art and PE for an hour a day each – teach advanced agriculture – breakfast and lunch served free – locally sourced food. 8am – 6pm school days (helps parents schedule). Teachers on same time commitment – just staggered throughout day. Continuing education and facilities use ongoing.

    See more as an Independent Platform develops. GovernorGordon.com

  • mwfolsom

    Martinez policies are so mean spirited and punitive it sickening to see her say she is “pro-teacher”. I can only assume that she and her side kick Hanna Skandera goal is to destroy teaching as a profession and undermine public education in general. Besides an evaluation system that is set up to cause teachers to fail her reforms include penalties for teachers taking sick days and quotas that require principals in “failing” schools to label certain percentages of teachers as failing no matter what they do. This is perhaps the most onerous of part of the whole thing – she is actually punishing teachers that stay at schools in the poorest parts of the state.

    If Martinez wins the next election who knows how much damage she will do to public Education in New Mexico.

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