Los Alamos Teachers Join Massive Protest in Santa Fe

Los Alamos Federation of School Employees President, Ellen Mills, center, LAFSE Vice President and State AFT Vice President Ryan Ross and LAFSE Treasurer Virginia Kachelmeier joined Colleen Goddard, Addie Jacobson and Karyl Ann Armbruster of Los Alamos and several hundred people from across the state protesting Santa Fe Wednesday against a teacher evaluation proposal in play at the governor’s office. Photo by Karyl Ann Armbruster 

By Karyl Ann Armbruster

Hundreds of teachers, instructional assistants, parents, retirees, students, legislators and other community members from Las Cruces to Taos gathered inside and outside the Jerry Apodoca Education Building in Santa Fe Wednesday to testify and protest the proposed teacher evaluation proposal being enacted through executive order by Gov. Susana Martinez with Education Secretary Designee Hannah Skandera, thus bypassing the New Mexico Legislature.

Hundreds of educators circle the Jerry Apodoca Education Building in Santa Fe Wednesday to protest a teacher evaluation proposal. Photo by Karyl Ann Armbruster

Teachers will no longer be solely evaluated on their expertise as a librarian, counselor, art, music or shop teacher, for example, but will have 35 percent of their evaluation based on whether or not students they may never see, pass the state based test.

As numerous speakers pointed out when testifying Wednesday, those who are teaching children to use a wheelchair or read braille are being judged on the same criteria as those who teach AP chemistry.

An alternative proposal for improved teacher evaluation has been presented to the governor and Skandera as well as submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

That research driven evaluation system would base 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on classroom observations, differentiation of instruction, and classroom learning environment, 30 percent from student learning outcome bases on multiple measures during the school year, 10 percent from collective responsibility and collaboration, and 20 percent from student feedback.

Admittedly this evaluation system would be more labor-intensive than just looking at student test scores.

A teacher of “at risk” students in Taos challenged Skandera who does not have a teaching credential nor any experience teaching children to pass the 11th grade state based test that requires students to identify dangling participles and do quadratic equations.
If she passes, the Taos teacher would like her to come to his classroom in the trenches and model techniques of successful teaching since she is charged with overseeing educational programs and assuring that teachers know what and how to teach.
Susan Schripsema, a parent from Albuquerque, gave an impassioned speech begging schools to find grace to honor and respect the children and see children for their potential.
She asked that what be measured is the student’s inherent self-worth and ability, bearing in mind the child’s limitations not test scores.
Schripsema stated that all students can learn, but some children are at a disadvantage because of background or disabilities.
These children are being denied classes in dance, music, and art because they are behind in reading and math.
In addition to teachers, instructional assistants and parents, several legislators presented reasons why this proposed evaluation system was flawed.
Several speakers questioned if this was a way to privatize schools and do away with public education as we know it.
Los Alamos was represented by Los Alamos Federation of School Employees President, Ellen Mills, LAFSE Vice-President and State AFT Vice-President, Ryan Ross, LAFSE Treasurer Virginia Kachelmeier, Colleen Goddard, Addie Jacobson, and Karyl Ann Armbruster.

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