Skandera Details State’s Educational Direction During Talk at Los Alamos Community Dinner

 

New Mexico Secretary of Education-Designate Hanna Skandera lists her five strategic levers of change for the state’s K-12 grades and outlines her vision for improving education across the state. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

Local Republicans and other community members and civic leaders listen to Secretary Skandera speak about the importance of elevating education in New Mexico from the lower end of national lists. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

 

Hanna Skandera. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

 
By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post
 
In his introduction of New Mexico Secretary of Education-Designate Hanna Skandera, Los Alamos School Board President Jim Hall described Hanna Skandera as, “Professional, persistent and passionate.”
 
Skandera came across that way as she delivered a thought-provoking presentation at a community dinner hosted by the Los Alamos County Republican Party Wednesday at the Research Park.

Acknowledging significant resistance to the changes to New Mexico’s evaluation system for teachers, Skandera said, “We’ve got great teachers and in some cases teaching is not a fit … let’s pay for that excellence.”

She referenced a study that she said found virtually no difference in teaching quality after two years on the job between a teacher with a master’s degree and one without. “Teachers should be measured and paid based on true excellence.”

Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt takes notes as Hanna Skandera outlines her vision for improving education across the state. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt told the crowd during the introduction portion of Wednesday’s event that Los Alamos places a high importance on education.

“Secretary Skandera shares this belief and is committed to raising student achievement in New Mexico,” Schmidt said. “Secretary Skandera expanded Los Alamos’ sphere of influence by selecting members of our school staff to serve on important state and national committees. She championed the state-wide ‘Reads to Lead’ initiative that funds our k-3 reading coaches. Additionally, several Los Alamos Schools piloted the new teacher evaluation system implemented under the Secretary’s leadership this year.”

Schmidt told the audience that one of Skandera’s new initiatives promotes Early College in the High School dual diplomas, which enable students to earn an AA college degree while in high school.

Schmidt drew laughter from the audience as well as Skandera when he said, “Los Alamos is one of 11 school districts in the running for startup funding from an Early College in the High School grant … it is my hope Secretary Skandera will be back in late October to announce our selection.”

Local Republican Ken Lee speaks during the Q&A portion of Wednesday’s event. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

During her presentation Wednesday evening, Skandera outlined five strategic levers for change:

  • Smarter Return on Investment: The budget contains $100 million in new dollars for education, Skandera said, adding that the money alone cannot fix education. Rather than maintain the status quo, New Mexico is proactively shifting the way it allocates funding to districts and schools through an annual budget review process, she said.
  • Real Accountability for Real Results: New Mexico passed a new school accountability system, the A-F School Grading Act. This new, differentiated accountability system will allow the state to recognize both proficiency and growth. Skandera commended Los Alamos High School for earning an “A” grade two years in a row under the new system.
  • Ready for Success Initiatives: This initiative is related directly to preparing all students for success in college or career. Adopting the Common Core was an important first step to ensure that New Mexico students are competitive in New Mexico and across the nation, she said. These new and rigorous standards will involve engaging teachers, school leaders and parents to ensure successful implementation.
  • Championing Effective Educators and Leaders: “Great teachers matter more than money,” Skandera said. Research has clearly shown that one of the most important school-related factors influencing a child’s academic achievement is the quality of his or her teacher, she said.
  • Effective Options for Parents: Skandera said that Gov. Susana Martinez remains committed to offering parents multiple educational opportunities for their children. The new teacher and school leader evaluation system includes multiple measures such as student achievement as measured by a value-add model, objective and uniform observations.

Hanna Skandera, seated with local GOP Chair Robert Gibson, listens as LAPS School Board Present Jim Hall introduces her. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

“I’ll never tell you what I have to say is perfect,” Skandera told the crowd of nearly 60 people gathered Wednesday night. “I don’t have a silver bullet.”

She spoke of the resistance to the new evaluation system and acknowledged seeing a group of about a dozen protesters holding signs across from the high school when she gave a talk earlier in the day. She attributes the resistance primarily to two things.

“There’s an unbelievable amount of misinformation out there … and change is hard,” Skandera said. “It’s not going to be perfect, we’re going to learn a lot, but I fundamentally believe it’s going to make a difference in our teachers and our students.”

Skandera touched on Common Core during her talk, saying, “There’s a lot of myth out there … one party shouldn’t oppose it because the other party supports it. Education should not be a political issue – it should be about our kids.”

In closing, Skandera said the Governor is 100 percent committed to moving New Mexico from a status quo state to an excellence in achievement state.

 Hanna Skandera drives home the importance of collecting data on which initiatives work to improve student learning in New Mexico public schools. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

Susan Buxton listens to Hanna Skandera’s presentation on public education in New Mexico. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

Hanna Skandera gives a brief overview of the state’s usage of Common Core. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

Following her presentation, Hanna Skandera, right, chats with Mary Snow of Los Alamos. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

Hanna Skandera addresses local republicans and other community members Wednesday night. Photo by Salvador Zapien/ladailypost.com

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