Letters to the editor (07/21/12)

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Cannot support the educational status quo
Editor:
The Feb. 5 issue of the Albuquerque Journal presented a thought-provoking opinion written by an individual I know and hold in high regard, Rep. Rick Miera (D-Albuquerque.)
This occurred while the Legislature was in session and the battle over Gov. Martinez’ third-grade retention proposal was heating up.
Rep. Miera’s letter was titled “Retention No Solution for Education,” and was prefaced by an equally thought-provoking quote by another person for whom I, as well, have a lot of respect, the late Caesar Chavez.
Before continuing, permit me to present Mr. Chavez’ words:
“You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride.  You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.  We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”  Beautiful!  Well stated, Mr. Chavez.
While I agree with the ubiquitous and intrinsic message Mr. Chavez was trying to convey, I disagree with Rep. Miera when he suggests that Mr. Chavez’s message should be taken to heart and that retention should be precluded from consideration in education reform discussions.
How can we “uneducate” a child who has not learned to read? The dilemma we face with our children in elementary school, many who are now leaving third grade without proficiency in reading skills, is real and yearning to be solved.
Rep. Miera makes a valid point when he refers to research that suggests retention “is detrimental to a child’s long-term education …”
I would venture to say, however, that for all findings resulting from research done correctly following established and proven protocols, there are research findings that prove or show otherwise.
Therefore, I suggest that further review of the literature be performed before forming an inflexible conclusion. I can assure you it will reveal that, if handled properly, retention can have very good and positive outcomes.
Promotion without the proper reading skills creates problems up the education ladder not only for the student, but also for the teacher who has to devote limited time to the deficient student, probably, at the expense of the other students.
Learning problems created in K-12 are coming to roost at our universities. It is absurd that we should be devoting more of our limited resources to remedial instruction in the post-secondary setting, a dilemma that, to a degree, is exacerbated by minimal admission requirements and the lottery scholarship program that is available to all New Mexico high school graduates who leave with a 2.5 grade point average.
I support access to higher education for all desiring that type education.  However, we must be reasonable about it.  Not all students have to enter four-year institutions.
Certificate and associate degrees offered at technical vocational schools or state-funded community colleges are nothing to be ashamed of.
However, if the gates to higher education are going to be opened to all, let us insure that the students are academically prepared to handle the concomitant demands.
As well, I would go a step farther and suggest that to continue business as usual only serves to exacerbate the oppression Mr. Chavez addressed not only of Hispanic children, but all our children resulting in a disservice to them, their families, the community, the state and the country, and by de facto, the condonation and perpetuation of oppressed groups in our society.
Is this what we want? I don’t think so. It certainly isn’t what Mr. Chavez sought to achieve.
During the session, Rep. Miera introduced HB 53, which amongst other things, called for “targeted intervention and effective remediation” for children from day one. This was an excellent suggestion.
He, however, lost my support when he was steadfast in his thought that parents should have the final say in whether to retain or not retain.
It is my belief that that the decision to retain or not should be collaborative endeavor involving all stakeholders including the homeroom teacher, the parents and the entire “education team.”
The notion of early intervention and remediation, I believe, is a salient point. However, it is something that should be taking place now without the need for legislation to dictate it.
With early intervention, the question of whether to retain or not, hopefully, would become a moot or almost moot point.
Why? Because all stakeholders would be in the stream and well-versed on a particular child’s progress or lack thereof such that in the third grade, there would be no surprises.
The trauma to the parents and particularly the child, would, hopefully, be minimized and, thus, allow the education continuum to proceed seamlessly.
It was my hope that HB 53 (Miera) and the HB 69 (Martinez) would be melded into one solid bill acceptable to all.
Sadly, once again, the powerful education lobbying forces with underhanded support from some superintendents won and the children lost.
In closing once again, I emphatically and without reservations state that we cannot continue to support the status quo manner in which our public school system dollars are being spent when, clearly, what is happening now is not producing the desired results.
I applaud Rep. Miera’s efforts and the points he makes. Likewise, I applaud Skandara’s and Martinez’ sense of urgency to act now.
Let us, therefore, be big and show the people of New Mexico that it is not politics as usual, us versus them; for it is, indeed, the future all of us must strive to seize.
The future is here, and, make no mistake, it is a complicated one that is only going to get more complex. Our children must be prepared now to sail into it free of obstacles that can eliminated today. Let us, together, make it a future worth aspiring to achieve by giving our children, as Rep. Miera professes; the “world-class education they deserve.”

John Lopez
Bosque Farms