Educators talk to local legislators about issues from testing to salaries

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Valencia County teachers met with legislators at a town hall discussion last week, organized by the National Education Association-Valencia County.

The piles of new paperwork now required of educators, lengthy lesson plans they have to upload for the state, and ever-increasing testing is leaving them with too little time to teach, they said.

Sen. Michael Sanchez (D-District 29) said he agreed that there is too much testing, and recently appointed Rep. Vickie Perea (R-District 50) said parents must get involved in their children's education and help teachers.

Both Perea and Rep. Kelly Fajardo (R-District 7) said they are new to their positions and still learning about the issues in education.

One teacher asked how ready can a student be who has gone through a night of yelling in the home, come to school the next day and be ready for a test?

Teachers expressed the feelings that it is unfair to be evaluated on test scores when they do not have control over all the factors affecting a student's performance in school. Poverty and problems in the home work against a student's ability to learn.

"We don't expect you guys to go out and pick up our truant students and bring them to our classroom," said Alycia Rivera, a Belen High School science teacher. "We expect you to do what you can do in the legislature because we can't go vote in the legislature. We can't propose a bill, we can't draft a new evaluation system. That's what we need you to do."

Belen teachers are testing every two to three weeks, one day a week, using a state mandated test called Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, said event coordinator, Carolyn Serafin-Abeyta, second grade teacher and elected NEA member.

"Each student takes about 20 minutes to test, and then the teacher spends a second day at their desk uploading the data," Serafin-Abeyta said.

At the high school level, they are going through a third set of end-of-course exams for students who did not pass them already, said a teacher from the audience.

"I spend half a day at my desk looking for information or data, making spread sheets and uploading data for my own evaluation," said Clairessa Nichols, a Gil Sanchez Elementary teacher. "I teach less, students learn less, because of the amount of paperwork I have to do. Yet, my pay and job are being held accountable to my students' test scores."

Sanchez agreed that there is too much testing, and said he is against the teacher evaluations that have been implemented.

"This is a corporate way of doing things and it's the wrong way," said Sanchez. "We're making money for big corporations on all of these tests … We shouldn't be doing it to help a big corporation make a billion or $2 billion. We should be thinking of our kids."

Teachers also wanted to know what the advantages and disadvantages are of having a state secretary of education versus the old system of having a state board of education and a state superintendent.

Perea said with only two months on the job she wanted to hear both sides of this issue before making her decision.

"One of the problems that I think is pretty obvious is that with every single governor, you have a different way the state is going to move," said Fajardo. "We have the secretary of education; this is her policy, this is how we're going to do it. But then when we get a new governor, it's going to change and I don't think that's good for the state.

"If we keep changing things under every new governor, how are we ever going to get things done," Fajardo said.

During the Richardson administration, the state went from a state school board with a superintendent of schools to having a secretary of education.

"This was pure politics by the Richardson administration," said Sanchez. "Basically what he said was he wanted the accountability of the secretary of state to fall in his lap. There were four of us who stood up and said this is going to create a problem because it's going to become political, and when it becomes political, it's not good for our students."


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.