Category: Empower

Our goal is to empower New Mexico teachers to refine their craft, take informed action and have a platform to provide well-informed feedback on important matters impacting our schools, so that they, in turn, can empower students to take ownership of their learning and achieve their fullest potential!

Hot Topics in NM Education

Hot Topics in NM Education

Straight “A” Express Chugs Along! The Straight A Train made several stops last week. First stop was in Los Alamos where Secretary Ruszkowski and his team met with students, teachers, school leaders, and board members to celebrate the district’s six “A” schools. Check out coverage in the Los Alamos Daily Post.  The next stops were Cobre and Silver. Check out this incredible article in the Silver City Daily Press. Special thank you to the teacher leaders for the special warm welcome for the PED team!

 

Our Students…RISING! The 2017 winners of the Summer Reading Challenge were announced last week! Balloon ride winners had the opportunity to go up in a hot air balloon with Governor Martinez on Saturday morning. Aracely Mendoza from Gadsden Elementary School in Anthony won the grand prize of an all-expense-paid family vacation to Disney. Check out coverage on all the winners on KRQE. Make sure to encourage your students to participate next summer!!

Bringing in the Bacon! New Mexico has earned more than $42 Million in federal grants for early literacy and quality options for parents. This month the New Mexico Striving Readers “NM Literacy Connections” grant totals $20 Million over the next three years and the New Mexico Charter Schools Program grant totals more than $22 Million over the next five years. Check out coverage in the Roswell Daily Record. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about either grant!

Weekly Highlights

Weekly Highlights

Hot off the Press: Charter schools were a hot topic this week. “More or Moratorium?” – was the name of a panel that took place in Santa Fe discussing the pros and cons of charter schools. Katie Poulos (Director of Options for Parents) sat on the panel. Check out the article in the Santa Fe New Mexican today.

Charter Grant: The Public Education Department scored a major federal grant this past week – $22,507,806.22 to be exact! Check out coverage in the Associated Press and the Albuquerque Journal.

New Mexico True Straight “A” Express Tour: Secretary Ruszkowski and PED team members continued the unprecedented tour around the state that is being talked about in all four corners! This week’s stops included: Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Los Lunas, and Belen. Check out coverage in the Albuquerque Journal and the Rio Rancho Observer. Be sure to check out our blog to stay up-to-date!

Blue Ribbon Schools: U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recognized three New Mexico schools for winning the National Blue Ribbon School award – Arrowhead Park Early College High School in Las Cruces, Desert View Elementary School in Sunland Park, and Wood Gormley Elementary School in Santa Fe. We are thrilled! Congratulations to these schools for their hard work. Check out the article in the Santa Fe New Mexican.                           

505 Scholars: Secretary R and three other cabinet secretaries joined Governor Martinez in announcing the 505 Southwestern New Mexico True Scholars scholarship program – an opportunity for students interested in making a positive impact on the agriculture industry in New Mexico. The press conference took place at Flagship Food Group warehouse in Albuquerque. Check out the coverage and incredible photo in the Los Alamos Daily Post. If you know anyone interested in applying for the $5,000 scholarship, visit the New Mexico 505 Scholars webpage.

New Mexico PED Announces More High-Performing Teachers Than Ever Before

New Mexico PED Announces More High-Performing Teachers Than Ever Before

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Today, the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) announced that New Mexico has more high-performing teachers than ever before. The 2017 NMTEACH results show more students have access to exceptional teachers, and more students are growing across all subject areas.  Similar to the state’s results in PARCC, School Grades, Advanced Placement access and success, and graduation rates, the NMTEACH system is demonstrating that setting a high bar, closing honesty gaps, and embracing accountability sets New Mexico’s students, teachers, and schools up for success.

 

“I’m proud of our teachers statewide for rising to the challenge,” said Governor Martinez. “We know every student has the potential to succeed and they deserve the very best educators to ensure they are growing and prepared for college and a career. Our teachers deserve honest feedback that will help them improve in their craft. In New Mexico, we have elevated the profession, and will continue to do so by equipping, empowering, and championing our teachers.”

 

New Mexico is on the rise, academically, with 32,000 more students in A & B schools, 15,000 more students on grade-level in math and reading, the highest graduation rate in state history at 71 percent, and more students taking and passing Advanced Placement exams than ever before. The state’s commitment to educator quality is a major reason why these student results are rising. And districts like Farmington, Alamogordo, Gadsden, Belen and Hobbs are showing incredible growth and progress by embracing reform and partnering with the PED in successful programs like Principals Pursuing Excellence (PPE).  PPE is a program that puts teacher observation, coaching, and data analysis at the heart of school leaders’ work.

 

“Districts and schools must seize this opportunity to reward and retain their best teachers, create new mentoring and induction systems, individualize coaching and professional development, and revisit placement and staffing procedures to ensure all students, regardless of background or zip code, have access to excellent educators,” said Education Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski. “As a former middle school social studies teacher who wanted to grow in my craft and career, I know first-hand how important it is to have a meaningful teacher evaluation system that puts student growth front-and-center. For decades, we as educators bemoaned not having the tools or information to professionalize teaching. Those days are over in New Mexico—and we must come together to build upon this foundations in the days and months ahead.”

 

Based upon multiple measures of teacher performance, including observations, surveys, student achievement growth, and teacher attendance, the NMTEACH system has now been in-place statewide for four academic years.  The system was developed in consultation with stakeholders statewide and after a pilot year in select districts and charters.  Recently, Governor Martinez announced a shift in state policy based upon extensive stakeholder input and teacher-developed policy recommendations—it aligned with leading research on teacher effectiveness and took into consideration performance data on measures such as teacher attendance.  Recently released research on NMTEACH highlighted it as one of the strongest and most honest teacher evaluation systems in the country.

 

The PED collects and collates school and district data on each teacher’s performance, and released teacher summative reports to districts and charter schools on August 31, 2017. This year, the data was released earlier than ever before. Throughout the past week, teachers and principals have had the opportunity to discuss student and classroom performance— another place where the PED has been responsive to stakeholder input.

Guest Post: Summertime Reflections That Will Make This Year Easier

Guest Post: Summertime Reflections That Will Make This Year Easier

Have you seen any of the teacher memes on Pinterest emphasizing the differences between teachers in August and Teachers in May? I find them to be hilarious but completely accurate. The end of May equals exhaustion.

Every. Single. Year.

I have come to realize that running out of energy just as the school year ends is OK. That the natural consequence of ten months of hard work is fatigue. However, I have also learned that there are things I can do during the summer that will greatly lighten my load during the following year. Taking a break from all things school related is essential. The time available to “just do nothing” varies from teacher to teacher and from year to year. Read books that have nothing to do with education. Sleep late. Watch a movie. Go for a walk or a run. There is no wrong way to rest, relax, and recharge.

Taking time to reflect on the previous school year is also important. What did you do well? What were your greatest challenges? Make a list of the things you would like to do differently, and then prioritize that list. If you don’t do so already, creating a pacing guide for each subject you teach is the most significant thing you can do to begin lightening next year’s load. Start by printing a blank calendar for each month of the school year. Note holidays, testing dates, and early dismissal days. Record when progress reports are scheduled, when grades close each quarter, and when final exams will be given. After making a list of required units, determine both the start date and the test date of each. This step is harder than it looks which is why I use a pencil with a good eraser! If school starts the middle of August, the first unit will probably be complete around Labor Day. Do you give that first test the Friday before the three day weekend? If not, will you need to review on the following Tuesday before testing on Wednesday? How many units need to be completed by the end of the first semester? How much time do you need to review for EoC’s in the spring? The first time I sat down and gave serious thought to the pacing of units, I was shocked to realize that there were only two teaching days available the week of Thanksgiving; there was NO way to complete a chapter’s worth of work that time frame. There is also a surprisingly small window of teaching time between Thanksgiving and semester exams. Continue this process until your calendar is complete. Remember to leave a few days open for things that will come up unexpectedly and throw you off track. The next step is to tackle your unit plans.

It seems that once the school year starts, I have very little time to think about what and how I want to teach. To me, this is much more easily done when school is not in session. I go through each unit, updating note packets, modifying quizzes and tests, and improving activities and labs. I also eliminate material that is no longer useful. Taking time during the summer to improve the content of my lessons greatly lowers my anxiety throughout the year. The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies to the way I use summertime reflections to improve my health and happiness throughout the school year. While it may be impossible to eliminate the weariness that accompanies those final weeks of school, the days leading up to that point are certainly less stressful.

Melissa Burnett is a science teacher at Artesia High School and serves as an Ambassador for the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network.

GUEST POST: How the NM Teacher Summit Changed My Summer Plans

GUEST POST: How the NM Teacher Summit Changed My Summer Plans

I can’t seem to come down from the past few days. This is a strange feeling for me because June is usually a month characterized by lounging on the couch, starting (and hopefully finishing) house projects that have gone undone since Christmas break, and consciously releasing the stressful moments and memories of my teaching year.  No matter how wonderful the school year has been for me, I invariably need this complete break from it and from almost everything educational. At least that is how I have managed to get through the last ten years.

Granted, when I was a new teacher I had that eager, overachiever thirst for new knowledge. Over the past 26 years that “newness” has worn off and I have learned to pace myself, never teach summer school, and stay in my robe until noon. I am one of those teachers who needs the full 10 weeks of summer vacation to rejuvenate. Come Labor Day, I am back in full force and signing up for everything extra-curricular and then some. I push myself non-stop, just not in June. Let’s face it: I’ve been doing this a long time, and I only have so much energy to go around.

So imagine how surprised I was to return from the Second Annual NM Teacher Summit last night with an energy usually reserved for September. I literally couldn’t subdue the enthusiasm and joy I felt as I drove back from Albuquerque to Taos. The landscape looked crisper and the sunset brighter. What just happened to me?

I now realize how I have isolated myself professionally over the last decade. I admit, I have a good thing going. I love my school, my director, my colleagues, and my students. I have a fabulous view of Taos Mountain from my window, and my commute is 1-1/2 miles. Life is good….and easy. Online professional development and collaboration with brilliant coworkers is all I need. Or so I thought.

It’s easy to self-isolate in a large landmass state such as New Mexico. When I taught in New England states and even in coastal Virginia, there was always a district or city nearby where teachers shared information, conferenced, and supported each other. I didn’t remember until this week in Albuquerque how much I had missed that. To be in a convention center ballroom with 1,000 of my peers was exhilarating. To hear our New Mexico Public Education Department thank us for our work and inspire us to push ourselves to greater heights was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

I attended break-out sessions where I learned how PED is working to improve education in New Mexico, met old and new teacher friends, and celebrated accomplishments in New Mexico schools. I gained a better appreciation for the vision and efforts of former Secretary Skandera to effect change for New Mexico students, and for the energy of the new Acting Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski to continue to work to equip and empower teachers in order to make that happen. It wasn’t long before I remembered why I chose this great profession and how much I still love teaching. In my self-imposed isolation, I sometimes forget that truth.

The best part for me: seeing a friend and former colleague who I mentored when she was a new teacher. She was able to attend just part of the Summit because she attends MBA classes to  become an educational leader in her home city of Albuquerque. Oh, and one of my former third grade students performed for the teachers in an incredible display of her drama skills developed at New Mexico School for the Arts where she will be a high school senior. The rewards of being a teacher always come back to the kids!

So I’m back to my problem of figuring out how to come down from this unexpected high. While I honor my physical and emotional need to stay away from the classroom during the summer, I might sneak in some educational reading from one of the many titles shared at the Summit. My boss and I agreed to read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why next month, and I’m excited to reread Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. The Summit not only connected me to friends and specific strategies for furthering my practice, but it made me want to expand my big picture of education while I have the time to start and finish a book. This is the first June in YEARS where I actually look forward to thinking about educational topics and themes. Forgive me if I do it in my robe on the couch.

This guest post was written by Leslie Baker, a teacher at Taos Charter School in Taos, NM and member of the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network.

GUEST POST: Teachers as Leaders, Yes We Can!

GUEST POST: Teachers as Leaders, Yes We Can!

When I first heard the modern iteration of the term ‘Teacher Leadership’ at the National Board’s annual Teaching and Learning Conference, my first cynical thought was, “Here They go again… trying to get us to do more work for less money.”   Three years later, I’ve come to believe strongly that teacher leadership is the key to creating a modern, effective American educational system.

Like many experienced teachers, I was a teacher leader before that became a catch phrase.  Almost 20 years ago, I was lucky enough to be a part of a cadre of ‘Literacy Leaders’ in my district.  There were 12 of us.  Our mission was to disseminate the research on how to teach reading.  It was exciting to be a part of this cohort and it was exciting to bring the teachers at my school together for the first time to discuss our practice and how to make it better.  The week-long summer training I led changed the culture at our school from one of isolation to one of collaboration.

Teachers volunteer at their schools because they want to help their peers be the best they can be for the good of their students.  Often these leaders move on into administrative positions because that is the only opportunity they see to extend their reach.  Many feel the need to expand their impact by formalizing their authority. Unfortunately, too many of these teacher leaders are unhappy in their roles as administrators.  They miss the life of the classroom.  They don’t feel their new roles give them the access they hoped for.  And they are right.  Teachers are more often influenced to improve their practice by other teachers whom they trust and respect.

This is where the true power of teacher leadership lies. Great teachers who improve collaborative practices within schools impact instruction far more than the conventional professional development.  The support that is most needed to improve their teaching is much more involved and intimate than the typical teacher training session.  Strong teachers, who receive training in coaching and adult learning theory, as well as, leading collaborative teams, can help build a culture of ongoing collaborative learning and professional practice in schools.  In this way highly effective teachers can lead courageous change leading to remarkable improvement in student learning.

Since ‘teacher leadership’ has become a movement, there are now a variety of models of teacher leadership around the country.  One is the hybrid role, where teachers teach part of the day and mentor or coach the other part.  In Albuquerque Public Schools, some teacher leaders are full time school-based Instructional Coaches.  Recently, organizations such as Teach Plus and Educators for Excellence have recruited exceptional educators and supported them in influencing policy and school reform in their states.  Teach Plus Fellows recently and successfully advocated for changes to our evaluation system.  The Secretary of Education’s Teacher Advisory is another such advocacy group that the PED started last year.  Both programs will be seeking applicants for new cohorts this summer. Other teachers seek advanced training or National Board Certification and work to help others achieve the same.  Perhaps the most powerful example of teacher leadership has been in the ‘Teacher Led Schools’ movement that has so far been stunningly successful.

New Mexico started its own innovative teacher leadership initiative with the Teacher Leader Network. This network began with 50 high performing teachers who went through a rigorous selection process.  They are brought together in person for 5 full day leadership trainings.  They take part in monthly webinars so they are kept abreast of current information from the the Public Education Department so that they can share it directly with their peers.  The state Public Education Department plans to expand this program so that every school in New Mexico has a designated teacher leader as part of the network.  As a tool for communication, this could yield powerful dividends, especially if the people who lead the Public Education Department make it a venue for not only dispersing information but also as a way to find out what teachers really need and want from our education leaders.  As a way to improve instruction among the rank and file, this network could have profound impact if the teacher leaders are able build trust, and establish collaborative processes in their schools.

If you are a teacher who wants to see some changes in our system, get involved!  Stay on the lookout for opportunities to apply for fellowships and leadership positions.  These opportunities are becoming increasingly more common.  Become National Board Certified, our state is one of the few in which you can receive a healthy stipend for this important achievement.  National Board Certification can open other doors as a leader in our profession.  If you are already National Board Certified consider attending our spring Leadership and advocacy training that will take place in Albuquerque in early June.

My own journey as a teacher leader taught me that teachers in New Mexico still need way more support than they generally receive. They feel powerless to change some of the circumstances within which they work, which leads to increased stress and a too high attrition rate.  In the fall, I will be working towards a Master’s Degree in Educational Policy so I can increase the capacity of teacher leaders in New Mexico. Investing in teacher leaders who create more support for teachers is money well spent.  As teacher leaders we can and must raise our voices to influence public policy in support of our teachers and our schools.

GUEST POST: My Experience on the 2017 New Mexico Dream Team

GUEST POST: My Experience on the 2017 New Mexico Dream Team

On most days I leave my school to make an hour drive home and reflect on my day in my classroom.  I ask myself if I could have done something better and I usually beat myself up the entire drive home.  Sometimes, I feel I’m not teaching like I should even though I’m doing the best job I can and pouring my heart into my students.  Although I am labeled as an exemplary teacher, I doubt my ability and at times, think I should walk away from teaching.

This school year (2016-2017) I was chosen to be a part of the 2017 New Mexico Dream Team.  I can honestly say that it changed my thinking and rejuvenated my love for teaching. The experience reminded me why I’m a teacher.  Serving on the Dream Team allowed me to discover valuable tools to improve literacy and design rigorous lessons to improve the learning levels of my students in the classroom. Most importantly, being on the Dream Team introduced me to a group of elite teachers that have the same thoughts and feelings I was having.  Coming together with other teachers and sharing ideas and formulating strategies to improve literacy for our students has been an amazing experience. The doubts that I had in my ability as a teacher were removed and I feel that I am making a difference in the classroom.   I feel better equipped to teach close reading and design lessons with rigor to help students gain a deeper understanding of the text. I became a more confident teacher through the Dream Team training and the feedback from my colleagues.

At the beginning of this school year I had decided this would be my last year of teaching.  I no longer feel that way.  Talking to other teachers I realized that we all have self-doubt about out teaching ability and that we only have these doubts because we care so much about being great teachers.  I have since changed my mind about leaving the teaching profession and rediscovered why I’m a teaching… Not because I have to, but because I want to!

This guest post was written by Deanna Walker, a teacher in Maxwell Municipal Schools and a member of the 2017 New Mexico Literacy Dream Team.

ICYMI: Roswell Daily Record: Morales says education is path to change

ICYMI: Roswell Daily Record: Morales says education is path to change

After nine years in various teaching assignments in Roswell, Hope Morales has a new role this year.

She is a “teacher on special assignment” at Military Heights Elementary School, training to become a principal for the Roswell Independent School District.
“As much as I love working with students, I absolutely adore working with teachers. And I know that the collaboration I have with teachers is helping students. The strategies that we are talking about, the data we are sharing are going into classrooms to help students. … Rather than working with 25 students, I work with 400, and rather than working with three teachers, I work with teachers throughout the building.”

Morales might be a familiar name to some in the city. She was one of the public faces of the New Mexico Teach Plus Teaching Policy fellows who helped craft the new state Public Education Department rule announced April 2 by Gov. Susana Martinez. The rule, to be in effect five years, will double the sick leave days allowed for teachers from three a year to six before they are penalized in their evaluations and will reduce the weight of student test scores from 50 percent to 35 percent. Now classroom [auth] observations and student scores each will account for 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Martinez had vetoed a bill that would have allowed teachers to use all 10 sick days permitted by their contracts before being penalized.

Selected for the one-year fellowship from hundreds of applications statewide and after a process that involved screening of applications, interviews and questions regarding educational policy, Morales was put on a team that studied teacher evaluations, including conducting polls of educators in the state that provided data to help formulate a proposed policy. (City Councilor and University High School math teacher Natasha Mackey is also a fellow this year.)

Although teacher evaluation policy was not Morales’s personal top priority, it was among the top three and one she thinks is vitally important to education. “I think the evaluation system overall has impacted the culture of education as a state,” she said. “I think that teachers need accountability and our teachers want accountability. And I think that students deserve that. But I also believe there needs to be balance and accuracy. And I think our changes help bring better balance to the system while maintaining that accountability. “As soon as no evaluation bills had passed involving evaluations, I asked Teach Plus leadership, ‘Can we go back to PED leadership and see if we could get our recommendations into the current rule?’ … So there was always a back-up plan so that, some how, some way, we were going to get the changes.” Morales said she has heard mostly positive feedback about the changes, but she recognizes that some educators were critical of the changes as insubstantial or insufficient.
“We knew we had to compromise and get numbers in there that would be an improvement,” she said.

A Roswell native and Roswell High School graduate, Morales said that she knew early on that she wanted to be a teacher. She earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in education and has worked at three local schools as a substitute, a reading associate, a first-, second- and third-grade teacher, a seventh-grade language arts teacher and a Title I teacher.
She has been at Military Heights for four years and said she appreciates its “positive” culture. It’s also a perk that she gets to be at the same school as her second-grade daughter. Her son attends Berrendo Middle School.

Military Heights principal Heidi Shanor commented on Morales’s contribution as a teacher advocate. “She has become very involved with the New Mexico Department of Education over the past two years, especially, Shanor said, “lending her voice to help make positive changes for our educators and education system.”

Morales said that she could get a principal position as early as the fall, but she said she has learned that she can’t control the outcome. “I don’t go by my plans anymore,” she said. “That does not work out at all, so I kind of say that I will go for it all and what works out is right for me.”

Morales serves on many other education committees, including the New Mexico Secretary of Education’s Advisory Council, the RISD Superintendent’s Advisory Council, the RISD School Leadership Team and the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network. Her ultimate aim, she said, is to utilize education to help the community and its citizens succeed. “I was the first in my family to graduate high school with honors, to get my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree. Education was my opportunity to change the cycle, and I want to make sure that I provide that opportunity for others,” she said. “I want to do my part to contribute to the overall success of our children.”
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Reposted from RDR Online Roswell Daily Record by staff writer Lisa Dunlap