Jasmine Yepa was happy with her daughters’ education at San Diego Riverside Charter School and Walatowa Headstart in Jemez Pueblo.Certified education assistants speak Towa, the Pueblo’s traditional language, with students while teachers build lesson plans in English. The education assistants also translate English lesson plans into Towa, giving children additional opportunities to hear and speak the language in a classroom setting.
Through her work at the Native American Budget and Policy Institute, Yepa understands the importance of her daughters learning their culture and language to dilute what she calls a “white washed system” that assimilates non-white students into American culture. “Celebrating multiculturalism and multilingualism should help foster appreciation of diversity and foster respect for people’s differences,” she said. “It’s something that all policy makers should understand. Language and culture plays a huge role in not only maintaining our cultural way of life but also our core values.”
It’s been five years since the Success Partnership convened its first summit to create goals for “cradle to career” education in Doña Ana County. A lot has changed since then. Ngage New Mexico, an education-focused community organization that created the Success Partnership and organized a follow up summit Monday at New Mexico State University, wanted to put the changes in perspective with a comprehensive look at education data over that period from home visiting and preK to college and workforce training. Since 2015, Las Cruces Public Schools started its first community school to bring social services and after school programs to students and on Saturday the district will inaugurate three more. Graduation rates jumped at two of the county’s school districts, from 75% in 2015 to 86% in 2019 at LCPS, and 67% to 77% at Hatch Valley Schools, while inching up at Gadsden from 81% to 82%.
The all-day gathering was part pep rally to celebrate successes, part tough talk about bumps in the road to better education results and part brainstorming session to chart the course ahead.
Lori Martinez, executive director of Ngage NM, an education nonprofit based in Las Cruces.
Bernalyn Via of the Mescalero Apache tribe visited the Roundhouse on Fb. 10 to lobby lawmakers. Photo credit / Trip Jennings
As the annual legislative session races to an end Thursday, think of the New Mexico Legislature as an industrial-strength strainer. Only a portion of bills will pass through. But some lawmakers are saying too many bills being filtered out come from communities that are home to students identified in the landmark Yazzie Martinez education lawsuit as shortchanged in the state’s public schools.The House of Representatives and Senate may be wrangling over last-minute changes to the state budget, but raging behind the scenes is a debate over whether the spending plan is responding to the court order that demands New Mexico educate its at-risk students better.
There are more than 335,000 potential teacher recruits in New Mexico — every child in the state’s public schools.
That’s according to Gwen Perea Warniment, the deputy secretary in charge of teacher training and recruitment for the Public Education Department. She has a big job in a state where 644 classrooms were filled by long-term substitutes this school year.
And as our report this week showed, that figure doesn’t really get at the state’s complicated hiring problem. It doesn’t show that rural and low-income schools have the toughest time hiring teachers, the massive lack in specialties like special education, bilingual and math classes, and that a growing reliance on people without education degrees has translated to greener teachers and higher turnover. Gwen Perea Warniment is deputy decretary for Teaching and Learning at the Public Education Department. (Courtesy of PED)
“There’s some important nuances to that because you have turnover in certain areas that’s much more severe than in others.
For the first time in three years, the number of classrooms missing a teacher fell in New Mexico rather than increased. It was so hopeful a sign Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham bragged about the 13% drop in teacher vacancies in her State of the State speech. It’s pretty simple math — this school year 89 school districts across New Mexico couldn’t fill 644 teaching slots, while in 2018, that number was 740.
But the state teacher shortage is deeper and more complicated than a tally of open teaching positions around the state, with superintendents performing calculus to figure out how best to meet the needs of students.
Data from the Public Education Department shows skyrocketing numbers of people with bachelor’s degrees stepping into classrooms without teacher training. It’s a trend that syncs with a drop in the number of teaching candidates emerging from the state’s university education departments. But those teachers quit at much higher rates than traditionally trained teachers because, and like many beginning educators, they don’t feel properly supported for the rigors of the job.
The teacher shortage plays out in the day-to-day lives of students through larger class sizes in some schools, combined grades in rural areas, fewer electives and more online classes.
“It’s very district and region specific,” Karen Trujillo, superintendent of Las Cruces Public Schools and former New Mexico secretary of education, said about how the state’s teacher shortage affects classrooms.
Trujillo created the annual New Mexico Educator Vacancy Report in 2015 when she was a researcher at New Mexico State University. As an example of how the teacher shortage affects small school districts more than it might large districts, she described a high school with just one teacher trained to teach English learners. “If that teacher retires, the chances of that district finding an ELL teacher, just because there are not very many out on the market, are slim to none.”
If the New Mexico Legislature and Lujan Grisham are going to reverse the state’s teacher shortage, they will need an array of approaches to recruit and keep teachers from New Mexico, education advocates say.
Things are looking better for students with disabilities at Las Cruces’ Mayfield High School. Since 2012, graduation rates for those students have risen from 59% to 81%. That compares to an increase for all Mayfield students from 76% to 89% over the same period, and 70% to 74% for all students statewide. Parents in Doña Ana County can explore those numbers and more on a dashboard created by the Center for Community Analysis at New Mexico State University. The data was compiled by Program Manager Erica Surova, who launched a new Data Newsletter in early January.
There is no question that 2018’s Yazzie Martinez education lawsuit has changed the conversation on education in New Mexico.
Yes, there is still the constant discussion about the state’s dead last ranking in education, but the ruling by District Judge Sarah Singleton that the state is failing its constitutional duty to educate at-risk students put some legal force behind demands of advocates that the state do something about it. The future of education in light of the lawsuit was probably the biggest issue in the 2018 governor’s race. And it was behind the nearly half-billion in extra funding allocated by the 2019 Legislature for the state’s public schools. Despite that cash infusion, advocates say the state didn’t do nearly enough in 2019, and are pushing lawmakers to do much more to transform the education system. Southern New Mexico, because of its distance, is often left out of the conversation. But last week Ngage New Mexico, a Las Cruces-based education nonprofit, and Transform Education New Mexico, a coalition that came of out the Yazzie Martinez case, teamed up to look at what opportunities lie ahead for the state in education.
The state didn’t spend enough, and it still doesn’t have a plan. That, in essence, is what attorneys in the state’s landmark Martinez/Yazzie education lawsuit argue in a legal motion that seeks concrete steps to guarantee Native Americans, English learners, disabled and low-income students a sufficient education.
Wilhelmina Yazzie, lead plaintiff in the case, has two high schoolers in the Gallup McKinley district. She said even after the state pumped nearly half a billion into the public schools, her sons aren’t seeing it in the classroom. There are no new textbooks or computers, teachers are still providing resources out of pocket and classes that reflects their Navajo culture are still lacking. “I know a lot of our teachers, they do want to help our children.
Lt. Gov. Howie Morales visits Las Cruces on a recent October morning to talk about his after-school learning initiative. Lt. Gov. Howie Morales was running late to an interview at the IHOP in Las Cruces.
His job these days puts him on the road a lot, but he still likes to drop his kids off at school in Silver City. That connection is something the former coach, special education teacher and state senator wants to keep with education in general.
“Education is always going to be at the heart of what I do because that’s why I got into public service,” he said on a recent October morning during a visit to Las Cruces, where he talked up a summit planned for Tuesday in Albuquerque on after-school and out-of-school time activities that would strengthen kids’ connections to school and provide more learning opportunities. As a senator, Morales got involved in the full spectrum of education, from preschool to higher education. He credited early educators in Grant County for making him understand a successful higher education system started with strong early education such as home visiting and preschool.
Images and video for this story were produced by the Las Cruces Sun-News. The sign on the door of Claudia Sanchez’s fourth grade class at Mesquite Elementary says “Welcome to Spanish Week.”
The plastic-covered sheet signals to students that this week they’re learning math, science, reading and other subjects in Spanish. It also signals that this isn’t your typical bilingual classroom.
This is one of Gadsden Independent School District’s dual language immersion classrooms, where students spend half their time in Spanish and the other half in English, and where the goal is not just to become fluent in English, but to become biliterate. In other words, to read, write, listen and speak in two languages.
Mesquite Elementary students switch back and forth between English and Spanish each week as part of a dual language bilingual program. This sign lets them know what language they will be learning and speaking in.
Newly appointed Education Secretary Ryan Stewart, left, visits the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque with the school’s founder, Deputy Secretary Kara Bobroff, on Aug. 13. (Public Education Department via Twitter)
If classroom teachers and education advocates could sit down with new Education Secretary Ryan Stewart, they would tell him to just listen. That’s the consistent message from two teachers at Las Cruces Public Schools – one who has taught for seven years, and another for 30 years, and two leaders of education nonprofits — one a member of the Transform Education New Mexico coalition of that formed out of the Yazzie Martinez education lawsuit, and another a former director of outreach in the Martinez administration’s Public Education Department. Stewart, who is African American, and was the regional director of a nonprofit that works to improve education for low-income and minority students, takes the helm weeks after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham fired Karen Trujillo from the post after just six months on the job.