New Mexico: Taking on the Tough Issues

We’ve just spent two days at New Mexico’s Teacher Summit, put on by the Public Education Department. We joined over 1,300 teachers for professional development, a little networking, and a lot of coming to understand the challenges and priorities facing students, educators and education generally here in this beautiful state.


It’s fascinating to see a an “SEA” – a state education agency – taking on some of the knottiest debates in education: Charter schools. Teacher evaluation. PARCC. School grades. (Not accountability dashboards, or even report card, mind you; school grades; these NMPED folks aren’t backing down from this fight)


And here in the Albuquerque Convention Center were gathered teachers from all over this wildly diverse state, having driven in from the Four Corners region, and border cities, and the remote towns of the northeast corner, all at the request of the NMPED. It was an exhibition of détente, and a delight to observe: educators and policymakers under the same broad roof, sometimes agreeing to disagree, but often finding common ground.


Spotlight’s role in all this, of course, is to ensure that communication is clear: communication of data – school grade, assessment, and even teacher effectiveness data – is accessible, understandable, and accessible. Because nothing will turn an otherwise productive conversation sideways like misunderstood data. We’re proudly partnering with the PED to produce the first-ever school accountability videos, and hope to take on more.


Granted, New Mexico’s teacher’s union is not particularly recalcitrant. Still, the teachers’ willingness to assemble in evident partnership with a Department that, according to some, they should be at odds with, was inspiring to observe.