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LETTER RE: “Discussion Draft State Action Plan re: Martinez/Yazzie v. State of New

New Mexico Public Education Department: Please accept the below comments on the proposed new administrative
“Discussion Draft State Action Plan re: Martinez/Yazzie v. State of New Mexico”:

June 15, 2022


PED Language: The work that lies ahead for NMPED and schools will require systemic change to address the needs of the students and families impacted by decades of neglect and underfunding, including students with disabilities, Native American students, English learners, and economically disadvantaged students. These students account for over 70% of the population in New Mexico’s public schools. For New Mexico students and their families to realize their full potential, it is incumbent upon both NMPED and its partners, especially the school districts, to do their part in ensuring educational equity, excellence, and relevance for all students.

By implementing the recommendations in this plan, all of New Mexico’s public school students will benefit.

NMPED is planning a future in which students are engaged in a culturally and linguistically responsive educational system that meets their academic, social, and emotional needs.

To that end, this action plan is focused on the following long-term goals:

1. Assuring external factors like race, language, economic status, and family situations do not equate with lower rates of success in educational achievement and career prospects.
2. Increasing academic proficiency in math, science, and languages to ensure that all students graduate well prepared for the ever-changing world of college, career, and civic engagement.
3. Eliminating achievement gaps among New Mexico students, particularly English learners, economically disadvantaged students, Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans, and
students with disabilities.
4. Respecting, honoring, and preserving students’ home languages and cultures by implementing
culturally and linguistically responsive instruction and learning for all students.

AFT NM Comments: We fully support the bulleted goals of the draft action plan as presented by the NM PED, and we share the values expressed in both the introductory paragraphs and vision section. However, we would encourage the NM PED to view this work through the lens of partnerships with other educational stakeholders outside of the relationship between the Department and the Districts. There is an abundance of real-world experience and expertise held by community partners, advocacy groups, and educator unions. Our concern is that without strong partnerships with entities outside of the traditional administrative decision-making structure, outcomes will lack credibility and fail to be implemented with fidelity to developed plans, such as this action plan.

Outcome Targets for Specific Populations: Educators (p. 4)

PED Language: Quality teachers are the foundation of the public education system. We need to focus on three primary areas to provide the number of high-quality teachers that are necessary to make our education system a model for the rest of the country:
1. Retaining the teachers we have;
2. Recruiting more teachers to join the ranks; and
3. Developing a pipeline of home-grown teachers.

Class-size reduction has been linked to student success and can have a significant impact on the success of at-risk students. Some research suggests that a meaningful reduction in class size could increase achievement by an amount equivalent to three additional months of school. Having a sufficient roster of educators is the key to reducing class size, which, in turn, increases productivity for students.

AFT NM Comments: We agree with prioritizing the above three bullet points as a method to ensure that our public schools are fully staffed with a mix of veteran and new educators. In recent years, there have been efforts by the New Mexico Legislature and the Lujan Grisham administration to address these specific points. Specifically, we know that salaries are an important part of all three bullets, however compensation is only one aspect of this effort. Programs like Grow Your Own Teachers, paid residencies, and improved working conditions all play a role in recruiting and retaining educators. AFT New Mexico supports these efforts as they have shown to recruit a more diverse set of educators which will help to create learning environments more closely reflecting our New Mexico’s student population.

For bullet three, our union would like to see a more robust investment in a statewide framework for Educators Rising, which we view as a Career Technical Education (CTE) opportunity akin to many of the existing CTE programs

For each of these bullets, we would hope to see a more tangible list of programmatic efforts in future drafts of this plan that the NM PED will engage in to achieve each stated goal.

Outcome Targets for Specific Populations: Micro-credentials (p. 9)

PED Language: NMPED will implement the use of “microcredentials” to give teachers more opportunities to obtain recognized areas of expertise. These certificates will help educators move to higher levels of licensure with accompanying increases in pay.

AFT NM Comments: Our union has long supported the concept of micro-credentials to not only allow a teacher to advance their pay and/or advance through the licensure system. We would advocate that the NM PED look to recent legislation from 2017 (SB 30 & SB 157) and 2018 (HB 188) for helpful guidance on what this approach can achieve to accurately reflect and compensate for specialized skill sets of our instructional staff.

“At-Risk” Students: Native Americans (p. 20)

PED Language: The Legislature also included specific funding in FY2022-23 for school districts and charter schools to address the Martinez/Yazzie ruling, including:

• $5.1 million for Indigenous, multilingual, multicultural, and special education programs.
• $15 million for interventions for at-risk students, prioritized to schools with the highest Family Income Index that provide supplemental, evidence-based services for at-risk students.
• $10 million for educational technology and staffing.
• $13.3 million for tribes and tribal education departments to increase community-based extended learning for Native American students to engage with their teachers.

AFT NM Comments: Each of these bullet points are critical to address the needs of our Native American students. However, for each of these goals, it is important to have consistent and quantifiable feedback to measure the efficacy of the program and where it is being administered. Specifically, as we review the results of the Family Income Index, this plan of action must be structured to not only evaluate results of any program, but also pivot, should the community need additional supports or programmatic supports. Additionally, as this plan becomes more fully realized, it will be critical to have clear and transparent structures and processes to demonstrate how and where these resources will be allocated and criteria to be considered as awards are made.

“At-Risk” Students: English Learners (p. 23)

PED Language: NMPED will formalize required English Learner Programs in state law to provide both English Language Development (designated ELD) and sheltered content instruction (integrated ELD) for all English Learners and ensure that at-risk funding that is earmarked for English Learners is further leveraged. These changes will ensure that all ELs across the state are served in an EL program, even in the absence of a bilingual program (which is only one EL program option). This includes many microdistricts and charter schools that received at-risk funding, but not bilingual or Title III funding.

AFT NM Comments: The term “English Learner Programs” is vague and currently undefined. If the goal of the draft plan to optimize the current state law concerning English Language Learner (ELL) policy, we would urge the NM PED to take stock of the current ELL programs in New Mexico to avoid duplicative programs and maximize use of resources.

“At-Risk” Students: Students with Disabilities (p. 24)

PED Language: The SED’s response to the Martinez/Yazzie lawsuit focuses on four strategies:
1. Academic support, including evaluating dyslexia
2. Educator, training, recruitment, and retention
3. Family advocacy and support
4. Dispute resolution for students with disabilities

Ultimately, the overarching goal is to increase academic support for students with disabilities.

AFT NM Comments: Like previous comments, in future drafts of this action plan, we would like a more quantifiable list of strategies, explicitly unpacking each of these bullets. In this section, the NM PED does a good job listing recent efforts to address services to students with disabilities, in future drafts of this plan, we would appreciate seeing how each of these individual programs aligns/intersects with the above four bullets.

“At-Risk” Students: Students with Disabilities (p. 28-29)

PED Language: In collaboration with the NMPED Special Education Division, Cooperative Educational Services’ Leading Educators through Alternative Pathways (LEAP) initiative has improved outcomes for all New Mexico students and increased the number and quality of new teachers entering the field with a special education license. The program is helping to close the gap created by vacant positions, as evidenced by the numbers of teachers going through LEAP. These teachers receive training in special education, even if the teachers intend to teach in general education. The training prepares all participants to better serve students in all settings. Additional impacts of the program are as follows:

• Over 400 teachers have been trained with the LEAP framework grounded in culturally responsive teaching. All LEAP teachers are trained in their content areas, special education, and literacy. NMPED intends to continue this training with a rate of 200 new candidates per year.
• In three years, LEAP has licensed 116 New Mexico teachers in the area of special education (including dual licenses).
• LEAP special education teachers receive one-on-one support in the area of documentation, organization, processes, and strategies.
• LEAP candidates have a 100% pass rate on the Praxis special education licensure exam.
• In 2021, LEAP partnered with NMPED and the May Center to expand dyslexia expertise throughout our state. The goal is to continue these efforts at a rate of 15 Dyslexia Practitioners per year across New Mexico. The impact of this program will be measured in post-intervention data collection and analysis following the end of the 2021-22 school year.

AFT NM Comments: While recent statistics show promise in training special education teachers through the LEAP program, we would caution the NM PED on overreliance on alternatively licensed teachers. Statistics show that alternatively licensed teachers do not have as long of a tenure in our schools and churn of educators deeply impact our student outcomes, especially those with disabilities. While having an alternatively licensed teacher is preferrable to a non-teacher or long-term substitute, the NM PED should focus on recruiting and training the best possible candidates for our schools.

PED Language: For the last year, NMPED’s Special Education Division has redesigned Excellence from Coaching in Literacy for Intensive Preparation in Special Education (ECLIPSE), a program that provides direct support to kindergarten through third grade special education teachers in New Mexico’s lowest performing schools with the goal of improving literacy for students with disabilities. ECLIPSE provides instructional coaching, targeted assistance, family literacy events, and curriculum support at 77 schools in 24 districts across New Mexico. By supporting teachers in those schools and implementing evidence-based practices, ECLIPSE is impacting the literacy success of 3,936 students. From August to November 2021, 1,198 hours of instructional coaching were provided to ECLIPSE teachers.

AFT NM Comments: More information is needed on this program. While initial statistics appear promising, we would want to know how schools opt-in to these programs, where they have been administered, and if utilizing ECLIPSE displaces other aspects of a student’s learning.

Extended Learning Programs: Research Based Reading Programs (p. 39)

PED Language: NMPED’s approach to structured literacy, or “research-based reading programs,” ensures that all elementary educators know how to teach reading according to the “science of reading” (i.e., the science of how to teach reading by understanding how the brain learns to read). Additionally, structured literacy ensures that all elementary students are reading at grade level with appropriate support systems in place at every school to address both minor reading challenges and serious issues. This approach is a departure from previous administrations in which non-recurring funding was used to support “Reads to Lead” programs in only a small number of school districts. The new approach ensures not only that all students across the state benefit from instruction by educators who are well-trained in the science of reading, but also that all students get screened in first grade for dyslexia to ensure that they receive appropriate support at an early age.

AFT NM Comments: First and foremost, we believe in the importance of early literacy initiatives. In the context of the Martinez/Yazzie decision, we stress the importance of having every literacy program be culturally relevant to the student population being targeted. Additionally, it is critical that any early reading programs be complementary to the teacher’s other responsibilities in the classroom and school site. New approaches to reading interventions must not displace existing efforts, and instructors must be compensated appropriately for their time.

Technology: Counselors, Social Workers, and Other Non-Instructional Staff (p. 49)

PED Language: An integral part of student success is access to adults focused on supporting their wellness, social relationships, transitions, healthy habits, and opportunities. School counselors, social workers, psychologists, and other instructional support providers maximize student potential by providing one-on-one guidance, often vital to the most at-risk students. Adults who serve students in this capacity can advocate, provide referrals for long-term support, support individual goal setting, and provide data analysis that helps identify student issues, needs and challenges. They are also key to promoting schoolwide equity and fundamental in establishing positive school culture and climate.

AFT NM Comments: We agree wholeheartedly, however, without meaningful action by the NM PED and the New Mexico Legislature, this integral piece of the action plan will not be fulfilled. Specifically, the New Mexico Legislature must provide a dedicated funding stream for dual-licensed educational professionals to garner equitable salaries to their peers who are on the current 3-Tier system of compensation. Additionally, while strides have been made to recruit and retain K-12 teachers, there must be equal efforts made to do the same for counselors, social workers, and other non-instructional staff.

Closing Comments:

One area of feedback we have received from educators is the concern that with additional responsibilities generated from this plan of action will put additional stresses on an already overburdened public education system. The NM PED must be extremely careful in their administration of this plan and how it impacts the work already being done in our schools. We would request that as you evaluate public feedback around this proposed plan of action, that the sheer volume of work is considered. While much of the feedback will be critical, we would stress the feasibility of implementing everything, all at once.

The NM PED has done a good job in describing the work already being done in New Mexico to address the Martinez/Yazzie decision as well as the gaps in service which exist in this moment. We also appreciate that this plan is truly a draft. Addressing the constitutional responsibility of our State to provide equitable education to all students is not something to be taken lightly. We believe that this work can be achieved, but we would like to see a clearer articulation of short- versus long-term goals for this plan and a timeline of the operationalization of these plans. Additionally, consideration on how this plan will be evaluated and adjusted based on those same longitudinal goals will be important for this plan’s long-term success.

We look forward to seeing the finalized action plan soon, and our union of professionals appreciate the thoughtful and inclusive approach to these proposed revisions. We would suggest releasing a second draft at the close of public comment to provide further feedback based on the aggregation of input from across New Mexico. We believe a second round of comments will help to formulate the strongest plan possible for our students.

Ultimately, our profession and our union will always advocate for the values and goals of the historic Martinez/Yazzie decision. We must have curriculum which reflects the varied histories of our students and communities, and we are willing partners to achieve these shared goals. Public schools must strive to be honest and trusted partners at all levels of education, and we believe this plan of action can help to secure that trust.We owe no less to our students and their families.


Whitney Holland
President, AFT New Mexico


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