Occupy New Mexico was present on Wednesday, July 18, as hundreds of educators, parents and community allies from across New Mexico converged at the NM Public Education Department (PED) in Santa Fe to protest against the corporate-friendly, unfair, confusing and arbitrary changes to teacher evaluation that Governor Martinez and Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera are planning to impose through executive order, despite the opposition of New Mexico lawmakers and thousands of New Mexico educators. The proposed rule change adds more pressure on teachers to “teach to the test” while ignoring critical-thinking skills and creativity, teachers argue. “We are here today to expose efforts that will deform our educational mission and compromise what we know is best for our students,” said ATF teachers union leader Ellen Bernstein. “Fund NM Public Education, Not Test Company Cronies,” demanded some of the signs held by protesters.
Representing thousands of New Mexico educators, the Albuquerque Teachers Federation and American Federation of Teachers – New Mexico organized this rally to articulate their view that an education system that focuses on competition and standardized testing, rather than cooperation and learning, is destructive: bad for students, bad for educators, and bad for New Mexico. Outside, protesters engaged in union songs and chants, and were energized by a variety of speakers–political candidates, parents, teachers, education employees, and of course, union leaders.
At 10:30 am, hundreds of teachers marched around the outside perimeter of the PED building, loudly chanting, “1-2-3-4 Kids are not a test score, 5-6-7-8 We just want to educate!” (People inside the PED reported that they could hear chants through the walls of the hearing room.)
ATF President Ellen Bernstein spoke passionately about the need for REAL education reform – click here to download a copy of her speech (PDF), or watch it here (at 3 minutes) in a video that also shows Kathy Chavez, president of the Albuquerque Educational Assistants Association, speaking about the rumor that secretary-designate Skandera had locked doors inside the PED for fear that teachers may “rush the building”:
Pat Davis, executive director of Progress Now New Mexico, gave a rousing speech that connected the dots between political corruption, corporate greed, lack of accountability to students and teachers, and the flawed approach to teacher evaluation reform that Governor Martinez and her out-of-state cronies are trying to force on New Mexico:
Simultaneous with the rally outside, protesters also gathered inside the PED, where Mabry Hall was packed to capacity as ATF and AFT New Mexico educators, along with many other stakeholders, took the opportunity of a public hearing to provide their criticism on the rule changes around teacher evaluation.