State Education Overhaul Driving Teachers Out of The Profession

Sep 3, 2014

Teacher Mary Parr Sanchez shows one example of the more engaging student projects that were part of the education curriculum before major changes to state education standards.
Credit Simon Thompson

For the last decade state education standards have grown more and more rigorous.
Some teachers say the standards don’t lead to quality teaching and take the love, passion and creativity out of the classroom and is even driving good teachers out of the profession.

Mary Parr Sanchez has been teaching history at Picacho middle school in Las Cruces for 24 years.
For her teaching has been more than a job, it has been a vocation.

“My husband and I use to come home and we felt so blessed that we were in a profession that we just absolutely loved. And we felt like when we got in front of the class we knew that was what we were meant to do and we were very good at it and felt good about it and the relationships that we had with kids and the progress that we saw kids make”  she says.

But in the last eleven years Sanchez say what it means to be a teacher has completely changed. What was once engaging kids in learning, skill development and critical thinking is now rote learning, administering tests, filing out paperwork and collecting data for the state evaluators.

"There has been more interference from outside people that are not in education it is just gotten worse and worse and worse it is stressful and it is not fun and there needs to be an element of fun because we are working with young people. If we are miserable they are going to miserable" she says.

Sanchez is working for change as the New Mexico National Education Association Vice President. She says teachers all over the state are giving up the profession.

Deming Public Schools Superintendent Dr Dan Lere says as older teachers are leaving education not enough new teachers are applying to take their place, especially special ed and upper math teachers.

“A school district like this 10-15 years ago they'd get a lot of applicants now we post a position we get very few.” he says.

“I am not saying we are having a hard time hiring good quality teachers, we are having a hard time hiring any kind of teacher people just don't want to go into education because what they are hearing about what is going on, do I really want to do that?” he says.

Public Education Department Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera is at the helm of the state’s public education overhaul, she say the new system isn’t perfect but it is raising student achievement and the new system will allows for better teacher evaluation.

"We have a system that says lets make sure where we stand so we can support our struggling teachers get them closing those gaps they want to close with our kids and lets make sure we champion our great educators” she says.  

Sanchez says teachers aren't opposed to accountability and measurement of student achievement, but says the New Mexico system was not developed by a professional with a teaching experience.

“What we oppose is the top down we are the professional in the classroom and people are not listening to what the professionals are saying in regards to the kids in front of us and it feels like malpractice” shes say.

Sanchez says teachers should be able to write the end of course tests, or at least be allowed some input on the state mandate tests, so they can work better with the realities of teaching in the classroom.

She says the NEA has asked to collaborate with the Public Education Department to no avail.

It is this frustration that has Sanchez looking to get out of teaching within the next 2 years, but not necessarily out of public education in New Mexico.

"I will leave and go and I am going to full time fight a lot of these I am going to go on to be the president of NEA New Mexico, I hope” she says

“I would like to spend 24 hours a day fighting for the future of my profession because it is very important to the kids of New Mexico"