Guest column: Good teachers deserve recognition

Our teachers are the professionals in charge of the future and it's time we give them the recognition they deserve.

In few professions can a person perform at a high level but be held back by time and credentials. In the business world, highly effective leaders are recognized, promoted and paid. For our teachers, who labor with our most precious resource, their students could be achieving at a level beyond any others in the world, and they would have to wait for an arbitrary amount of time to pass before getting the recognition they deserve.

Our teachers move through a three-tier system, where higher tiers mean higher pay. The system is currently set up to reward teachers for two reasons: Number of years in the classroom, and whether or not they receive a master's degree. Both circumstances are important, but ask any parent the measure of a great teacher, and they will tell you it's all about the students' learning growth.

Too many great New Mexico teachers are leaving our state because they can advance more quickly elsewhere. My effort to remedy the problem is simple: Allow great teachers who are most effective with our students to advance faster than they can today.

In our classrooms right now, a great teacher has to wait years before they can even advance beyond the first level. If our teachers are making great strides, shouldn't they be promoted faster? I say yes; the status quo disagrees.

The reason behind the defeat of my efforts can be summed up in one word: Politics. The leaders of the state's teacher unions were so concerned about student achievement being included in teacher evaluations that they decided great teachers should have to languish for years. Their counter proposal is to re-package a dossier system many teachers despise already. The dossier lacks objective evidence showing why a teacher should be promoted. Instead, teachers are allowed to pick which students to include in the portfolio they submit. In some cases, dossiers are authored, not by the teacher they represent, but by others.

The bottom line is that student achievement holds only a fraction of the weight it should.

You will hear that judging a teacher only by test scores is wrong, and I agree. Teachers should be evaluated by a combination of student assessment results, fair observations and locally decided measures like what their students say about their teaching.

Speaking to parents and educators outside of Santa Fe, this is common sense. But in the Roundhouse where special interests can rule, good ideas face huge hurdles.

Nonetheless, Gov. Susana Martinez continues to lead our state in making student-centered education reform a huge priority, and I stand in strong support of this reform.

This issue is the perfect example of how the governor's focus on students plays a role in the vital area of rewarding our greatest teachers. Putting the student's interest first is a priority for me, for the governor, and for the vast majority of New Mexicans.

There are well over 20,000 teachers in New Mexico who steward over 330,000 students. They are the professionals who are guiding the future, and it is past time we give them the recognition they deserve.

State Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, represents Colfax, Curry, Harding, Quay, Roosevelt, San Miguel and Union Counties. Contact him at:

denroch@hotmail.com

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