James turns attention to education in upcoming session

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James turns attention to education in upcoming session

As he gears up for the 2015 legislative session, Rep-elect Conrad James plans to introduce a measure that would end social promotion in New Mexico schools.

Social promotion is the practice of allowing students to move on to a new grade for social reasons, despite a child’s academic performance.

James said it would take some legwork to end the practice.

“It’s one thing to say we are not going to allow students to be passed on to the next grade if they aren’t ready,” James said.  “It’s another thing to make sure that we have the resources and dedicate those resources to those kids who are held back and make sure that they don’t just run through the system, again, without changes being made to improve their ability to succeed next time around.”

Funding has been set aside to provide students with reading coaches, math tutors and before and after school programs, he said.

Similar to James, Gov. Susana Martinez also wants to end social promotion in schools. According to a statements issued by her office, Martinez said “advancing students to the next grade without the tools required to succeed at the previous level only breeds frustration, disappointment, and ultimately apathy.”

James said some parents are willing to promote their child regardless of the recommendation from teachers and principals because of the social stigma, from the child’s peers, associated with being held back.

However, he said some parents who have decided to hold their child back think it was a good decision because it gave their child time to mature and mentally prepare for the next grade.

Along with social promotion, there are other problems in the public schools, he said.

Wendy Clary, one of the founders of Mountain View Montessori, said she had worked as a substitute teacher for Albuquerque Public Schools before becoming involved in her current school.

Mountain View Montessori, she said, is a private pre-school with a diverse population of children from the ages of two to five. The children come from Cuba, Korea, Japan, China and Ethiopia.

Clary said a problem with public schools is the over-population of children in the classes, which causes teachers to become overwhelmed.

In 2008 through 2009 the student-to-teacher ratio of Albuquerque was 13 to one , according to the New Mexico Public Education Department.

James said managing classroom size will be a community effort but it is a hard issue to address because it boils down to available resources.

“How many teachers do we have, how many students do we have. I am certainly open to having more options in terms of supporting teachers in the classroom, which is really number one for me is making sure that the funding that we devote to education gets in the classroom,” James said.

Another problem, Clary said, is standardized testing, which emphasizes teaching to the test and stresses memorization over learning.

“I personally don’t believe in the standardized testing,” Clary said. “Where they need to do the standardized testing. And these children who are so bright and have a love for learning all of a sudden are under pressure because you are sitting there with a timer and stop and go and they get so flustered. I don’t see the reason.”

James said standardized testing has been overdone but does think there should be some testing in schools in order to compare New Mexico to national rankings. However, he said the teachers should play a part in creating the test because they are teaching the material.

Erika Lugo, administrator of Mountain View Montessori, said the school focuses on multi-age classroom in order to facilitate child development through peers.

“If we have children with the age of two mixed with the age of three, they are role models. And that helps with their social development and development as a whole,” Lugo said.

Lugo said the public schools and the Montessori should collaborate because the pre-school is a good foundation.

“We want to build them up not break them down. So in our process, in the classroom, how we do that it just makes a difference. How we set up our classroom, the way we let the children explore the classroom, makes a difference,” Lugo said. “So if they public schools can kind of see what we are doing and we can help support each other and give ideas. That would be wonderful and work hand-in-hand with each other.”[/text_output][share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true”][/vc_column][/vc_row]