We all know that giving our kids a good education is vital to our future as a community. And yet in spite of all the time and all the money we've put into "education reforms' here in New Mexico, the sad reality is that our schools have not improved. I believe that, working together, we can find a better way.
I've spent a great deal of time listening to teachers, parents, students, administrators and community leaders. Almost all of them shared some good, common sense and innovative ideas -- ideas that could really make a difference.
As the father of four boys who has been very involved in volunteering at our schools, I understand the challenges of raising a family and how parents' expectations set the tone--parents are a child's first teacher. Sometimes we leave education up to the schools, but it takes a real partnership with parents and communities, all taking an active role, to make sure our kids cross the finish line. We could strengthen the role of parents and families in their child's education by promoting parent engagement programs with funding for schools to develop innovative parent/school /community resources and practices.
We could also do more to focus on early childhood education. We need more opportunities for pre-school not only when a child is four years old, but beginning with families through an early childhood literacy development initiative. When a child is two or three years old, we could help parents by providing early access to resources to help them build the critical foundation children need to enter school ready to learn.
Once in school, teachers need an array of tools so they can help when a child is struggling, and encourage students to reach higher levels of achievement. New Mexico has made progress in placing a number of technology solutions in schools. We could do more to help our teachers use these tools effectively. One look at how easily children use the internet and other tech gadgets shows us that they will all live in a future where knowledge of technology is key to success.
Our schools need innovative approaches to prepare our kids for this future. In our community, as in much of New Mexico, our schools are deeply important to the culture and values of the people. Unfortunately, many current initiatives seem determined to shame our schools, chastising them for failure and punishing them for low achievement scores on a test, rather than focusing on making them better and building on the pride and community spirit that surrounds them.
Most teachers love their work and genuinely care about their students. Rather than punish teachers who want the opportunity to do their best for the kids, it's time to step up and help our teachers do the tremendously important work they do every day. It is possible to restore our faith in education--as every parent and grandparent knows when they see the light in the eyes of their children proudly showing what they learned in school today.
Finally, it really is all about the kids. If we are serious about making education the pathway to a brighter future then let's invest in those things that make a difference. Our schools can be a place where kids want to be, where teachers inspire, where parents are welcome partners, and where every student can say "being smart is cool!'