While visiting his sister in Albuquerque, Paul Horton encountered the same corporate reform claptrap that he read regularly in the Chicago Tribune and sent the following letter to the editor:

“Dear Editor,

I read your banner article, “SBA scores in NM lower now than five years ago” with great interest. As a teacher with thirty-two years experience, I am very concerned with the obsessive focus on SBA scores in the article.

While I understand that lower test scores might be a concern, I am more concerned with the scripted response of Hannah Skandera, New Mexico Education Secretary designate.

Ms. Skandera is clearly on the bandwagon of a national education reform movement that is funded by the Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council that is heavily funded by the Koch brothers.

Ms. Skandera clearly serves the interests of these organizations and not the children of New Mexico. Her agenda insures that millions of hard-earned tax dollars of the citizens of New Mexico will flow to Pearson Education, an English company that has taken over the standardized testing industry in the United States.

The biggest issue facing the students in New Mexico is increasing levels of poverty exacerbated by increasing levels of income inequality. Your education reporters need to disaggregate the SBA scores to correlate them to average income levels in schools and districts.

Ms. Skandera will tell you in the coming months that scores for the new PARCC tests will decline by 30% on average. She does not tell you that Pearson Education will control the determination of “cut scores.” This is a part of the script that she will continue to read. She has no real direct knowledge of education issues, she is simply following the “toolkit” that is being used in many other states and the citizens of New Mexico are being played for suckers.

In point of fact, the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) has been measuring student achievement for over forty years and it remains the best and most accurate reflection of student achievement across the United States. The fact that scores across the country have flattened on average over the last several years is mostly the result of increasing poverty, rising income inequality, and the deteriorating living conditions and shortage of jobs in urban and rural areas all over the country.

Even more important, the current flattening and decline of scores in areas where poverty is prevalent is more the result of the failure of national policies that focus teaching on producing higher test scores. In this regard, the NCLB and Mr. Duncan’s Race to the Top (RttT) are only making these issues worse with their obsessive focus on standardized testing and the defunding of public schools.

The citizens of the great state of New Mexico need to stop paying Pearson Education and start paying for lowering class size, hiring more special education teachers, librarians, art teachers, language teachers, and clinical social workers.

Human investment, not investment in education corporations, will lead to better results for the state of New Mexico. Ms. Skandera is more concerned about pleasing Pearson Education that the parents of New Mexico. Wake up and smell the green chilies cooking! Pearson Education does not care about your kids!

Paul Horton
History teacher and former APS student
The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools