Salvador Hector Ochoa
UNM College of Education Dean Salvador Hector Ochoa

UNM Provost Chaouki Abdallah and College of Education Dean Hector Ochoa spoke to the Legislative Education Study Committee with a progress report on the redesign of the UNM College of Education recently. The performance of New Mexico’s teaching colleges of New Mexico’s teaching colleges is an ongoing concern of this committee.

Ochoa detailed the process that gathered national, statewide and internal perspectives on how teacher education needed to be reimagined to meet the needs of New Mexico’s particular demographics. He discussed the work of “transformative action groups” or TAGs, in refining curriculum and field-based teacher preparation for rural and tribal schools. A third of UNM faculty will participate in the TAGs, which will work at San Felipe Pueblo, Pajarito Elementary in Albuquerque and Bernalillo High School.

A collaboration of the COE, Anderson School of Management and NMSU to focus on interdisciplinary training of school administrators is currently being planned and is set to launch in August of 2015. There will also be enhanced training of certified reviewers of student teachers.

Ochoa spoke of the COE’s special responsibility to New Mexico and its accountability for the quality and performance of its graduates. A series of reviews and assessments that extend well past graduation will be implemented. Abdallah talked about funding from the Kellogg Foundation that will make possible new faculty hires that will help drive the redesign over the next several years.

Committee members pressed for more details. Sen. William Soules (D-Las Cruces) drilled down into the admissions process and enrollment caps and whether students denied admission are given the opportunity to reapply if they meet criteria. Soules is worried about impending teacher shortages and whether New Mexico’s colleges of education are producing as well as they should.

Rep. Nora Espinosa (R-Roswell) noted that feedback on how the COE’s graduates are performing has to come from the schools, teachers and administrators around the state. Rep. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) hoped that COE will pay attention to the precepts of the science of teaching reading and not go about “reinventing the wheel” when it comes to teaching students in poverty. Rep. Jimmie Hall (R-Albuquerque) voiced reservations about the college’s commitment to change.

Ochoa, who has been the COE dean for three months, assured committee members their concerns are already being discussed within the college.