Among those present Monday morning in the Ernest Stapleton Elementary library were, from left, RRPS Superintendent Sue Cleveland, PED Secretary Kurt Steinhaus, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and RRSEU President and ESE teacher Bille Helean. (Herron photo)
You’d better believe, if this new move by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will make teaching easier for the teachers, it’ll certainly make learning easier and improved for the students.
Lujan Grisham visited the Ernest Stapleton Elementary library Monday afternoon, along with the state’s Public Education Department Secretary, Kurt Steinhaus, and a library fill of teachers and a few dozen students, including the Stapleton student council.
Before having a seat to discuss the latest news, Lujan Grisham wanted to chat with the students gathered: Who wants to be the governor? Who’s been to Santa Fe?
“I like to hear from students, what they care about,” she said. “You inspired me today. … Thank you. You guys are awesome.”
Her new executive orders are designed to allow teachers more time in their classrooms and principals more time to oversee their buildings.
Bottom line: The move resulted from an overhaul of reporting requirements — trimming 34 percent from administrative work required of school districts and charter schools across New Mexico and cutting teacher paperwork by 41 percent.
Or, as Lujan Grisham put it, “Less time spent on paperwork means more time that educators have to spend quality time teaching our students.”
It fulfills an executive order issued May 23 by Lujan Grisham to reduce the administrative burden for teachers and school administrators by 25 percent by the start of the 2022-23 school year.
Quipped Steinhaus, “I asked the governor for two years (to complete the task) and she gave me two months.”
The 3,500 hours estimated to be saved each year will allow each district or charter school to redirect the hourly equivalent of 1.7 full-time employees to more useful activities.
The plan entails four strategies:
- Reduce duplicative data collection;
- Streamline processes;
- Improve data systems; and
- Sustain improvements through the establishment of a Data Governance Council that will oversee strategy implementation.
Educators will see an immediate – as in starting that very day of the governor’s visit — reduction in their administrative burden with lighter loads in paperwork and caseloads, and professional development plan paperwork.
“School districts and staff have been requesting a reduction in administrative burdens for a long time,” said Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue Cleveland. “PED’s recommendations for state-level data collection and process improvement will help ensure administrators have more time to visit classrooms and teachers have more instructional time to work directly with students.”
This doesn’t mean the PED is taking shortcuts, ripping through red tape.
“While 89 percent of our reporting requirements are mandated by federal law and state statute, there are actions within our control that can reduce administrative burden on schools,” Steinhaus said. “Our goal is to ensure that we make the collection of required data as easy and useful as possible.”
“I’m responsible for an education system that has to develop better results,” Lujan Grisham noted.
So, what does this all mean to a teacher?
Billie Helean, on board with the governor’s new directive as the president of the Rio Rancho School Employees Union as well as a teacher at Ernest Stapleton Elementary, had an answer, at least as she sees it.
“Typical” day: I get to school about 45 minutes before I’m supposed to, so that I can attend to tasks that need to be done before students arrive — everything from sharpening pencils to writing reports for student needs. There is no time for any administrative work once the kids arrive. I’m either teaching core content, teaching to help struggling students, putting band-aids on boo-boos, or managing student behavior — among a million other things. I constantly shift and make decisions about next steps to teach students in the best way they need me to teach. This goes on during all of our instructional hours, when students are in the room.
I get a break for lunch when the kids are at their own lunch and recess. It’s supposed to be a 30-minute break, but sometimes things happen that shorten that lunch – a call from a parent, someone stopping me in the hall to discuss something school related, among many other things.
I also have 45 minutes of time on most days when I can work on planning instruction, making copies, organizing instructional materials, and completing administrative tasks. 45 minutes sounds like a lot of time, but just planning one day of instruction can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for other tasks.
Our day doesn’t end when kids leave, either. Staff are usually in the building for a bit longer. During that time we often have meetings and training that are required by the district and state. That time cannot be spent preparing for instruction or doing administrative tasks that are required. Because of this, I nearly always have to take something home at least one day a week, because there is not enough time in the day to finish all the tasks that are required of me.
It’s a lot. It’s nearly impossible to do everything that’s needed, so some things fall through the cracks. I work really hard to make sure that the one thing that never falls through the cracks is my kids.
With the change: There are two things we can’t get back: health and time. Both of these are sacrificed by teachers daily. This change means that we will be able to gain time back. That time can be spent working on things that are meaningful and engaging for students. We can work on improving our instructional delivery. Teachers are pulled in a million different directions every day, every hour and every minute. Managing the load is really difficult. This announcement from the governor means that they will have more of the one thing they need more than anything else: time.