Did PED seek an end run around NM law in effort to push English only?

    Martinez Administration PED Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera brought in a team of out of state administrators to New Mexico. Are they now trying to force English only on New Mexico’s most at-risk students?

    Leighann Lenti, Skandera’s Director of Policy, was brought in by Skandera from Washington, DC. Lenti is a Republican education policy (“corporatizing”) advocate and lobbyist for Wireless Generation owned by Rupert Murdoch.

    Wireless Generation is currently under contract with PED to provide technology and curriculum services for K-3 education.  

    New Mexico is a multicultural and multilingual state. It has had a long tradition of supporting Bilingual and Multicultural programs dating back to 1911. 

    But New Mexicans already know that.

    State law allows New Mexico’s most at-risk students to earn their high school diplomas through a process called alternate demonstration of competency in English, Spanish or in a Native American language.

    This route to a diploma was designed to help those students who have had trouble demonstrating academic readiness for career and college through standardized tests. Alternate demonstration of competency uses standards based indicators to show that the student is ready to graduate high school and enter the work force or college.

     Most importantly, it’s the law that these at-risk students be able to demonstrate competency in English, Spanish or Native American languages.

    And now for some legalese–please bear with us–it’s critical:

    NMAC Title 6 Chapter 19 Part 7 governs Primary and Secondary Education Public School Accountability (Skandera’s favorite word). NMAC 6.19.7 falls under Sections 22-2-1, 22-2-2, 22-2c-4.1 NS 22-13-1.1 NMSA 1978. (Those are the State statutes that make it law).

     According to NMAC D (4)  “Students may submit a portfolio in English, Spanish, or in a Native American language of an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo located in New Mexico.” 

     Further, NMAC A states, “Trained personnel shall administer state-approved language proficiency assessments in English and the home language annually until proficiency in each language is achieved.” Thus, by New Mexico law, students are allowed to take state-approved language proficiency assessments in English and the home language.

     But apparently, to Leighann Lenti and the other administrators who Skandera brought in from other states, that’s wrong! Students, especially those who are struggling, should only be demonstrating competency in English and not their native language.

     How do we know this? 

     ISPAC has obtained a copy of an email, in response to our IPRA request, from Karina Vanderbilt to Lenti exploring ways to do just that. In the email, Vanderbilt, a Teach for America Policy Fellow working for PED, recounted to Lenti what she had learned from PED’s General Counsel about requiring the use of English by those seeking alternate demonstration of competency.  (Read the email in the column to the right. You can expand it to full size by clicking on the icon in the lower left corner.)

    Vanderbilt wrote to Lenti, “We cannot require the majority of the portfolio to be in English due to the rule which allows submission in Spanish or Native Languages. Darn. We could say that submissions demonstrating competency in Reading must be in English. Perhaps we could phrase it along the lines of ‘certain submissions demonstrating competency in Reading standards must be submitted in English.'” (Emphasis added).

     The email makes it clear that Lenti was looking for ways around our laws to turn New Mexico into an English only state. But, can we expect anything less from Skandera, Lenti and the other out of state Republican folks here to save New Mexicans from themselves by sending our tax dollars to out of state private education corporations.

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