Quality teachers not only raise student performance through skilled instruction and engagement practices, but the best teachers are also capable of transforming lives. Developing such excellent teachers requires exemplary foundational training that is hands-on, practical and that addresses the many challenges teachers will face daily in their classrooms.

This is why we must enact House Bill 460, to ensure that new teachers are equipped with the best research-based practices throughout their preparation. The bill also would ensure that our colleges of education continue to grow and change with the needs of New Mexico students. Research consistently shows that the number one in-school factor that determines student success is the quality of the teacher, so we must get this right.

Yet, colleges of education nationwide have experienced declining enrollment, with the number of graduates from traditional programs falling by nearly a third in the past decade. The trend in New Mexico’s eight traditional programs has been even more precipitous, plummeting by 75 percent during the same time period.

Graduates of traditional preparation programs report that the programs over-emphasize theory rather than practical, hands-on experiences that are more valuable to their development. Studies also have shown that new teachers often feel unprepared for many aspects of the job, including with skills in relationship-building with students and families of culturally, linguistically, or socioeconomically diverse backgrounds.

District and school leaders report that the quantity and quality of teacher candidates in New Mexico has dwindled. All New Mexico elementary teachers currently are training intensively on understanding how children learn to read, which left many wondering why they did not get this content in their preparation program.

House Bill 460, sponsored by Representatives and educators Tara Jaramillo (D-Socorro) and Tanya Mirabal Moya (R-Los Lunas), seeks to strengthen the teacher preparation experience. It was drafted by Think New Mexico based on our 2022 report, A Roadmap for Rethinking Public Education Reform in New Mexico that proposed changes at every level of the education system, including with colleges of education.

First, it would ensure that traditional programs offer a fourth-year residency to candidates who would spend an entire school year training in the classroom of a master teacher. Approximately 80 percent of teachers who complete residency programs remain in the profession after five years, compared with just 50 percent of teachers who did not complete a residency. New Mexico’s Legislative Education Study Committee identified residencies as one of the best returns on investment in the education system.

The bill also calls for the colleges of education to receive national accreditation; for faculty and adjuncts have at least five years of teaching experience in a classroom instead of three that are in current regulation; and for the colleges to use curricula that follows the latest research and includes areas such as structured literacy, culturally relevant social and emotional learning, trauma-informed teaching practices and family engagement that recognizes and acknowledges cultural identities of students and families.

Knowing the impact teachers have on student success provides us with an urgency to act. Students taught by the top 20 percent of most effective teachers gain two to three months more learning in math and reading in a given year than students taught by less effective teachers. Students who have a highly effective teacher are more likely to graduate, to go on to higher education, to be employed, and to earn higher salaries as adults. While teaching is a profession that also requires professional development along the way, we must give our new teachers the best foundation we can.

We encourage you to visit Think New Mexico’s website at www.thinknewmexico.org where you can contact the governor and your legislators and urge them to enact House Bill 460.

Mandi Torrez is the education reform director for Think New Mexico and is the 2020 New Mexico Teacher of the Year.

Mandi Torrez, Think New Mexico