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HomeNewsTeachers Union Challenges New Instructional Mandates from Albuquerque Public Schools

Teachers Union Challenges New Instructional Mandates from Albuquerque Public Schools

The Albuquerque Teachers Federation filed a grievance on July 31 against Albuquerque Public Schools, claiming that mandates from the school district violate their negotiated agreement.

The grievance centers around a memo distributed on July 20, 2023, titled “Grading and Assessment Strategy for the 2023-24 School Year.” ATF alleges the memo’s mandated changes breach the current collective bargaining agreement and the New Mexico Public Employee Bargaining Act. Many of the items in the memo are rooted in recommendations and direction given from the APS Board of Education in alignment with the goals they adopted this year. 

APS told New Mexico Education that officials are reviewing the grievance, but the district does not comment on pending litigation.

Among ATF’s objections is a new requirement that teachers “proactively notify parents” if their students are in danger of failing a class, or not meeting academic standards. The union argues that high school teachers should not have to do that, because to do so would infringe upon Article 5, Section L of the agreement, which specifies the procedure for identifying students at risk of failing at the end of the semester. Currently, this section does not require teachers to notify parents about their students’ performance at all, just that a list of at-risk students “be provided.” This refusal to alert parents about their students’ performance drew condemnation from education advocates.

Hope Morales, executive director of Teach Plus New Mexico, took issue with the ATF’s position on working with parents and students. Teach Plus New Mexico is an education advocacy group empowering teachers to take leadership over policy and practice issues to advance equity, opportunity, and student success.

“Teachers and families must be partners when it comes to the education of students. Ongoing communication, especially for students struggling in class, is an opportunity to change the trajectory for that student,” Morales said.  “This is a good thing and the educators I work with depend on family engagement and support for student success.”

ATF’s grievance also objects to a directive in the memo that teachers must communicate with parents solely through the district’s standardized electronic grade book, called ParentVue, which, according to ATF, contradicts the multiple communication methods outlined in Article 5 of the negotiated agreement.

According to ATF, the memo included a directive on “term weighting”. This grading directive has also come under scrutiny, with ATF asserting that it infringes upon teachers’ contractual right to use professional judgment when building a grading system, as stated in Article 5, Section L. The APS memo has only a few sentences on term weighting, saying that 90 percent of students’ first semester grades will come from their final projects of quarters one and two, 10 percent will come from the semester final exam. Semester two will be the same, with the final projects for quarter three and four weighing at 90 percent of their grade and the final exam accounting for 10 percent.

In its memo, APS issued a mandate for weekly progress reports through the electronic gradebook for elementary educators, ATF argues that this practice isn’t feasible, given the system’s limitations, claiming issues with the First-through-Fourth grade system’s ability to calculate percentages, with ATF claiming can lead to miscommunication with parents. APS wrote to staff in the internal memo that training on ParentVue is available to teachers who want it, but mandatory training would be held for all elementary principals.

The last four pages of the APS memo are training resources provided for teachers and staff to help familiarize them with new materials and provide assistance.

ATF expressed concern about what it called “the lack of good-faith communication” between the union and APS regarding the memo and potential impact on teachers’ workloads.

The grievance calls for solutions to the alleged violations which include the immediate elimination of all parts of the memo cited as violations, the cancellation of certain trainings for elementary homeroom teachers, and the return of requested details on “term weighting” by Aug. 11. According to the grievance, the union reserves the right to take this argument to court, and will be taking advantage of legal options available to them by the negotiated agreement.

Under the shadow of this grievance, the APS Board of Education entered an executive session for one hour, emerging to narrowly approve the 2023-2025 negotiated agreement between APS and ATF, on a 4-3 vote on August 2. Board Member Peggy Muller-Aragon, Crystal Tapia Romero, and Courtney Jackson voted no. In a statement about the vote, APS wrote, “Among the concerns raised was whether the agreement would be too restrictive on APS administrators as the district pushes to improve student outcomes.”