September 26, 2017

Ranking: New Mexico one of the worst states for teachers

New Mexico is one of the worst states for teachers.

That comes from WalletHub, which ranked each state as well as the District of Columbia. New Mexico ranked 44th.

New Mexico ranked 50th, out of 51, when it came to drop out rate and lowest reading test scores and 49th in lowest math scores.

The study also revealed that 84 percent of the state’s teachers have inadequate pensions. In that category, New Mexico ranked 42nd.

New Mexico received higher marks for the use of annual teacher-evaluation requirements and for the average commute time for teachers.

It was more of a mixed bag when it came to compensation. While New Mexico teachers ranked high in growth potential, sixth out of all states, the average annual starting salary of $33,396 ranked 33rd. Overall average annual salary of $49,282 ranked 42nd. Both were adjusted for cost of living.

Another problem came in the “prevalence of childhood disadvantage.” As with most rankings that touch on poverty, especially childhood poverty, New Mexico ranked poorly at 48th.

New Mexico reactions

A teachers union focused on the lower compensation for teachers.

“We agree with the report’s opening statement Teachers are overworked and underpaid,” NEA-New Mexico spokesman Charles Goodmacher said. “When we have a State Education Secretary who fights for better teacher compensation and other changes to better support teachers, then the opportunities for student success will rise too.”

“It is no surprise New Mexico is being ranked as one of the worst states to be an educator,” American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly said. “After 7+ years of so-called education reforms under Susana Martinez, Hanna Skandera, and now Christopher Ruszkowski, educators in New Mexico feel as though their work is under appreciated, and their freedom to instruct students as professionals is being curtailed in favor of standardized curricula and testing.”

NM Political Report asked a spokeswoman from the state Public Education Department for a comment on the results Monday afternoon, but did not receive a response before press time.

Related: By not answering media questions, PED leaves public in the dark

How states can improve

In addition to ranking the states, Wallethub spoke to a number of experts about issues teachers face and education in general.

Kimberly Kappler Hewitt, the director of the Principal Preperation for Excellence and Equity in Rural Schools Program and Associated Professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said that “stress and feelings of being overwhelmed” are among the biggest issues teachers face.

Associated Professor of Educational History at the College of Charleston Jon N. Hale said financial issues are a big problem for teachers.

“Teachers are not compensated as professionals, and in fact earn only approximately 83 percent of what accountants or registered nurses, and less than 50 percent of what lawyers earn,” he said.

He recommended local officials can retain teachers by offering larger salaries and more autonomy to teachers.

“The severe accountability pressures that teachers feel, in terms of student performance on state standardized tests and in demonstrating student growth from year to year,” she said.

She says to keep teachers and avoid high rates of turnover, a strong leadership team and strong professional networks are important.

As for advice on what teachers should look for in a place to settle, they should look at pay scales, Kappler Hewitt said. “Not just entry-year pay scale, but the arc of the salary: number of steps,the requirements in place to achieve the next steps and whether these steps have been frozen as a function of economic distress in the district.”

Update: Added quote from Stephanie Ly.