Education chief pushes change in teacher assessments

Secretary of State for Public Education Hanna Skandera said on Monday she would push for legislation to reduce the weight that student test scores play in teacher evaluations.

Skandera’s announcement represents a step back – albeit a small one – from its longstanding focus on linking teacher effectiveness to student test scores. It received a mixed response from leaders of a state teachers’ union.

Skandera said she was responding to feedback received by the Department of Public Education during a statewide listening tour to solicit feedback on what the state can do to prepare for the implementation. implementation of the new federal guidelines of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which will take effect next summer.

“We wanted to be responsive. We are proposing legislation on this,” Skandera said.

The Every Student Success Act gives states more autonomy to try to ensure student and school success.

Currently, 50% of a teacher’s appraisal is based on student test scores, although this amount is lower for new teachers who have not been in the classroom long enough to tie their work to exam scores. Skandera’s proposal would bring that figure down to 40% and increase the weight of ratings given to teachers’ key observations in the classroom.

The bill will be introduced by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, she said, likely within the next week.

She said she had yet to share the news with teachers’ union leaders: “I hope we have shown a willingness to compromise and I hope they will as well.”

Charles Bowyer, executive director of the New Mexico National Association of Education, welcomed the move while continuing to argue that the state should cede control of teacher evaluations to local school districts.

“It’s a good start to reversing the damaging effects ‘of assessments,’ but erroneously leaves control of the system to Santa Fe rather than local school boards,” Bowyer said.

The NEA filed a lawsuit in 2014, claiming that the evaluation system is illegally taking control of teacher evaluations and teacher supervision outside of local school districts. That lawsuit is pending before State District Judge Francis Mathew in Santa Fe.

It’s one of two lawsuits against the ratings, which Governor Susana Martinez implemented by executive rule in 2012. The American Federation of New Mexico Teachers, the Albuquerque Teachers’ Federation and others Plaintiffs sued in 2014, claiming the assessments could put teachers at risk. to be punished or even fired. State District Judge David Thomson is scheduled to hear the case in Santa Fe, although a date has not yet been set.

The teacher appraisal system has remained a sore point for teachers’ unions, who have claimed that it unfairly judges teachers based on factors beyond their control with regard to student learning and that it relies too heavily on students’ test scores and not enough on personal observations by principals.

Skandera countered that the state holds teachers accountable for student learning, and that the state can reward teachers who are deemed “effective” or better and place those deemed “minimally effective” or “ineffective” on professional growth plans.

Last fall, the Department of Public Education reported that just over 71 percent of the state’s roughly 21,000 teachers are rated effective or better on the five-point rating system.

The teacher evaluation system isn’t the only state mandate that Skandera is willing to change in light of last year’s community meetings. She said she would also work to reduce the time it takes students and teachers to take the annual PARCC exams from grades three through eleven.

She said she would also do more to support teacher professional development programs, an initiative that may require additional funding from the Legislative Assembly, which is grappling with a budget crisis.

The Albuquerque-based nonprofit New Mexico First worked with the Department of Public Education to hold about 20 meetings statewide last year, including input from about 600 people who attended the meetings and 400 others who expressed opinions online. Nearly a third of all of these participants were teachers and a further 23% were school administrators.

Other findings of the first New Mexico report: teacher morale is affected by heavy workloads that make preparation difficult, large class sizes that limit individual teaching capacity, salaries that are not competitive and teacher recruitment and retention issues. .

On the issue of the state’s school ranking system on an AF scale, many participants, including family and community members, found them helpful, the report said. But others said that without “providing guidance and recourse to improve schools, a poor school grade undermines the value of the community and, more importantly, undermines students’ confidence and belief in themselves”.

Contact Robert Nott at (505) 986-3021 or [email protected]

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