Grading teachers

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By Optic Editorial Board

New Mexico consistently ranks at or near the bottom compared to other states when it comes to educating our children.

So it’s clear that business as usual is no longer an option when it concerns our state’s public schools. To their credit, Gov. Susana Martinez and the state Public Education Department realize this, and they’re trying to implement reforms that will make a difference. But they need to rethink their unilateral, top-down approach, which is on the verge of sparking a legal battle with the state’s two teacher unions.

Case in point: the implementation of a new evaluation system for teachers and schools.

Teacher unions are understandably concerned that the evaluation system is unfair to their members.

The Albuquerque Journal recently reported that the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-New Mexico are both asking PED to slow its implementation of a new evaluation system for teachers and schools.

NEA is considering legal action, and AFT-New Mexico is threatening to withdraw support for renewal of a waiver that allows the state more flexibility under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

For the sake of New Mexico’s students, all parties need to come to the table and work together to create an evaluation system that is both fair to teachers and measures the progress students are making.

Critics of the PED evaluation system argue that it places too much weight on student achievement and allows for classroom observations to be done by someone other than the school principal or assistant principal.

We agree with the unions that evaluations need to be conducted by principals or assistant principals. PED, however, is right to insist that student achievement be a significant factor in how teachers are graded.

But the devil is always in the details. For example, it’s not fair to grade a teacher based on whether his or her students are at grade level. The fair thing to do is to grade teachers based on how much growth their students have made during the a school year.

We can argue all we want about whether the tests used to measure student achievement are fair and about the many factors outside the classroom that influence a child’s success.

But at the end of the day, you have to base the grade on something, and what better measure than whether students are making gains in a particular classroom.