State moves ahead with teacher eval system

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The Associated Press

SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration plans to move forward with implementation of its teacher evaluation system despite opposition from some teachers and Democratic lawmakers.

Two state senators had asked Public Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera for more time to acclimate to the new rating system. But the administration signaled this week it will not budge, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Saturday.

Skandera wrote in a letter to Sens. John Sapien and Rick Miera that “now is not the time to delay.” She said the state’s low status in national education rankings warrants immediate attention.

The evaluation system, supported by Martinez and implemented by Skandera in August, measures teacher performance using a variety of factors. Half of a teacher’s rating is based on students’ standardized test scores, while observations of classroom teaching account for 25 percent of the evaluation.

The evaluation system will affect about 18,000 teachers statewide.

Some lawmakers and teacher unions have sued in state district court to halt the implementation. A hearing in that case is scheduled Thursday.

Not all of the state’s 89 districts have aligned with the evaluation system — Santa Fe Public Schools is one of several that have put together their own plans — though all districts must emphasize student test score data.

While the heavy emphasis on test scores has been a point of contention, the discussion at Thursday’s Legislative Education Study Committee meeting focused on the observation portion of the teacher evaluations. Sapien and Miera are members of the committee.

Many legislators from both parties said they have heard complaints from principals that the requirements are too burdensome. Some say the initial classroom observations can take up to four hours.

The observations cover preparation and planning, the ability to create an environment for learning, teaching for learning and professionalism. Teachers can be rated as ineffective, minimally effective, effective, highly effective or exemplary.

Despite criticisms about the time the observations take, Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd said the new evaluation system is an improvement over the state’s previous plan, which merely ranked teachers as “meeting competencies” or “not meeting competencies.”

Matthew Montano, director of the Education Quality Division of the Public Education Department, told lawmakers Thursday that over time, principals should be able to perform the evaluations more quickly.

Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said she has received numerous calls from teachers who are overwhelmed by the new Common Core Standards and are concerned about the evaluation system.

“I’m flabbergasted that you have not heard people’s cries to put this off a year,” she told Montano.

Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, said he’s heard that teachers have the impression that a plan supposedly designed to help them improve will ultimately become a tool to decide “whether they have a job or not.”

But Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, an educator who is conducting the evaluations himself in his district, said many teachers are embracing the system as they learn more about what is required of them.