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Charter School Touts Eval Success

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The Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science is embarking on its third year of evaluating teachers – and determining their raises – based on a combination of student test score growth, classroom observations and other measures.

AIMS is a charter school, which has historically done well on standardized tests and received one of the highest grades in New Mexico under the new school grading system.

Kathy Sandoval, the principal of AIMS, served on a task force last summer that made recommendations for a state teacher evaluation system.

State education chief Hanna Skandera is currently working to create a new teacher evaluation system through administrative rule. That rule is in draft form and will be piloted this year in about 50 schools. It will go statewide in fall 2013.

At a public hearing on the rule earlier this month, Sandoval testified that the system has worked well at her school.

“I can tell you right now that nobody at my school has left the school because of the evaluation tool. Nobody has had a reduction in pay, nobody has been fired,” she said at the hearing. “I have, however, been able to reward teachers that have been absolutely, highly effective in the classroom. I have also been able to fine-tune and pinpoint professional development that needs to be made with teachers that are perhaps struggling.”

The system at AIMS is heavily based on how much student test scores improve and does not control for student characteristics like poverty and race.

One-quarter of AIMS teacher evaluations are based on how much their students improve on the state Standards-Based Assessment. Teachers whose subjects are not tested on the SBA must use another test, approved by Sandoval.

Another quarter is based on how much the school’s test scores improve overall. Sandoval said this is because every teacher is part of the overall school climate and contributes to the whole school’s growth.

Sandoval initially gave the SBA less weight because teachers were uneasy about it, but increased it, in part because teachers were getting good test score results and wanted recognition for that progress.

Another quarter of an AIMS evaluation is based on classroom observations. Teachers are evaluated four times per year: Once by Sandoval, once by the assistant principal, once by an independent contractor and once by a colleague who has reached the third tier of the state licensure system.

The last quarter is based on a student survey, and Sandoval’s evaluation of the teacher’s professionalism, willingness to take on extra tasks for the school and how diligently the teacher follows policies and procedures.

Sandoval said she believes most teachers would support the system if they were evaluated under it one time. She also cautioned that as a principal, it takes a lot of time and effort.

“It is incredibly time-consuming,” she said. “But you know what: Where am I most useful? Watching in the classroom and trying to improve student instruction or having my butt in a chair?”
— This article appeared on page A6 of the Albuquerque Journal

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