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School board passes plan for teacher evaluations

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A resolution unanimously approved by the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education urges the New Mexico Public Education Department to delay “for at least one year” full implementation of the teacher evaluation system.

But if the request is denied by the PED and Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, RRPS has a plan in effect, and RRPS Human Resources Director Sue Passell has tweaked the state’s evaluation plan requirements enough to at least partially satisfy the school board.

The board approved Passell’s alternative plan, plus reviewed the 1 percent pay raise for district employees, at its meeting Monday.

The money needed for the teacher raises, Passell said, “was in the budget before — we just wanted to make sure it was very clear, that the board clearly understood that.

“The appropriation from the state says the budget needs to provide enough funding to provide a 1 percent raise … and must be implemented by the first pay period,” she said.

The resolution concerning the controversial teacher evaluation process was sent to the PED Monday night with a request for feedback “as soon as they can give it to us,” Passell said. “We’re making plans for the training — I just don’t know what they’re going to do.”

RRPS met with the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education a few weeks ago to collaborate on plans that differ from the state’s method for teacher evaluation.

The new RRPS plan, which differs from what APS requested in its proposal to the state PED, calls for a breakdown in the evaluation system of 35 percent based on student achievement (the state wants 50 percent; APS wants 25 percent), 35 percent based on observations (the state asks 25 percent; APS seeks 50 percent); and 30 percent on “multiple measures” (the state wants 25 percent; APS wants 25 percent).

“Honestly, there’s a price tag attached to it,” Passell added.

That estimated breakdown is: a $78,000 one-time cost for electronic tablets; $41,700 in recurring costs; $218,000 for finals implementation and scoring, also a recurring cost; $140,000 for 50 tests, a one-time cost; plus $35,000 recurring annually to update tests.

Another change is that instead of every teacher receiving four visits from the building principal annually, there would be two visits, each time, though, by different — and PED-certified — administrators.

“Two is enough,” Passell said. “There’s new research out that validates that two principals looking at the same teacher, if their evaluations are similar, then that will work well.”

As far as the PED-mandated principal evaluations, Passell said, “We spent most of our time (at Monday’s meeting) with teacher evaluations. The principals would like to see the same weighting of teacher evaluations applied to them.”

“Any change is difficult and it’s going to take some adjusting,” Passell said of the teacher evaluations. “This is another system we’re going to have to work through. We want to try to create a plan we can have control over.”

Also, teachers affected by evaluations, which could mean dismissal and, many believe, lead to lawsuits, will not apply until the 2014-15 school year for RRPS, Passell said.

RRPS and APS don’t object to the teacher evaluations, just with the haste in which Skandera is proceeding. The districts would like to use 2013-14 as a pilot project and then put into effect the full plan for 2014-15.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said he would give until 2016-17 for the evaluations to go into effect in terms of personnel decisions. “Some states have changed that but New Mexico has not,” he said. “That’s interesting. We’re hoping (Skandera) will (grant) the extension.”

“Our administration wants to be as flexible as possible to address these issues, because it is important that teachers and instructional leaders are comfortable and confident with the new learning materials,” he said.

The school board’s next scheduled meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, July 15.

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