The Albuquerque Public Schools board voted Wednesday night to submit a teacher evaluation plan to the state Public Education Department, which it does not expect will be approved.
One such plan has already been denied.
Board members said that they expect their latest proposal will be denied by the PED, and the PED will likely then assign them a default teacher evaluation system.
Wednesday’s vote was the next step in a contentious back-and-forth between the PED and the APS board, over how teachers and principals should be evaluated in the coming school year.
After two failed attempts to get a teacher evaluation system passed by the state Legislature, the PED established such a system last summer through administrative rule. The system requires that half of a teacher’s evaluation be based on gains in student achievement, and that one-quarter of an evaluation be based on classroom observations.
State education chief Hanna Skandera has consistently said districts must follow the rule. She has said in the past that there is flexibility built into the rule, which districts should take advantage of. For example, the rule leaves it up to districts to decide how to measure “student achievement” for teachers whose students don’t take the state Standards-Based Assessment.
The APS and Rio Rancho Public Schools boards have both been openly critical of the state system, and met in joint session last month to discuss their concerns. Both boards have now signed a joint resolution, asking for a delay of at least one year in implementing the new system. Both boards have also submitted alternative teacher evaluation plans, which bear some resemblance to the PED rule, but which don’t follow its requirements. For example, APS’ initial proposal would have weighted classroom observations at 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation and student achievement at 25 percent — the reverse of the weights in the state system.
In a letter dated Monday, Skandera rejected APS’ request for a delay and for a waiver from the rule requirements. Rio Rancho has also submitted a plan to the PED that does not align with the rule requirements, and which places less weight on student achievement. There was no word yet Wednesday on whether the PED had accepted their plan.
The APS board decided Wednesday to submit a second plan, which weights classroom observations at 40 percent, student achievement at 30 percent and other measures at 30 percent. This is closer to the PED rule than APS’ original proposal, but is still not in compliance with the rule.
None of the board members expressed hope that the PED would accept the plan. Instead, they said it would show they were trying to work toward a better evaluation system.
“My thinking is we have to put something forward that shows a good faith effort,” said board member Lorenzo Garcia. “Otherwise, we will be painted into the corner. … And if it doesn’t work, then we can at least say that we gave it our best shot.”
The decision to submit a second non-compliant plan was approved 4-3, with board members Don Duran, Martin Esquivel and Analee Maestas dissenting.
Esquivel, who is board president, said he would have preferred for the board to submit a plan that complies with the state rule, so the board will have more say in how APS teachers are evaluated next year. The board’s decision will likely result in APS being forced to use a default teacher evaluation system they have no control over.
“I hate to go to a default just because we’re trying to make a statement that’s not going to work,” Esquivel said.
The deadline for districts to submit their own plans is July 3. After that, the state will likely assign them one. Under the default plan, which is likely how APS teachers will be evaluated next school year, teachers whose subjects aren’t tested by the state SBA would have half of their evaluation based on their school’s letter grade, until appropriate end-of-course exams can be developed. Teachers of kindergarten through second grade students would measure student achievement based on an interim assessment.
Other board members said having the state assign APS a default plan would send a clear signal that the district does not endorse the state rule, refuses to be complicit in it and won’t be held liable for it in any future lawsuits.
“I think we’re going to see lawsuits come in when we fire, or try to fire, teachers based on this system,” Duran said. “Therefore, I would say go with the default, because I think we need to make it clear it’s not our system. It doesn’t belong to us. And if we somehow co-opt it and say, ‘OK, well, we’re willing to do an APS/PED thing,’ then we’re owning that.”
Duran said he voted against the board’s decision to submit a second proposal, only because he feels submitting it is of no use.
“I just feel strongly that we’re playing into the hands of a process that is already pre-determined for us,” Duran said. “I do support the board.”