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Editorial: Teacher evaluation changes offer more improvements

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After years of ranking at or near the bottom of student achievement it was important for New Mexico to start linking how much its K-12 students learn with the teachers who instruct them. Ultimately, top teachers need to be recognized and rewarded. Struggling teachers need help.

That process began this year, and after the first round of sometimes flawed evaluations were released, the state is working with districts on recalculating some teacher rankings and making important changes to prevent the same errors or inflexibility from marring round two.

And, the state is taking to heart additional changes suggested by school superintendents around the state.

Those changes include giving districts: until Aug. 15 to submit eval plans (instead of Aug. 1); the decision on whether to place teachers in the second-lowest category (minimally effective) on performance growth plans; the ability to use both student surveys and teacher attendance rather than picking one for 10 percent of scores; a data verification period to ensure accurate information has been submitted to PED (which the state says was the root cause for the erroneous evaluations, many of which seemed concentrated at the elementary school level); and the chance to revise evaluation plans more often than every three years if there’s a data-driven reason.

The changes were devised and agreed upon by the New Mexico School Superintendents’ Association and PED. Some school leaders would prefer a reduction from the 50 percent of an evaluation being based on student growth as measured by three years of standardized test scores, but it’s important to remember that until this year none of a teacher’s evaluation was based on student performance.

Going forward PED should keep an open mind about adjusting percentage allocations based on feedback from superintendents, principals and teachers. Meanwhile, all involved with the latest revisions deserve credit for keeping an open mind and keeping accountability to students at the top of the equation.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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For years, New Mexico has ranked near the top of a significant list.

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