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Teacher Panel Narrows Ideas

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As the deadline nears for the state’s teacher effectiveness task force to produce its recommendations, the group continued discussions Tuesday that centered on how to evaluate teachers, whether to change the pay scales and whether to improve upon existing systems or scrap them entirely.

The task force was convened by Gov. Susana Martinez and is chaired by Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera. Martinez created the task force by executive order, after the failure of a bill in the Legislature that would have created it. The task force is charged with developing a system in which at least half of a teacher’s evaluation is based on student achievement.

Recommendations are due to Martinez by Aug. 22, but the task force plans to have a basic document ready by the end of this month. A public comment session will be held the first week of August, and a complete draft is set to be finished by Aug. 10.

The task force is made up of teachers, superintendents, parents and lawmakers. It has met regularly throughout the summer, and at Tuesday’s meeting, the group was starting to draft concrete ideas.

One subgroup, assigned to work on compensation and advancement, suggested raising the starting salary for teachers, making the three-tier pay raises smaller and creating opportunities for yearly pay increases based on student performance.

At that suggestion, Skandera pressed the group to think outside the current systems.

“I would challenge the team to think about all the process that goes into the dossier review; there’s money and time invested there,” Skandera said. “I just want to push on that a little, because every penny we spend on a process that does nothing for our kids is a penny not spent on a rock star teacher who should get 75 grand a year. So think about the trade-offs.”

Although there is no concrete proposal to raise teacher pay to $75,000, several members of the task force suggested higher teacher salaries could help recruit quality professionals into hard-to-fill positions like teaching math and science.

The task force has heard presentations from both local and out-of-state experts and has read extensively about strategies used in other places. Members have studied “value-added” systems, which seek to measure the amount of growth students achieve from year to year, controlling for variables like income.

On Tuesday, the group heard from the head teacher at South Valley Academy, an Albuquerque charter school. The school has added student achievement to its professional development plans, mandating that teachers develop goals for their students and track progress toward those goals.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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