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Teacher Task Force Listens to Public Comments

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Teachers, parents and representatives from unions and teacher colleges weighed in Tuesday before the Teacher Effectiveness Task Force, which is charged with overhauling the teacher evaluation system in New Mexico.

Many speakers urged the committee not to rush the process and to carefully create a system that is fair to teachers.

“I’m concerned about the size and the scope of this undertaking, of revamping the whole education system of New Mexico over a summer,” fourth-grade teacher Robin Gibson said. “When we’re talking about something as important and as huge as the education of our children, I would ask the panel and our governor to spend a lot of time and do a lot of research.”

The task force’s recommendations are due to Gov. Susana Martinez by Aug. 22.

Gibson, along with others, questioned the effectiveness of “value-added” models. These models use statistical techniques in an attempt to isolate and measure a teacher’s impact on student learning. The technique aims to control for factors like previous test performance and poverty.

Kristin Johansson, a teacher and union organizer for the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, said the margin of error on value-added measures is too wide to be attached to high stakes. She said the task force has mostly been given information about value-added models, rather than other evaluation strategies.

“It seems like the research and presentations that you’ve been looking at over the past few weeks are sort of focused all in one direction on value-added,” Johansson said. “They really haven’t considered any other avenues of teacher evaluation, and I think that’s a little limiting.”

After the forum, the task force addressed some of the issues raised by the public. Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera, who heads the task force, acknowledged that value-added is a developing system, but also emphasized the need to move forward.

“We do have a way to go on perfection, but if we wait for perfection, we lose another generation of kiddos,” she said.

Tammy Davis, a task force member who is principal at Central Elementary School in Artesia, said the panel will have to overcome teacher skepticism about whether a value-added approach can truly control for factors like poverty.

“I think it’s too simplistic to say, ‘We’re going to solve that whole level playing field thing. We’re going to do value added and it will work,’ ” Davis said.

The task force also discussed ways to generate community buy-in, and to make sure teachers know the Standards-Based Assessment tests will not be the only measure used to evaluate teachers. The task force discussed other measures that might be used as part of an evaluation, such as a combination of test score growth and parent surveys about whether the teacher reached out to families.

Skandera floated the idea that districts might choose from a menu of measures, in order to create local buy-in.

“In the evaluation process we really looked at, are there things we could leave open and flexible so that a district can go to their teachers and school leaders and say, ‘from a list of things, what do we want to use as our multiple measures?’ ”
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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