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PED updates teacher evaluations

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Districts have received more information from the state Public Education Department on how teachers will be evaluated this school year.

A synopsis of updates was sent out this month to superintendents and charter school leaders, which emphasized that student test scores and teacher attendance will not be included in these evaluations.

While the state’s official new system is still being created, the interim plan for the 2019-20 school year is to use the same tools, but with different processes, said Gwen Perea Warniment, deputy secretary of teaching, learning and assessment.

The PED told the Journal that the evaluations this school year will analyze areas that were being evaluated under NM Teach, the previous state system.

“We want to have some stability for sure, and we heard that everyone was pretty happy with the tool itself and the research is solid,” she said.

Teachers will be evaluated on the same “domains” that were used in the state’s prior model:

• Planning and preparation: lesson plan work and curriculum understanding

• Classroom environment: the culture that is created by the class

• Teaching for learning: the work and strategies involved in implementing the lesson

• Professionalism: how teachers are growing and reflecting on their work

Along with the domains, some of which are analyzed through observations, student and family surveys will remain a part of the evaluation.

Observations

The process of garnering feedback will look different this year.

The PED is requiring that teachers get at least one full observation and three less formal ones, called walkthroughs, according to a PED memo.

“Walkthroughs were recommended in the past, but not required,” Perea Warniment said.

The deputy secretary said the walkthroughs are designed to increase the amount of feedback and make it more specific.

“One thing we are pushing for with this new system is actionable feedback. So, instead of just saying, ‘You did great,’ that’s not really actionable feedback and doesn’t give the teacher something they can improve on,” she said, adding that the evaluation comments should give specific strengths and weaknesses that teachers can implement in real time.

The walkthroughs won’t be part of the summative review.

Elizabeth Barela, assistant principal at Carrizozo Municipal Schools, sees the additional feedback as a positive change.

“Teachers didn’t feel they got enough feedback with the old system,” she said.

Teacher rankings

Another change this year is the distinctions teachers will get under the interim system.

Instead of five performance levels, teachers will be placed into one of four categories: “innovating, applying, developing and not demonstrating,” with innovating being the top tier.

These replace the previous levels that ranged from exemplary, highly-effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective.

Dale Jackson, principal at Carrizozo Municipal School District, thinks the new categories will be a nice change for small schools.

He said to get “exemplary” under the previous system, a teacher would have to take on mentoring and training, but that’s harder to do in schools with a small number of teachers – and, therefore, fewer opportunities for those types of relationships.

Principals weigh in

Trey Smith, principal of East Mountain High School, sees the new system as a way to focus on teacher-principal relationships, especially with the additional required walkthroughs.

“If a principal approaches it with authenticity, it could be a real meaningful process,” he said.

And he thinks removing student test scores is a good shift, too.

“Before, the student data created a barrier and didn’t apply to every teacher,” he said.

Smith, though, who started his 13th year in education, his first as a principal, noted it’s late in the game to be learning about a new evaluation system.

“It’s a little concerning it was rolled out so late. My staff came back Aug. 12 and it’s a month later that I know how to evaluate them,” he said.

And John Binnert, executive director of Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School, said he likes the autonomy of the interim system.

He highlighted that schools can use their own forms for walkthroughs and there’s an option for self-evaluations for teachers to have a voice in the eval process.

Moving forward

The interim evaluations and the push for a system revamp follow an executive order from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that called on PED to find a new method to measure teacher performance. Teacher evaluations are required under state statute.

Evaluations from the 2018-19 school year are expected to be released soon.

Since the executive order, the PED has gone on tours to get community feedback, and a task force of teachers and other education professionals was assembled to help translate that feedback into specific recommendations.

PED and the task force will give final recommendations in early spring of 2020, with a more comprehensive system expected for the 2020-21 school year.

Smith and Binnert emphasized the importance of stability as the comprehensive system is developed, saying they appreciate the process, but it will be a challenge to start over with evaluations next school year if the new model is vastly different.

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