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Bids sought for online evaluation system

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Public Education Department is preparing to hire a vendor to craft an online system that would be used by the agency and school districts statewide as part of a controversial teacher evaluation plan.

The online system being sought would set up an “interactive” approach to the teacher evaluations, which are scheduled to be enacted this fall. That approach would include allowing principals to enter classroom observations of a teacher and creating “learning modules” for teachers based on their total evaluation scores, according to the Public Education Department.

Local school districts and the state education department would be able to input data into the online system.

However, a PED spokesman said it is still unclear whether members of the public would be able to access the system.

“We are working hard to find the fair and right balance between personnel documents and openness,” PED spokesman Larry Behrens said.

Eight vendors have submitted bids for the contract, scheduled to be awarded by the end of this month. The agency will select finalists next week.

Money to pay for the contract will come out of a $3.4 million appropriation that lawmakers approved to help implement the new evaluation system, Behrens said. The contract would be for two years, with the agency having the option to extend it twice through one-year extensions.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Sapien, D-Corrales, said Friday that the PED’s actions regarding the pending contract were “disconcerting.”

“I was not aware they were going to be spending money on software,” Sapien told the Journal.

“It seems this whole teacher evaluation system is being put together on the fly,” said Sapien.

The administration established the teacher evaluation system, which relies largely on student test score growth to gauge teachers’ effectiveness. The rule was established after the Legislature rejected teacher evaluation bills backed by Gov. Susana Martinez and PED Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera in 2011 and 2012.

Under the new state system, 35 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on how much students’ test scores improve and 25 percent will be based on classroom observations. The rest of the evaluation will be based on other measures of student learning.

The evaluations will not be tied to teacher pay levels, at least initially, though teachers rated “ineffective” or “minimally effective” will be placed on improvement plans.