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Teachers deserve effective evaluations

PED’s new teacher review system is wrong as are school grades

An editorial in the Aug. 3 Journal characterizes all opposition to a new teacher evaluation scheme as, “dedicated to the status quo.”

Is defense of “the status quo,” really the reason for opposing the New Mexico Public Education Department’s plan? Look at the track record of the previous “school reform” scheme in New Mexico. The plan for grading schools met with widespread legitimate criticism by dedicated teachers, principals, administrators, parents, legislators and a prestigious organization of scientists and mathematicians who perform statistical analysis for a living.

The Public Education Department was wrong about school grades and it is wrong about evaluating teachers. Even after training sessions, the plan is still not understood by those who will be using it. It is still statistically indefensible. The evaluation plan still does not take into account the complexities, subtleties and realities of teaching in New Mexico. It seems to pull evaluation categories and percentages out of thin air.

This teacher evaluation scheme is punitive, arbitrary, subjective and harmful when it should be instructive, collaborative, objective and helpful.

Meaningful input from the teachers, school staff, principals and superintendents, who will be living under this scheme and charged with making it work, has been ignored in spite of PED’s claims to the contrary. Worse still, a report in this same issue of the Journal tells us that apparently no one in PED is concerned about the financial costs or the logistics of performing these evaluations.

According to this report, “teachers with at least five years of experience can be classroom observers in the coming year, if they undergo training and pass a test.” Will these teachers be trained at no expense, no compensation for their time? Does PED assume these teachers’ students will somehow teach themselves with no need to hire or pay replacement teachers?

Nor has anyone in PED addressed the additional time required of already overworked principals if (when?) funding for the necessary additional staff is not provided. Rio Rancho Public Schools administrators say they will need 18 new assistant principals to meet PED’s mandate. What is the response? Once again, public education is expected to do more and more with less and less. …

We are putting teachers into difficult and/or unworkable situations which make it harder for them to meet their obligations to their students. We then judge them harshly because they can’t perform up to our expectations. It’s the same as tying a quarterback’s arms behind his back and after his team loses, criticizing him as a slacker and cutting his pay.

Officials at PED don’t seem to realize that the very educators they want most to retain are the educators who are being driven from the profession by every action they take. For many teachers I know, this latest evaluation scheme dreamed up by PED is not just the final straw, it’s the final slap in the face.

What will it take for PED to realize that meaningful school reform will only occur when it is done with teachers rather than to teachers? As a retired teacher, I can tell you we’ve been doing that for years. I think it’s time for educators all over New Mexico to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”

It is not because I’m “dedicated to the status quo” that I raise these issues. I raise these issues because of the many educators I know who are “dedicated to teaching and learning.” They deserve an evaluation program that truly reflects their abilities in their classrooms, treats them with respect, provides guidance in areas where improvement is needed and, if necessary, counsels others less-suited to the classroom, out of education.

This is evaluation I can support.

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