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Bring it on, APS board member says

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A battle between an Albuquerque Public Schools board member and the state Public Education Department over the overhaul of teacher evaluations and end-of-course tests has been taken statewide to thousands of teachers.

An email that APS board member Kathy Korte sent to state lawmakers criticizing plans to revamp the teacher evaluation program has been picked up by New Mexico’s Public Education Department, annotated throughout, and forwarded to all public educators in the state with PED’s corrections.

KORTE: Says email has spawned a “movement”

KORTE: Says email has spawned a “movement”

The PED on Thursday used Korte’s email as the basis for its own message, using the word “false” numerous times to dispute claims Korte had made. On Friday, Korte said the PED’s email had helped the “movement” launched by her original email, which was sent to legislators early this month.

“It prompted more parents and teachers to look at the issue and see what we’re all about,” said Korte, vice president of the APS Board of Education. “It’s spawned a statewide movement.”

As of early Friday, she said, an online petition supporting her cause had nearly 1,700 signers. “We want everyone to know what tests there are and what they mean to our kids,” she said.

About the annotated email in which PED responded to her claims, Korte said, “I don’t think it was very professional, but she (state education chief Hanna Skandera) helped our movement.”

Skandera’s take on the latest developments was different.

The state’s old evaluation system may have tried to factor in student achievement, “but it didn’t at all,” she said Friday. Instead, the old system gave 99 percent of teachers the highest rating, while New Mexico hovers near the very bottom of teacher effectiveness nationwide, she said.

“The (old) system doesn’t help the ones we care about the most,” Skandera said, noting that even U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has described it as “broken.” She said she knows change can be difficult, but when children aren’t learning, something must be done.

“We can’t keep perpetuating false information,” she said. “It’s time to put teachers and kids first and get out of adult politicking.

“It’s unconscionable that the leaders of our largest district insist on going with false information.”

Here are a few examples of points in the original email and the PED’s responses:

  • Korte: Students from kindergarten through high school must take end-of-course exams this year. “These exams will determine a portion of a teacher’s evaluation outcome, as well as impact the school grade. (How art, music and PE end-of-course tests for kindergartners are helpful is beyond me!)”

PED: “This is false.” There are no end-of-course exams in kindergarten. Kindergarten teachers use a verbal one-on-one test that takes about five minutes.

  • Korte: End-of-course tests are in addition to final exams. High schoolers are also taking their PSAT, SAT, ACT and AP exams.

PED: “This is false.” The end-of-course tests are intended to be given as final exams, not in addition to them. Giving two sets of exams at the end of a course is a decision made at the district, not by PED.

  • Korte: Students who take Advanced Placement classes have teachers who must submit their lesson plans to the College Board. Students in AP classes such as English will take the end-of-course exam – even if it doesn’t have materials required by College Board coursework and the Advanced Placement exam that students take for college credit.

PED: “This is false. AP teachers are not required to submit lesson plans to the College Board.” Advanced Placement coursework covers all of the standards on the end-of-course exams plus additional content. Students who are successful in Advanced Placement courses and who are prepared for the exams should also be well-prepared for end-of-course tests.

APS Superintendent Winston Brooks entered the fray late in the week, criticizing the PED for sending the annotated email to all New Mexico public school teachers, principals and superintendents.

“I just find it amazing – most people don’t care what Kathy Korte has to say,” Brooks told KOAT-TV. “We do here in Albuquerque because she’s a board member, but what would a kindergarten teacher care in Magdalena about what Kathy Korte has to say?”