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KATHY KORTE: Rep. Lewis, how’d you feel about evaluation score?

In response to “Smears against governor on education don’t fly” by Rep. Tim Lewis:

Rep. Lewis, you’re a teacher. So what did you think of your so-called evaluation score? What do you think of using the Value Added Model to judge you? You say everyone gets evaluated. That’s true. My annual evaluation is coming up. But how do you feel about your evaluation score under the governor’s new system being unknown to you but the Journal had an overview of it last Friday morning?

Frankly, I grinned when I read your “commentary.” What happened? It’s so very obvious: We opponents who are “manufacturing criticisms,” as you put it, are effectively getting the truth out about Martinez’s so-called reforms. Your letter is so obviously written by a governor’s aide and you slapped your name on it as the token Republican teacher you are.

You (or the governor’s aide who wrote this for you) claim:

1. The governor protected classroom spending: No way. In the Richardson era, Public Education Department funding was in the $60 million range. Skandera-Martinez wanted $140 million this year. Thankfully, “manufactured criticisms” from parents and teachers got legislators to lower the allocation to $100 million. It’s still too much for Skandera’s PED because that money — millions of it — isn’t going to classrooms and districts. It’s going to testing companies, faulty computer programs and a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy that do NOT work. I wonder how much money you have to spend in your classroom for supplies? You didn’t mention that. When was the last time you got a raise because of budget cuts in education? You didn’t mention that.

2. The governor brought much-needed accountability to our schools: If you are referring to teacher evaluations and school scores, let’s talk facts. The scores are based on Value Added Method statistics. They are wrong. As far as evaluations go, teachers’ scores have been finally released to them, and they are livid. Gifted teachers’ scores are very low because VAM punishes them for their students not having adequate growth (the kids who are already highly proficient). We had a boardroom full of parents and teachers who are outraged over the false VAM scores.

Observations (three of them for teachers this year) may be a good idea but the hundreds of hours spent by district teachers and principals to justify their existence is absurd. In real workplaces, we’re evaluated annually with one report we discuss with our supervisor that goes in our file after we agree to it. We have frequent chats throughout the work year with our supervisors. With Martinez-Skandera “accountability,” teachers have been made to feel like the enemy and as if they are doing something wrong every day. You didn’t mention how many hours you have spent this year justifying your existence using a faulty TeachScape system and what your VAM score was.

You didn’t mention how many hours you spent in TeachScape uploading “artifacts” to prove you are a worthy teacher. 3. The governor raised our pay: Let’s talk about this. Her first plan was to raise only the pay of Level 1 teachers. But it’s the Level II and Level III teachers — teachers like yourself — who are the bedrock of their schools with years of experience. They needed pay raises too. She killed those. She wants “merit pay” for teachers, a worthy idea for teachers we need in math and science, but the idea goes out the window when you realize her “merit pay” would be linked to a VAM score — a system already slammed last month by the nation’s largest organization of professional statisticians. And I’m going to tell you why you’re getting a raise in APS this year: The “new money” APS received ($22 million) will go to 3 percent pay raises to every teacher, costing our district $15 million. The APS Board of Education voted for that pay raise on May 21. The Martinez budget said for us to give pay raises only to Level 1 teachers. We got enough money to give a raise to you, sir, because we at APS believe all of our teachers deserve a raise. Keep that in mind when you take that little extra money each paycheck this coming school year. And thank your board of education and superintendent. Your governor didn’t do that for you. She vetoed that portion of the budget.

Rep. Lewis, I am surprised that you’d let Republican right-wingers hijack you and use you in the manner they’ve done.

I am disappointed that as a teacher yourself, you allow yourself to be bought and sold. Let’s hope the teacher community you work with knows you well enough to still be supportive of you when those VAM scores are revealed and many of you in your school are labeled inferior or mediocre in the “bell curve” that is typical of Martinez’s badly implemented, invalid, unverified, corporate education reforms.

(Kathy Korte is a West Side resident and member of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education.)