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Teacher evaluations could affect pay raises

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

Teachers who receive a poor rating on the state’s new evaluation system could be delayed in moving up New Mexico’s three-tiered licensure system, which is used to set their base pay, the state’s public education chief said Monday.

Hanna Skandera

SKANDERA: Claims there is flexibility for teachers

However, there is flexibility because teachers rated “ineffective” or “minimally effective” can get a recommendation from their principal and still move forward, Hanna Skandera said.

Under the state’s licensure system, as teachers move up through the tiers, their minimum pay increases – $32,000 for Tier 1, $40,000 for Tier 2 and $50,000 for Tier 3.

Teachers who scored the two lowest rankings are not allowed to submit the dossiers required to move up a tier – unless they can get a recommendation from their principal stating that they improved since their last evaluation.

That way, teachers can submit their dossiers by the March 31 deadline instead of waiting for the next annual evaluation in May.

This is most important for relatively new employees, because they must move to the second tier by their fifth year of teaching or their contacts will not be renewed.

“They’re not caught between a rock and a hard place,” Skandera said.

However, teachers who scored poorly and cannot get a letter from their principals face delays in their move up the three tiers.

Teachers at any level who scored poorly on the evaluations also must undergo “professional growth plans,” which set out ways to improve.

Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, said teachers have been asking about the dossier issue since the evaluations were released in May. Other questions about the new system also have been raised throughout the past year, and the confusion has been frustrating for teachers, she said.

“This is supposed to be an accountability system, and it’s supposed to be transparent,” Bernstein said.

The New Mexico School Superintendents’ Association sent a letter to Skandera last week asking for clarity on the dossier issue. The letter said PED had given districts conflicting information about whether teachers with poor evaluation scores would be able to submit dossiers.

Paul Benoit, president of the association and superintendent in Floyd, said the letter was part of an ongoing discussion his group is having with Skandera, and that the association is committed to helping make the evaluations better. Benoit said allowing principals to write recommendations for new teachers who must submit their dossiers is a good idea.

The system has been under particular scrutiny since the first evaluations were released in May, with many teachers reporting errors in their scores.

There is no statewide estimate on how many of the evaluations contained errors. PED had given districts until Friday to submit “queries” about evaluations with mistakes or possible mistakes, spokesman Larry Behrens said. He said PED will update districts once all the queries have been answered and all the corrections have been made.

Skandera has said the errors are the product of bad or incomplete data reported to the state by school districts.

The association’s letter asks PED to admit responsibility for some of the errors, saying, “PED staff have indicated to superintendents and district staff that both PED and the districts bear responsibility in assuring the integrity of the data being used to rate teachers.”

In a statement to the Journal , Behrens said, “The issues identified so far relate to data compiled by districts and sent by the districts to PED.” He added that PED is working with districts to fix errors.