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Skandera announces changes to teacher evaluation process

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

Several changes will be made to New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system to give schools more flexibility and address data reporting mistakes that caused flawed evaluations this spring, Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera said Friday.

Skandera said the changes came about after conversations with leadership from the New Mexico School Superintendents’ Association. She presented them to members of the association Thursday.

“What happens is when we work together, we accomplish more for our kids,” Skandera said Friday.

The changes should make the evaluations “more user-friendly,” said T.J. Parks, president of the association and superintendent of Hobbs Municipal Schools.

But the most controversial piece – basing 50 percent of the evaluations on standardized student test scores – remains in place.

Parks said some superintendents would like to see the evaluations be less dependent on those test scores and discussed that with Skandera. Although that proposal wasn’t approved, Parks said, “nothing is off the table,” and the association will continue to work with PED.

The changes are:

  • The Public Education Department will schedule a “data verification period” this school year to ensure districts are sharing accurate data with PED. When new evaluations were released in the spring, many teachers and principals reported that they found errors on evaluations. Skandera said the errors were the result of bad data reported by districts to PED. The department and school districts have been working over the summer to correct mistakes.

PED has not yet released corrected evaluations but expects to release them in “the next couple of weeks,” spokesman Larry Behrens said. The department does not yet have a tally of how many evaluations were flawed, Skandera said Friday.

  • Districts will be able to decide whether to put teachers rated “minimally effective” on a performance growth plan, rather than being required to do so. However, the plans will still be mandatory for teachers who rated “ineffective.” Initially, PED said the plans would be mandatory for teachers in both categories, which are the lowest of the five possible ratings.
  • Districts and charter schools will have until Aug. 15 to submit their evaluation plans. The initial deadline was Aug. 1.

Although the state has a general framework for the evaluations, districts and charter schools do have some choices in how about 10 percent of their evaluations will look.

For example, districts could choose among several “multiple measures.” Among those are student surveys, teacher attendance, graduation rates and parent surveys.

  • Districts will be allowed to use both student surveys and teacher attendance in their evaluations. Last school year, they could use only one or the other.
  • Districts and charters will be able to revise their evaluation plans every year instead of every three years, if they have a “data-driven” reason. Skandera said the PED initially specified three years because it wanted consistency in evaluation plans.

Currently, 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on three years of standardized test scores. Parks said he and others would like to see test scores less heavily weighted and observations count for more of a teacher’s score. Observations make up 40 percent of a teacher’s score.

Shelly Green, APS Chief Academic Officer said district officials are pleased with the announced changes, although they need to review them further. “We have not had time to fully review the changes but are looking forward to continuing to work corroboratively with (PED),” Green said.

Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, said the changes don’t address the major problems with evaluations. She and many teachers don’t trust the evaluations to accurately reflect teacher performance, and they say the evaluations are based too heavily on standardized test scores.

“It’s still the same flawed system,” Bernstein said.

Skandera has said evaluations were revamped because the previous system was ineffective. The old system had to be changed because it lacked accountability, she said, pointing to the fact that 99 percent of teachers were rated effective.