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New test not part of 2015 teacher evaluations

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — State education officials – in the wake of a push by some local education leaders to drop standardized test scores from teacher evaluations for at least a year – are reiterating that results of New Mexico’s new statewide test won’t be included in teacher evaluations for the current school year.

Standardized test scores used in evaluations lag behind a year, meaning the three years of testing data that will be used in teacher evaluations issued at the end of the current school year will be from tests given in 2012, 2013 and last spring – not the new PARCC exam, said Public Education Department spokesman Larry Behrens.

PARCC (Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Career) will be given for the first time in New Mexico schools next spring, replacing the Standards Based Assessment, commonly known as the SBA.

“New Mexico is uniquely prepared to implement (the teacher evaluations) with a thoughtful approach considering the launch of PARCC later this school year. No PARCC results will be incorporated into the teacher evaluations that come out next year,” Behrens said.

The PARCC scores will first be incorporated in teacher evaluations in the spring of 2016, and even then they will only make up one of the three years of the standardized test data used, Behrens said.

PARCC is a computer-based test that matches up with the Common Core standards New Mexico put in place last school year.

Test scores make up 50 percent of a teacher’s rating under New Mexico’s evaluation system – although under the current system only 35 percent has to be SBA. PED has said districts can use other tests for the remaining 15 percent.

New Mexico School Superintendents’ Association President T.J. Parks told the Journal two weeks ago that his organization had asked for a one-year moratorium on the use of test scores in teacher evaluations. But on Friday he clarified that position to say the group was asking only for a moratorium on using PARCC in the 2016 evaluations – not a moratorium on using standardized test scores this year.

“We don’t want this year’s (PARCC test) data used for teacher evaluations or school grading,” said Parks, who is also superintendent of Hobbs Municipal Schools. He added he should have stated the association’s position more clearly in the first interview.

Several other local education officials have said despite the fact PARCC scores won’t be factored into this year’s evaluations, they would like to see some moratorium on the use of test scores, although their specific requests differ.

The Rio Rancho school board passed a resolution last month calling for an indefinite moratorium on the use of test scores in evaluations.

Among their concerns is whether PARCC exam is an accurate reflection of student knowledge.

Board President Carl Harper said Friday he assumed PARCC scores would not be used on this year’s evaluations, and that has no impact on his view that there still should be an indefinite moratorium, including next spring’s evaluations.

Harper and his Rio Rancho colleagues have concerns about whether the new test is an accurate tool for gauging teacher effectiveness and they want to make sure the test is a good tool before it is used in teacher evaluations, he said.

The Santa Fe School Board, meanwhile, has issued a resolution saying it wants the PED to delay giving the PARCC exam for two years.

SFPS Superintendent Joel Boyd has made a different request. He recently told the Journal he supports the evaluation system – and the use of test scores – but for it to work the state should invest in data warehouse systems at the state and local level to ensure evaluations are based on accurate data. He called for a one-year moratorium on the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations, noting hundreds of teachers, perhaps more, were given faulty evaluations last spring.

Bad data from districts

Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera has said errors were caused by faulty data districts gave to the PED. This year the PED has scheduled a “data verification period” to help ensure districts are sharing accurate data with PED, she said.

The Albuquerque Public Schools board has not adopted a resolution on the topic, but a majority of board members have said they would like a moratorium.

Those APS school board members also said they would like test scores to carry less weight on the evaluations and for observations to factor more heavily. Observations currently account for 40 percent of a teacher’s rating.

PED, for its part, plans to proceed using test scores, Skandera has told the Journal .

She said much of the evaluations’ strength comes from the use of test scores.

The PARCC exam will be given the first time next spring, replacing the Standards Based Assessment this school year as the statewide test covering reading and math – it will also cover writing although the SBA didn’t – for students in grades 3-11. End-of-course exams and other tests are also used in evaluations.