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Testing sparks Korte outburst at APS meeting

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

During an emotional outburst at last week’s Albuquerque Public Schools board meeting, member Kathy Korte said she is “so goddamn grateful she (her eldest of four children, a high school senior) is leaving the public schools” system at the end of the school year.

On Monday, Korte said the remark was not meant to be a slight against public schools but was borne out of her frustration over the use of standardized tests in schools.

KORTE: Says comment borne of frustration

KORTE: Says comment borne of frustration

“That comment I made was in regards to the fact my senior is getting out in the nick of time. She’s not going to have take as many (end-of-course exams) as my fourth-grader,” said Korte, who has argued testing in New Mexico schools has increased too much.

Board member Don Duran said he doesn’t want to tell other board members what to do, but he thought Korte’s choice of language was poor.

“I can only speak for myself. I can’t regulate other board members and what they say, nor would I want to,” Duran said Monday. “It does not do us any good in our discourse over public education to use poor language or to curse other people, or to curse at all.”

Member Lorenzo Garcia said board members grew frustrated at points during last week’s meeting but doesn’t recall Korte’s comment.

Other board members could not be reached for comment Monday.

Korte made the remark during a debate about whether the board should pass a resolution calling for the state to delay the use of its new standardized test, the PARCC exam, which will be given to students for the first time this year. Or to suspend the use of test scores in teacher evaluations. Or do both.

The board passed a resolution calling on itself to draft a resolution addressing its concerns with the PARCC exam and its role in teacher evaluations and school grades. The board is looking to get feedback from parents and teachers before drafting its resolution.

APS board members have argued test scores play too great a role in determining a teacher’s rating under the evaluation system the state adopted last year. Test scores make up 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation score, unless test scores are unavailable.

They also have questioned the accuracy of statistical models, called value-added models, which the Public Education Department uses to calculate teachers’ scores.

Meanwhile, the PED has been steadfast in saying value-added models accurately measure the quality of a teacher’s instruction and that test scores should make up half of a teacher’s score.

One of the points of contention among board members last week was whether it’s worthwhile to try to negotiate policy changes with the PED. Korte, who has become emotional on issues in past meetings, said she doesn’t believe it is because she doesn’t believe the PED will budge. Several other board members said it’s wrong to give up talking with the state. “I was educated to negotiate, to work with people, to speak with people,” Duran said.

Board member Marty Esquivel disagreed the PED was unwilling to negotiate. “That’s not what I understand,” Esquivel said at the meeting. “I understand they’ve always been willing to sit down at the table.”

Korte has made controversial statements before. In July, she referred to Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, as a “traitor” on a Facebook post because she was unhappy with his voting record, in particular his vote to increase “below-the-line” education funding. That is money the PED can spend as it wishes, as opposed to providing the money directly to school districts.

Korte and board president Analee Maestas traded barbs over emails in April in a dispute about Korte’s role in an advocacy group that encourages parents to opt their kids out of standardized tests. Maestas said Korte’s role in Stand for Kids conflicted with her role as a board member. Korte disagreed.

Last December, she irked Esquivel and then-Superintendent Winston Brooks when she belittled the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education, established in 2002 and named for billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, that the APS administration was pursuing.

The grant goes to large urban school districts that improve academic performance while closing achievement gaps among poor and minority students.

Korte said Broad is a behind-the-scenes leader of what she sees as a corporate takeover of the nation’s public schools.