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House panel votes to cut tests’ weight in teacher evaluations

Standardized tests would play a lesser role in New Mexico teacher evaluations under a bill that passed the House Education Committee on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, House Bill 144, which passed on an 8-3 vote, would put in law a teacher evaluation system similar to the one the Public Education Department put in place last school year by administrative rule.

The major difference between what the bill proposes and the current evaluation system is the weight that would be given to student test scores.

Under the current system, test scores make up 50 percent of a teacher’s rating. The bill would reduce that to 40 percent; another 40 percent would be based on administrator observations and 20 percent would be based on “multiple measures.”

Multiple measures includes things like attendance, and student and parent surveys.

Albuquerque Public Schools officials have voiced support for the bill.

“We’ve been working very closely on this bill,”APS interim Superintendent Brad Winter said during a House Education Committee hearing last week.

Calls made to Winter and Smith on Tuesday were not returned.

The Public Education Department said in its review of the bill that it would affect the state’s waiver from No Child Left Behind.

The U.S. Department of Education has given most states, including New Mexico, a waiver from NCLB so long as they agreed to adopt certain policies – including teacher evaluation systems based in part on student test scores.

In its review of the bill, the Legislative Finance Committee said the bill shouldn’t threaten the state’s waiver.

“It is likely that the changed proportions in this bill would not result in the loss of the waiver; however, it may result in the need to have (U.S. Department Education) review and re-approve the changes,” the LFC report said.

Charles Goodmacher, NEA-New Mexico’s director of government relations, said his union doesn’t support the bill because it doesn’t go far enough in regard to test scores.

“We’re pleased it’s moving in the right direction, but we feel it’s not enough,” Goodmacher said.

Goodmacher said his union wants to see test scores receive less weight in part because it doesn’t believe in the accuracy of “value-added models” – calculations that use test scores to rate teachers’ impact on classroom learning.

The bill will be debated next on the House floor. No date had been set as of Tuesday evening.