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Teacher evaluations show dip in ‘effective’ rating

 (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

(Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Close to three-quarters of Albuquerque Public Schools teachers rated “effective” or better this year, a drop of 10 percentage points from last year.

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Within those numbers, the percentage of effective teachers decreased while the percentage of highly effective and exemplary teachers rose, according to state data released Monday.

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Statewide, fewer teachers rated “effective” or better in the second year of New Mexico’s overhauled teacher evaluation system.

Of the 20,500 teachers rated statewide this year, 73.8 percent rated effective or better on their evaluations, according to Public Education Department data.

That’s down 4.4 percentage points compared with last year, when 78.2 percent of teachers rated effective or better.

“It’s not a concern,” Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said Monday, adding that the system is doing a better job of pointing out good teachers and identifying those who need some help.

Under the evaluation system rolled out last year – in which teachers are rated on student test scores, principal observations and a few other measures – teachers can score “ineffective,” “minimally effective,” “effective,” “highly effective” or “exemplary.”

At APS, 72.14 percent of the district’s faculty scored effective or better this year, compared with 82.3 percent last year.

APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said district officials had not had a chance to review the percentages Monday afternoon.

Principals could look up their teachers’ evaluations on the PED website Monday evening, Chavez said. He added that districts will print out the evaluations and deliver them starting Thursday.

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Skandera said there was a lot of good news in the data, including that statewide more teachers scored highly effective, up 4 percentage points, and exemplary, up 1 point, compared with last year.

However, more teachers also scored minimally effective, up 3.1 points, and ineffective, up 1.4 points, this year.

The bell curve “flattened out a little bit,” Skandera said.

The new evaluations have been a key education initiative for Gov. Susana Martinez.

They have also been a source of controversy as teacher unions, and some local school officials have blasted the evaluations, saying they don’t believe the ratings accurately reflect teacher performance and are based too heavily on student test scores.

Two teacher unions – American Federation of Teachers-New Mexico and National Education Association-New Mexico – have filed several lawsuits challenging the system.

“It’s still a crazy, flawed system,” Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said Monday. She said teachers are upset and are leaving the business because of the evaluations.

The evaluations got off to a rough start last year when an untold number of teachers complained their evaluations contained errors.

Skandera had said the flaws were based on bad data supplied by districts, and that PED and districts worked all of last year to correct the mistakes.

This year, the department took measures to fix the errors that were caused by faulty data reported by districts, she said.

The fixes were based in part on conversations she had with local superintendents, she said.

Asked how many flawed evaluations there were last year, Skandera said she didn’t know.

The corrections were made over the course of several months, and the department never took a tally, she said.

The mistakes are the basis for the newest lawsuit from AFT, five state lawmakers and seven individual teachers that challenges the validity of the evaluation system. The union filed other lawsuits challenging the system, which have failed.

Skandera likened the evaluations to the state’s A-F school grading system.

At first, there was an uproar over the system that was put in place several years ago, but the fervor has since died down, she said. Skandera said there are some people who are always going to oppose both the school and the teacher rating systems.

Most teachers are still not happy with the evaluations, even if they are not as vocal as last year, said Charles Goodmacher, NEA-New Mexico’s director of government relations.

“I think there is more of a resignation than an acceptance” among teachers, Goodmacher said.

Goodmacher said it wasn’t just that errors popped up in last year’s evaluations that has troubled teachers.

The heart of the problem lies within the complex statistical models used to turn student test scores into a rating that makes up 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, Goodmacher said. Most teachers don’t believe the models, called value-added models, can capture what a teacher contributes to classroom learning, which is exactly what the PED says they do, Goodmacher said.

Skandera has stood fast on that issue, arguing that student test scores are the strongest, most reliable portion of the evaluations, along with teacher attendance.

Teacher attendance was also a bright spot for the evaluation system, Skandera said.

Noting that attendance makes up a portion of teachers’ overall scores – it varies depending on school district – Skandera said there were fewer teacher absences last year.

The bump in teacher attendance amounted to approximately 18,000 additional days students spent with their regular teachers as opposed to substitute teachers, and saved districts $1.2 million in money spent on substitutes, according to a PED press release.

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