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RRPS teachers outperform NM peers

MAP MASTERRIO RANCHO, N.M. — Rio Rancho Public Schools teachers as a group are outperforming many of their peers across New Mexico, according to information released by the state.

The New Mexico Public Education Department this week provided statewide and individual district results of teacher evaluations. There are five possible rankings in the evaluation system: “ineffective,” “minimally effective,” “effective,” “highly effective” or “exemplary.”

Half of the evaluation score is based on student growth on standardized tests, a quarter on observations, and the other 25 percent on multiple measures that can include attendance, professionalism and preparation, and parent and student surveys, which RRPS has elected not to use. The student test data is from previous years, while all other portions, including attendance and observations, are based on information from the current school year.

Of the district’s approximately 1,100 teachers, 42.19 percent were rated “highly effective” or “exemplary” compared with the state average of 26.7 percent. Less than 1 percent of Rio Rancho teachers received the lowest designation of “ineffective” compared with the state’s 3.6 percent average.

Happy Miller, the executive director overseeing testing and accountability in the district, said RRPS has always had stringent standards.

“We have always had high expectations for our teachers and have evaluated teachers rigorously,” she said. “And worked to ensure that those struggling get the assistance they need to ensure their success.”

The district did see a drop in “effective” teachers and a growth in the two lower categories. Miller said comparing this year’s teacher evaluations to last year’s is not “apples to apples.”

“Last year, the majority of evaluations did not have student achievement data,” she said. “This year will be a truer baseline to next year than last year is to this year.”

In 2014, 8.55 percent of teachers in the district were rated either “ineffective” or “minimally effective.” The number rose to 12.52 percent in 2015.

The percentage of “highly effective” or “exemplary” teachers fell slightly from 44.04 percent in 2014 to 42.19 percent in 2015, as did the number of “effective” teachers, down from 47.42 percent to 45.28 percent.

The teacher evaluation system was implemented by PED last year, and was met with harsh criticism from principals and teachers across the state. District officials said the state has been responsive to many of their concerns about the system, but it still needs work.

All evaluations must include testing data, but not all instructors, especially those overseeing electives, teach subjects that are tested. Miller said this means their evaluation score is based on schoolwide testing data.

Essentially, they are being graded, she said, on subjects they do not teach. Miller said eventually the state will develop tests for all subject areas but, until then, they have to make do with the current system.

Sue Passell, executive director of human resources, said that this year there were some highly praised teachers rated “minimally effective” because of this method. Principals, she said, are looking at the evaluations carefully, and these teachers are not in danger of losing their jobs because of the evaluations.

“If they (principals) believe it’s just a fluke because of the system, they are in a wait-and-see mode,” she said. “If they feel the teacher does need some type of support, they will offer that.”

Passell said the district will use this data, like it uses all data, to make improvements.

“We will continue to focus on improvement for all teachers,” she said. “Teachers who need assistance will be and have always been provided support through a number of different methods, including professional development and mentoring by instructional coaches and principals.”

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