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More Santa Fe teachers rank at bottom and top of scale

SANTA FE – More Santa Fe teachers are now considered “exemplary” this year by the state’s Public Education Department, but a larger number were also rated ineffective.

PED released the results of the 2015-2016 teacher evaluations Friday. The percentage of Santa Fe Public Schools teachers who are considered exemplary went from 1.30 percent last year to 3.36, which is in line with the statewide trend.

But the number of Santa Fe teachers considered ineffective likewise increased substantially, from 2.40 percent to 6.14 percent.

The PED report also indicates that the percentage of Santa Fe teachers deemed to be “effective,” “highly effective” or “exemplary” this year is 68.04, which is up a bit from 66.70 last year.

Statewide, the PED’s information shows, the number of teachers who reached “effective” or better has dropped steadily since 2014, when PED launched its teacher evaluation system. This year, 71.3 percent hit that bar, down from 73.8 percent in 2015 and 78.2 percent in 2014.

Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera said she feels that teachers who use their evaluations to improve have seen good results, while those who don’t are falling behind.

“This is incredible information for the teacher,” she added. “You get really good feedback.”

The controversial evaluation system weighs standardized test scores as half the total in most cases. The rest is based on classroom observation and measures such as professionalism, parent and student surveys and teacher attendance. Teachers are classified as “ineffective,” “minimally effective,” “effective,” “highly effective” or “exemplary.”

Skandera highlighted statewide progress in the “exemplary” category – 3.8 percent of teachers were in that group this year, compared with 1.5 percent in 2014. On the other end of the scale, the percentage of ineffective public school teachers in New Mexico has seen similar growth, going from 2.2 percent in 2014 to 5.4 percent in the latest numbers.

SFPS interim Superintendent Veronica Garcia said Santa Fe’s statistics mirror the rest of the state. There were positives in seeing the district teaching corps’ overall effectiveness level rise, but the district really needs to look at the data in greater detail to get a better idea of how teachers are performing, she said.

“We’re in the process of doing a deep analysis of the data,” Garcia said. “It’s too early for me to tell what the data might mean because there’s more to the data than meets the eye.”

As for why there is also now a greater percentage of ineffective teacher ratings in Santa Fe, Garcia said factors like whether a teacher is new or has moved to a different school, among other factors, need to be considered.

She said the district has until Oct. 13 to submit an inquiry to PED if any of the data is questionable, and that her staff is going to compile data for the teaching staff at every school, which will be released it when it’s available.

Charles Bowyer, president of the state’s National Education Association chapter, said Friday that the teacher observations are fair but said grading teachers on student test scores is not.

“Many have expressed to me that they have no confidence in the teacher evaluation system,” Bowyer said. “The data based on student achievement is meaningless. It should be completely discredited this year.”

Bowyer also said grading teachers on their attendance is unfair, saying, “It’s wrong to say that if you get sick you’re a less effective teacher.”

The NEA and the American Federation of Teachers-New Mexico have sued the state to stop the evaluations, arguing that PED’s approach is fundamentally unfair because it so heavily weights students’ standardized test results, an approach known as the value-added model. Individual teachers don’t have much power over student test scores, the unions say, and, as a result, their evaluations can vary from year to year.

Last December, AFT won an injunction that blocks PED from using the results to make employment, advancement and licensure decisions. Santa Fe District Judge David Thomson’s ruling said the evaluation system is “not easily understood, translated or made accessible,” which led PED to simplify the formula.

Now, only three types of test scores are used in the calculation: Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, end-of-course exams and the Istation literacy test.

Skandera said New Mexico still has a lot of work to do, but the evaluations provide valuable guidance that will help teachers raise the bar. Under the old evaluation system, 99 percent of teachers were considered effective.

“Like any other profession, we have some struggling teachers,” Skandera said. “When we see teachers using this as a tool, they are closing gaps.”

Journal reporter Kim Burgess contributed to this story.