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Teachers, administration dissatisfied with evaluation methods

Staff writer

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Teachers and school administrators agree New Mexico’s system of teacher evaluation is unfair and puts too much emphasis on standardized test scores.

Their views are similar to those of the New Mexico National Education Association, which sued New Mexico’s Public Education Department last September.

The case has a request for a hearing this month, but no specific date has been set.

According to an NEA press release, the teacher advocate organization is taking legal action because the evaluation system has a “negative impact on teachers.”

Larry Behrens, NMPED’s communications director, said the teacher evaluations were reformed this year to identify teachers who are contributing to the academic success of the students.

NMPED says the evaluation comprises three categories in which a teacher’s proficiency is measured.

The first is teacher observations, which count as 25 percent of the teacher’s score.

The second category, also worth 25 percent, is a “multiple measure” that counts teacher attendance and locally chosen criteria that capture a teacher’s professionalism.

Third, is student test scores, which make up 50 percent of the evaluation.

Portales High School Principal Melvin Nusser said the federal mandate is that test scores must make up at least 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, so the 50 percent is going above the mandate.

Therefore, he said, the new Common Core-based test called PARCC, which will only be given once a year, will count for 35 percent of the 50 percent. The remaining 15 percent will be based on scores of other tests administered throughout the year.

“They put too much emphasis on the testing scores,” Nusser said. “It’s one day out of the year for the students, and the teachers are judged on that. It’s just a snapshot and they are making it be the most important test.”

Portales Municipal Schools Superintendent Johnnie Cain said the high percentage of teacher evaluation scoring based on student test scores is not fair to students or teachers.

Behrens said in a press release that the suit is politically motivated, pointing out it was filed just before the general elections.

Both sides agree that teacher observations are helping teachers.

Cain said schools were observing teachers before the new evaluation system, but the required number of observations has increased to two per year, along with three documented walkthroughs in which the administrator watches the teachers as they teach.

Cain said increased observation has resulted in better communication between administrators and teachers.

“We get to see things that the teacher needs to improve on that they might have missed, and it helps them a lot to have immediate feedback from us,” Cain said.