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LAPS gets latest teacher evaluation results

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By The Staff

Los Alamos school officials received the results of the latest round of teacher evaluations Friday from the Public Education Department but the district does not yet have the overall results.

Principals began meeting with teachers Friday about the evaluations.

“At this point, we do not have a summary of the results,” said Kurt Steinhaus Friday.

Whitney Holland, president of the Los Alamos Federation of School Employees, said not much has changed since the PED started the evaluation system.

“The general sense is that these evaluations will continue to be an unfair snapshot based on inaccurate data until the PED proves otherwise,” Holland said.

About 74 percent of public school teachers in New Mexico are rated as effective or better when it comes to their success in the classroom, officials announced Friday after statewide results were released, according to the Associated Press.

That’s the highest percentage of effective or better teachers since Gov. Susana Martinez adopted a new teacher evaluation system four years ago.

The New Mexico Public Education Department unveiled the latest results under a much-debated system that’s the focus of an ongoing court battle. Earlier this year, the Martinez administration announced changes after meetings with teachers around the state to reduce the weight that standardized test scores have on evaluations.

The new results say that the number of “highly effective” teachers rose 9 percent while the number of “ineffective” teachers statewide fell around 41 percent.

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski credited the rise in effective or better teachers to school districts taking advantage of state-funded professional development programs. “The number of school districts and charters who have applied to (these programs) have, like, tripled,” Ruszkowski told the Associated Press.

The evaluation is comprised of four categories: improved student achievement; classroom observations; planning, preparation and professionalism; and surveys and attendance.

Adjustments were made to the evaluation policy, as announced by Martinez’s administration earlier this year.

Teachers are now allowed six sick days instead of three before they’re penalized in their evaluations, standardized test scores would be 35 percent of the evaluation, down from 50 percent, and classroom observation would also be 35 percent.

Steinhaus said he expects a much more positive reaction to the results this year.

The classroom observation category for Los Alamos teachers is the most valuable aspect, according to Steinhaus.
“The teachers get valuable feedback about their teaching right then and there,” said Steinhaus, because principals sit in on each classroom to observe.

In addition, the teacher observation tool acknowledges creativity, innovation and some of the things that don’t show up on a standardized test.

On Friday, the LAPS administration started one-on-one sit-downs with teachers to review their individual results.

“We hope to have them done in a week because the teachers want to know right away,” Steinhaus said.

As for the reaction so far, the superintendent has heard anecdotally from the principals that the individual meetings are going well.

The National Education Association in New Mexico pointed out that there have been some specific systemic problems with the evaluations, like teachers being docked as an absence for days they attended training sessions, including ones required or provided by PED.

Last year, local teachers were shocked at their scores.

NEA-New Mexico reports that these harsh evaluations can get the best of teachers, even driving some to quit. LAPS is combating that possibility with the one-on-one meetings.