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LAPS teachers do own survey for exit info

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Disappointing results > 67% of teachers want to leave profession

By Tris DeRoma

Concerned by the fact that some of Los Alamos County’s better teachers were thinking of leaving the profession, teachers Megan Lee and Amy Bartlett-Gaunt decided to take a survey of the district’s teachers.
They later presented the survey to the school board at a Jan. 26 work session at Chamisa Elementary School.
“What if we did a survey, where we asked real questions to teachers, and collected data to show what the situation is?” Lee told the board at the work session.
With the approval of Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus, they set to work, and came up with some interesting data. Lee said 193 out of the 247 teachers in the district participated.
What the two teachers found was that about 67 percent of the teachers were seriously thinking about leaving the profession.
“We think that this is a very sad but valuable piece of information as we go forward looking for a new evaluation system,” Bartlett-Gaunt said to the board.
They also found that many of them thought the survey system the state uses to rate their effectiveness as teachers was seriously flawed, and was one of the main reasons teachers were thinking about quitting teaching.
According to the survey, about 84 percent thought the state used the wrong data to evaluate them in their latest evaluation. However, the survey also found that a majority of teachers don’t mind being observed and evaluated.
“Of the 135 teachers that answered the question related to the evaluation system, 74 percent agree with being observed by principals and 69 percent agree with being evaluated on preparation and planning,” Lee said.
However, they also thought most of the data the state used wasn’t relevant. In the survey, many teachers about 90 percent disagreed with the state using teacher attendance as a factor in their performance evaluations. In July of last year, the New Mexico Public Education Department implemented a new rule where teachers were only allowed three sick days a year. Teachers start to lose points on their evaluations on the fourth day. Attendance is 5 percent of their evaluation score.
A majority of teachers also felt that they were spending too much time testing students and doing clerical work than actually teaching students. They also felt that the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test and the end of course exams weren’t very good at assessing what students actually know.
Ninety percent felt annual raises weren’t keeping up with professionals in comparative professions and they weren’t highly valued by the district or New Mexico’s Public Education Department.
Lee and Bartlett-Gaunt hoped the Los Alamos Public Schools will be able to use the data in not only eventually creating a better evaluation system than the state’s, but to provide immediate help for teachers on a local level through compensation and professional development. They also hoped the survey might have some influence on NMPED to improve its own evaluation system.
“We would also like to influence PED to reevaluate current systems of for improvements,” Bartlett-Gaunt said.
Los Alamos School Board Secretary Andrea Cunningham said she was “saddened” to hear that nearly 67 percent of Los Alamos’ teachers were thinking of leaving the profession.
“I think as a board, we really want to look at whatever we can do to retain our teachers,” Cunningham said. “We do value each and every one of you, and to see the number there is worrisome.”
Lee and Bartlett-Gaunt plan to distribute the results of the survey with the teachers, as well as the district’s community partners, such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  
School Board President Jim Hall called the results of the survey “disappointing, but not surprising.” He also cautioned however that for the district to come up with its own evaluation system would not be a simple task, and that it would take a lot of time and resources.  
The district is hoping that a bill currently in the state legislature might allow for the district to develop its own pilot teacher evaluation system separate from PED.