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Local teachers testify Saturday about HB 158

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By Tris DeRoma

Several local teachers showed up at the Roundhouse Saturday to testify about House Bill 158, a bill that would, if passed, allow selected school districts to create their own pilot teacher evaluation programs.
“I urge you strongly to pass this bill in order to improve the evaluation system for teachers in New Mexico,” Chamisa Elementary School Teacher Megan Lee told the House Education Committee Saturday. “It will be an immense benefit for developing improved instruction for New Mexico students.”
The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-43. Garcia Richard chairs the committee. The bill was tabled because of a needed language modification. It is currently in the House Education Committee.  
Teachers from school systems all over the state lined up and spoke about the bill and what’s wrong with the current teacher evaluation process for about three and a half hours, starting shortly after 9 a.m.
The committee scheduled the hearing on a Saturday to allow teachers and other stakeholders in HB 158 and the other education bills being considered to speak.
If the bill passes, selected districts will be required to submit data and annual progress reports to NMPED and the Governor’s Office for a six-year period.
Lee also offered some constructive criticism of the current evaluation system, known as “NMTEACH.”  While she said that NMTEACH does have some good points, “the negative components of the system far outweigh the positive,” Lee said. “Giving three days of (non) attendance allowed before penalty and attaching inaccurate student scores to individualized teacher evaluations is demoralizing and punitive.”
HB 158 allows for the state to take the best practices learned from the study to create an evaluation system that all school districts in the state can agree with, Lee said.
“We feel House Bill 158 will give the agility, the flexibility and the innovation to give teachers a system of peer support, feedback and the ability to improve,” Lee said. “What separates this bill from the others is that it’s a longitudinal study, with different stakeholders participating. “You can take all the positive strategies that work and put it into one. It’s also researched based, which makes it very strong.”
Katrina Garcia Spillman, a special education teacher at Longfellow Elementary School in Albuquerque, told the board how the NMTEACH system has impacted her students and colleagues, describing how the evaluation system has caused many of the Albuquerque district’s teachers to leave and be replaced by less experienced teachers. Some of the reasons have to do with the way NMTEACH factors teacher performance when it comes to student performance and test scores.  
“We are having teachers who do not want the special education students in their classroom, so they are not getting their inclusion hours with their regular education peers,” Garcia Spillman said.
Garcia Richard thanked those who spoke for and against HB 158 and the other education bills the committee is considering. “I just want to extend my gratitude to folks who had to wait a really long time to speak, folks who had to wait in line while others spoke,” she said. “It was advised to give a time limit and I was very reluctant to do that because this is the people’s house. We had this meeting on a Saturday for a reason… We have so much that we learned from you all in the field and from your experience and your words.”