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NMPED plans to simplify its evals

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By Tris DeRoma

A letter addressed to the Los Alamos Public School System from the New Mexico Public Education Department caused some excitement and, likely, some relief.
The letter comes right in the middle of a special committee’s efforts to formulate an alternative proposal to NMPED’s teacher evaluation plan.
The letter, which was from Matt Montano, the department’s Director of Educator Quality Division, seemed to suggest that NMPED is willing to streamline its evaluation process.
The department apparently came to this conclusion after obtaining data from this year’s teacher evaluation process, the first full year the process has been implemented.
“These updates are based on your feedback and lessons learned from year one of implementation,” Montano said in the letter. “They are data-driven revisions designed to streamline administrative efforts as well as to improve the NMTEACH process.”
The letter then went on to list the revised guidelines, which include:
• Districts and charters may conduct one observation for Highly Effective and Exemplary Teachers.
• Districts and charters will be able to select different observation choices based on school level; special education teachers will be evaluated on graduated considerations until they reach 10 cumulative students, as well as other updates.
Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt suggested to the board that it let the administration help the Teacher Evaluation Committee with its proposal, now that the administration has received a concrete set of guidelines from the state.
He also reminded the board that NMPED has given an Aug. 1 deadline to all districts working on alternative proposals.
“So what do we want to do? ... I see not a lot of time left in the year… To meet that deadline I would welcome an opportunity for the board to redirect that committee work back to the administration knowing that we would continue to try and involve teachers and other stakeholders in this process,” he said. “It would be giving us an opportunity to go back and clarify with the public education department that this is the limits of what we can do as opposed to guessing and presenting something else.”
In turn, Schmidt said, he and his administration will come back to the board sometime in late June or early August with a proposal for board approval, based on the NMPED’s new, more seemingly more flexible guidelines.
Board member Jim Hall was the first to reply, saying he was a little hesitant for the board to give up control of the process, adding that if the administration was going to be as effective as their committee of parents, administrators and educators, the administration itself is going to have to include just as broad a cross-section of the community.
“I know that this is not what you are suggesting, but anything that smacks of just having a couple of administrators in a room hashing it out, I would have a lot of trouble with,” he said.
Schmidt said that it would be their intent to involve a similar panel of educators, parents and administrators to provide input.
School Board Vice President Kevin Honnell then suggested that instead of taking the matter out of their special committee’s hands entirely, the administration instead use the board’s teacher evaluation committee as a sounding board for the administration’s proposed plan.
“… So, when the administration has an idea, the committee gets together, and they listen,” Honnell said. “They then say what they like, maybe what they don’t like. They then throw out three or four ideas…they don’t try to solve the problem, they simply reflect it and critique it. The administration goes back, works again, maybe has a second iteration with the committee, and that way the proposal brought to the board can done fairly rapidly, but also socialized among the key stakeholders.”
Schmidt seemed to agree with that idea, as did the rest of the board members.
However, Honnell and other board members were also concerned with the number of specific choices contained in the Montano’s letter, saying that it was “critical we make the right choices…how we go about that and how you get the right kind of input so we know we’re best serving the 250 teachers out there, I don’t know.”
In an effort to narrow down the options contained in the letter, Schmidt then proposed an initial series of meetings and surveys among the stakeholders, which the board readily agreed too.