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LAPS to lobby for slowdown of N.M. eval system

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Education > Local schools want bump in teacher, staff pay from legislature

When the New Mexico State Legislature meets this January, representatives from the Los Alamos Public Schools will be ready with their wishlist.
According to a pamphlet that will be distributed to the legislature, that wishlist includes:

• Increased salaries for all staff
• Sufficient funding for the “above the line” budget
• Flexibility when it comes to adoption of the state’s teacher evaluation system
• Increased funding for transportation for all schools (not just charter schools)
• Capital outlay funding for structural repairs to the Duane Smith Auditorium (mostly weatherproofing the outside of the building, stucco).

The district’s highest priority concerns the state’s teacher evaluation program.
Several years ago, the New Mexico Public Education Department received an exemption from the federal “No Child Left Behind Act.”
The NMPED was able to do so after it provided a federally-approved alternative, known as “NMTEACH.” From the start, the new alternative, which is just two years old, came under fire from teachers and the public at large for allegedly placing too much emphasis on state testing and student performance.
Teachers from all over the state also roundly criticized the NMPED for being too quick in its rollout of the new plan, citing errors in the evaluation process that they said adversely affected teachers and students.
In a Jan. 29, 2014 story in the Los Alamos Monitor, Ellen Mills, president of the Los Alamos Federation of School Employees, summed up that criticism, saying at the time “the governor and the PED created a teacher evaluation tool using the rule and regulation statute.
This tool was implemented quickly and has proven to be incomplete or inaccurate. School personnel have raised many questions and concerns regarding the tool, and are particularly concerned about the high percentage of teacher evaluation relying on student test results.”
According to Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt, the plan, at least when it comes to the state’s controversial teacher evaluation process, is to implant in the minds of the members of the state legislature that perhaps the New Mexico Public Education Department should slow down the roll out of the plan.
“There seems to be some angst across the state as to whether this is the best teacher evaluation model,” Schmidt said. “The concern is that the state, for many (math and English) teachers, has chosen to use 50 percent of the student performance on the Standards Based Testing test as part of the teacher’s grade. I think there’s still some concern over whether or not a one-moment event represent that much of a teacher report card as opposed to the teacher’s work in the classroom everyday and the principal’s observation of the teachers. I think there’s still some leftover concern that while that’s the route that the state has chosen, it doesn’t give local districts a voice.”
That concern has been ramped up considerably, ever since NMPED also announced that starting this spring, the NMPED will be dropping the Standards Based Testing (SBA) in favor of a new test, the New Mexico Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (NMPARCC).
Schmidt said this major change should come with another moratorium on the results of evaluation scores for teachers, or at least a full and clear explanation of how NMPED plans to correlate the old SBA scores with the new NMPARCC scores in a fair and accurate manner when it comes to assessing teachers in how well they’re educating students.
“...Since the PARCC test is something brand new, why don’t we make next year a hold harmless, see-what-happens year before we decide it’s valid enough to tie it to a teacher’s final grades?” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said that is a very important issue, because if the state labels a teacher “ineffective” based on the test scores, a teacher’s license will not be renewed when it comes up for renewal.
“It’s a high stakes thing for a test we’ve never seen, in a process (teacher evaluation) that’s just two years old. Maybe we can slow walk this process a little bit until we can see what the results look like,” he said.
This legislative session is scheduled to begin at noon, Jan. 20.