School districts adjust to New Mexico's new teacher evaluation system, glitches
Aztec Municipal Schools
Aug. 12: First day of school for all students
Aug. 13: First day of school for pre-kindergarten, first, fourth, seventh and ninth grades and all students attending Blanco Elementary (except kindergarten)
Aug. 14: All students report (except kindergarten)
Aug. 19: First day for all kindergarten students
Central Consolidated School District
Aug. 12: First day of school for all students
Farmington Municipal Schools
Aug. 15: Kindergarten, sixth and ninth grade first day of school
Aug. 16: First day of school for all students (except pre-kindergarten)
Aug. 19: First day of school for pre-kindergarten
FARMINGTON — As area school districts prepare for students to return to the classroom, teachers and administrators are adjusting to the new state teacher evaluation system.
Gov. Susana Martinez directed the New Mexico Public Education Department to develop a new teacher and principal evaluation in April 2012. The system will be implemented this school year.
It uses a combination of methods to evaluate teachers, including three years of the state's Standard Based Assessment test scores, observations and other achievement measures that districts select by districts.
An area of concern was training and instruction in the computer program district officials will use to rank the teachers. Teachers will be ranked as exemplary, highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective.
"We want to be able to sit down with staff and say, 'You got this score,'" said Aztec Municipal Schools superintendent Kirk Carpenter. "If this is their livelihood, we want the opportunity to say, 'This is why you got this score,' There are just many things left unclear. We don't have a total look at the whole program."
Terry Stinson, a second-grade teacher at McCoy Elementary in Aztec, said she was apprehensive of the system because of the uncertainties involved.
"I think in the long run, it will make us more competent teachers," Stinson said. "It's scary because we are evaluated more often than we are used to. We are going to be evaluated by people who have never seen us teach before and don't know us, which is good for us because it'll give us a fresh perspective."
Stinson said she is also concerned about receiving additional training about the system. She starts classes on Monday, which limits her availability for training.
Linda Schilz, assistant superintendent of human resources for Farmington Municipal Schools, said she has not seen the entire computer program because it is not completely developed.
"It's not finalized, and there are glitches in it," Schilz said. "We will see it whenever it is set, and we'll work through it because we will."
As of Thursday, the district was still hiring teachers, which is a problem because the state wanted districts to enter all teacher and principal information into the new database by 5 p.m. Aug. 2.
Schilz said the district also wasn't clear on some aspects of the system.
"Special Education teachers share kids with regular teachers. How do we put that into the system so that both teachers are responsible when a student can only be assigned to one teacher?" Schilz said. "We believe they belong to two teachers and more as they continue in the system. We're not sure how to assign them. We're working through that, but that was something we were not prepared for."
No new system is perfect, said state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, when asked about issues with the evaluation system. But, she said, it's a step in the right direction.
"We'll certainly go through that. We will not be exempt from the transition," Skandera said. "But I think that's part of what happens when you change."
She added that the system will improve schools and "acknowledge our great teachers and acknowledge the importance of improved student achievement when it comes to being a great teacher."
Chuck Culpepper, Bloomfield Schools director of curriculum and assessment, said teachers he has spoken aren't upset about the evaluation system but wish it was more formalized.
"Everyone is a little up in arms about the incompleteness of the plan of the state, but I think we'll come together and just do it," Culpepper said.
As the state transitions to the new system, a portion of the program that directs teachers to be hired or fired won't be used, Culpepper said.
"The teachers won't suffer if the system doesn't work," he said.
Central Consolidated School District Superintendent Don Levinski said that CCSD is ready for the evaluation system. Being one of the pilot districts for the system last school year -- along with Aztec schools -- helped with preparation.
"We're comfortable our district is more ready than most to implement this," Levinski said. "I don't think we're going to have any problems with it. It's going to be a little bit of an adjustment for our teachers. It's something they haven't really had to do."