Education Secretary Hanna Skandera discusses teacher evaluations with Farmington school board

Joshua Kellogg The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Members of the Farmington Municipal School District Board of Education had questions for state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera about the teacher evaluation system and school grades during a board work session Thursday afternoon.

Board members spent nearly an hour talking with Skandera, who made the trip to Farmington to continue a discussion cut short during the legislative session earlier this year.

Discussions during the work session touched on the annual assessments that account for as much as 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation and the transition from standards-based assessments to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exam. The board also talked about recruiting and retaining quality teachers in the state.

Robyn Hoffman, secretary of the school board, said she appreciated Skandera's visit and the discussion about improving the teacher evaluation system.

"(We're) looking forward to how this process is going to be a positive thing, because it hasn't always been well-received," Hoffman said after the meeting.

When asked about using assessment scores to measure student achievement, Skandera spoke about the previous evaluation systems.

She said under the No Children Left Behind Act, the evaluation system was 100 percent based on proficiency, and the system before was 100 percent subjective.

When the state created the new school accountability system, Skandera said it provided the state an opportunity to add other measures to monitor growth and improvement.

Still, Skandera said, the first year of implementing the teacher evaluation system was tough.

"I think the No. 1 issue was having good data in the system that we all could be confident about," Skandera said. "I believe this year we spent a lot of time with superintendents across the state completely redefining how we collect data and check on it throughout the year."

Board President Kyle Rhodes said the board agreed with the concept of teacher evaluations and was not fighting the system. But, he said, the board had specific concerns.

Board Vice President Mike Isaacson questioned the quality of the data used to account for teacher evaluations and asked whether the "bad data" the district has encountered would continued to be used.

Skandera said last year and this year, the New Mexico Public Education Department provided opportunities to "clean up the bad data" from the last three years of assessment scores and other areas tracked to develop the teacher evaluation scores.

Interim Superintendent Phil Valdez said the district isn't 100 percent confident in the data being used. And going back to correct errors can be difficult and frustrating, he said.

After the meeting, Skandera said she believes the board is committed to doing great things for students and added she hopes to continue building a relationship with the board.

"What I heard today is confidence that this is a better system than we had in the past, and we got to keep building toward that understanding," Skandera said.

Joshua Kellogg covers education forThe Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.