PED pursues changes to teacher evaluations

Hanna Skandera says New Mexico Public Education Department will support bill to reduce max weight student achievement carries in teacher evaluations

Joshua Kellogg
New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera says the state education department will support legislation to reduce the weight student achievement carries in teacher evaluations.

FARMINGTON — New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera says the state Public Education Department will support legislation to reduce the weight student achievement carries in teacher evaluations.

Skandera, who spoke to reporters in a conference call today, said that decision stems from feedback gathered at a series of statewide community meetings. The final summary report from the "New Mexico Rising" tour was released today. The education department and New Mexico First, a nonpartisan public policy organization, organized the tour.

During the tour, Skandera visited six cities across the state, including Farmington, to gather input on a plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act in New Mexico.

She said based on that feedback, there are several items her department is recommending during the legislative session underway right now in Santa Fe.

"We're interested in seeing and partnering with legislators to see these compromises put in place," Skandera said.

The state education department will support legislation that would reduce the weight student achievement has on teacher evaluations. Under the measure, student achievement would be 40 percent of a teacher's evaluation, rather than its current 50 percent. This would apply to teachers with at least three years of student achievement data.

At the same time, it would increase the weight of classroom observations as part of the NMTEACH Educator Effectiveness system.

Currently, classroom observations account for 25 percent of an evaluation for a teacher with three years or more of student achievement data.

From left, Bloomfield School District Superintendent Kim Mizell, San Juan County CEO Kim Carpenter and Farmington Municipal School District Deputy Superintendent Phil Valdez listen on Oct. 14 during a meeting at San Juan College's School of Energy in Farmington.

Chris Pash, executive director of human resources for the Farmington Municipal School District, said the district believes this would be a move in the right direction.

He said district officials have advocated for principal observations to be a larger component of a teacher's evaluation. He said that gives teachers a better idea of their performance in the classroom.

The state education department is also supporting legislation that would allow five days, rather than the current three, to be exempt from the attendance portion of teachers' evaluations.

Right now, teachers receive 100 percent of their attendance points if their reported absences are no more than three days.

Most school districts allow teachers 10 to 12 days of sick leave, according to Pash. He said adjusting the exempt days to five would be another step in the right direction, but he added it is difficult for teachers to be evaluated on attendance.

"There are so many circumstances that come up in a teacher's life that I could advocate not putting attendance in the evaluation," Pash said.

Robert McEntyre, a spokesman for the state education department, said no legislation has been filed regarding the proposed changes to the teacher evaluation system. He said Rep. Monica Youngblood, of Albuquerque, and Rep. David Gallegos, of Eunice, plan to co-sponsor a bill in the future.

Skandera also said her department will continue working to reduce testing time for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exam for students in third through 11th grades. Testing time was reduced by 90 minutes for students taking the 2015-2016 exam, compared to the previous year.

The state education department also plans to continue its support for programs that help teachers, including the Teacher-Leader Network and New Mexico Dream Team. The programs aim to increase communication between teachers and allow them to collaborate on literacy tools for the classroom.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.