Viewpoint: State asks teachers to help refine new evaluation system

The New Mexico Public Education Department doesn’t dispute that the new teacher evaluation system is a work in progress, and that it’s a system that needs informed feedback to improve and refine its results.

That’s important, because a few weeks after the second round of teacher evaluations have been released, there’s a lot of legitimate feedback that points out real flaws:

• Feedback that teachers are being evaluated not on whether their own students learn but on whether students they have never met improve.
• Feedback that teachers are being evaluated not on their grade-level content but on multiple years of content in their broader subject area.
• Feedback that merely transitioning from a standardized test to a short-cycle assessment skewed an entire district’s results to the negative.

None of that feedback squares with how the evaluation system has been presented to the public — as a way to measure the student academic gains or losses that a teacher should take credit for in a given year.

But not all of the disconnect can be laid on PED’s steps.

That’s because superintendents had the ability to submit for PED approval their own end-of-course exams for individual grade-level subject areas rather than go with the state default EOC exams, which were written and vetted by New Mexico teachers.

And because districts had the power to select backup individual measures for teachers in grade levels and subject areas not covered by the big statewide standardized test required by the feds.

Those local school leaders, principals and superintendents, specifically asked that these teachers be evaluated on measures like their school’s grade, how the school’s top 75 percent of students improved or how the school’s lowest 25 percent of students improved.

Those choices could be because school leaders believe every educator in their community needs to take ownership of moving all students forward. But that doesn’t really determine how good a job someone does teaching music or science or Spanish, for example. It just determines that as one person they didn’t do enough to move the achievement needle outside their classroom and/or subject area.

And that doesn’t serve what the singular purpose of these evaluations should be — to ensure every New Mexico student gets quality instruction, and that teachers get the help and training they need to provide it.

PED has said it is ready and willing to refine and revise its evaluation system, and local school leaders should take the department up on its offer.

— Albuquerque Journal

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