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New Mexico's teachers challenged by new evaluation system
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2014 11:25 AM

When New Mexico's Public Education Department began implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in 2010, school districts also had to change the way they looked at teacher evaluations. The state's new system was implemented in the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year and so far it has some educators concerned.

How New Mexico's PED evaluates teachers
New Mexico's grading system for educators takes a closer look at the quality of instruction than ever before. This year, principals will sit in on each teacher's class for an extended period twice. Short surprise visits will also take place. Additionally, a third-party observer - most likely a trained educator from another school - will attend a teacher's lesson at least once. The principal's observation and the third-party assessment will make up approximately 25 percent of the teacher's score. According to Capital High Principal Channell Wilson-Segura, the new evaluation systems are a boon to students.

"I believe it allows teachers who shine to be acknowledged and ensures that teachers are setting expectations for both students and themselves," she told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Some educators in New Mexico believe that the observation portion of their evaluation will help students. However, the emphasis on student test scores may cause more concern.

Issues with teacher evaluation based on student test scores
With the new evaluation system, half of a teacher's rating depends on his or her students' success after they leave the classroom. School administrators will track students for the next three years and assess whether they fall behind or improve academically in that time. Laura Carthy, a teacher at Capital High School, believes that the system doesn't take into account absentee students or learners who are not at grade level.

"I don't want to be held accountable for students who aren't here or who are continually tardy and miss five to 20 minutes of class time every day. I'm not a miracle worker. I can move a student forward one year. I can't move them forward three or four years," Carthy told the Santa Fe New Mexican.

In the past, administrators rated teachers as either meeting competency or not meeting competency. For the next few years, 22,000 New Mexico educators will receive ratings like "ineffective," "minimally effective," "effective," "highly effective" and "exemplary." Additionally, teacher attendance, the school's rating from the PED, and student surveys will account for the final 25 percent of the educator's rating.

Teachers question the fairness of the new rating system. According to Principal Marc Ducharme of De Vargas Middle School, the system holds educators responsible for the failings of previous teachers.

"We're being held accountable for all the teaching that has gone on before us. We have kids coming in with huge learning gaps, and we are expected to bridge those gaps," he told the Santa Fe New Mexican.