Teacher Evaluation

New Mexico Teacher Eval Criteria Rejiggered for Some

Instructors in New Mexico who teach subjects with no standard testing attached to them may no longer have to worry about being evaluated based on improvements in the high-stakes test scores of students in their district. Those assessment results could also be eliminated from the evaluations for first-year teachers, whether or not they teach in the tested subjects.

Both decisions, which are ultimately up to individual school districts, shift evaluations for those two groups of teachers to be more heavily weighted on classroom observation and teacher attendance. Even if a school system chooses not to adjust its rating program, the student achievement measure will be capped at 25 percent of the total vs. 50 percent, which was used originally.

The evaluations won't change for teachers instructing in subjects with state testing. New Mexico belongs to PARCC, the state consortium for Common Core online assessments.

The news was reported by the Albuquerque Journal.

The decision by the state Public Education Department comes after a contentious year in which teacher organizations complained that teachers were being rated based to some extent on scores achieved by students they had never taught. NMTEACH, the new system that incorporated these evaluation measures, had been put in place in 2014 and then used again in May 2015. As the Web site for that system explains, "The NMTEACH Educator Effectiveness system is designed to establish a framework for continuous improvement and professional growth for teachers and principals, which, in turn, will promote student success."

The basic plan for the criteria originally was this:

  • 50 percent based on student achievement growth;
  • 25 percent based on classroom observations; and
  • 25 percent based on "multiple measures," including professionalism, preparation, teacher attendance and parent/student surveys.

However, there were footnotes to that. Districts and charter schools were given leeway to develop their own evaluation plans by selecting which multiple measures to include and which assessments to use in measuring student achievement. Also, the latter was worth 50 percent only where teachers had three years' worth of student data; in the event that there was less than that, the criteria for student achievement growth was weighted less and observations were weighted more.

Based on a 200-point scale, teachers could be rated in one of five categories: exemplary, highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective.

Results issued in May reflected a three percentage point increase in the number of teachers rated effective, highly effective and exemplary in that student achievement component, compared to 2014 results.

Also, teacher attendance showed a "dramatic statewide improvement." The number of teachers who missed fewer than two days of work and therefore received an exemplary attendance record grew from 54 percent last year to 71 percent in the latest year. The department estimated a savings of $1.2 million over 18,000 days in substitute teacher costs.

The latest round of changes will affect 1,800 first-year teachers and 1,000 instructors who teach classes without standardized testing. The decision will also be retroactively applied to new teachers for the 2014-2015 school year. The state has about 23,000 teachers in classrooms in total.

The evaluations have come under fire by some teachers and their unions. According to the journal, when the evaluations were released earlier this year, about three-dozen people burned their ratings in protest.

Data quality has been a problem for the state agency. According to the journal, it received 712 requests "to clarify evaluations or look into possible glitches in the data." In the end, just 31 teacher designations changed, mostly due to inaccuracy in attendance tracking reported by districts to the state.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.