LL Schools implement teacher evaluations

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Los Lunas Schools is implementing a new teacher evaluation system designed by a New Mexico Department of Education task force.

It is in response to New Mexico's waiver of the No Child Left Behind Act last year. Because of the waiver, everything from the academic progress assessment system to teacher evaluations had to change, said Dana Sanders, assistant superintendent.

The goal is to help school officials support staff or counsel them out of the profession.

Los Lunas Schools will offer additional support and training to teachers identified as performing below par.

The evaluations are based on gains in student test scores, teacher effectiveness and classroom performance, leadership skills and involvement in professional development communities.

The system is 50 percent student achievement, 25 percent observation of teacher effectiveness in class, and 25 percent on multiple measures. Multiple measures include such things as professionalism, team cooperation and a teacher's lesson planning.

The most controversial aspect of the teacher evaluation system is that half of it is based on students' test scores — on their academic progress, Sanders said.

"It's based on growth, not necessarily proficiency," Sanders said. "In other words, it's not asking for them to get all of their students proficient, it's asking for them to show growth."

Because not all students enter the school district at grade level, even the best teachers and school-provided tutors might not get a student fully up to grade level if the student came in two or more grade levels behind, she explained. Other factors include how much support a child receives at home, student attendance at school and at tutoring.

"A teacher should be able grow a student, wherever the student came in at, a grade level each year," said Felipe Armijo, director of personnel. "My job as a teacher is to move them one grade, that's what I'm being paid to do, that's what my job really entails — to grow that child one year. Now, if you get more out of it, which a lot of teachers do, there's the benefit, that's a bonus."

Educators are classified in different categories: those teaching students tested on the Standard Based Assessment and Measures of Academic Progress tests, those of non-tested grades and subjects, and teachers of kindergarten through second grade.

The state education department has an evaluation formula for each group.

Ten percent of the evaluations can be determined by each school district. Los Lunas chose to use attendance.

Exemplary attendance ranges from zero to three missed days, four to seven days as highly effective, eight to 11 days as effective, 12 to 14 days missed as minimally effective, and 15 days or more is considered noneffective.

If a teacher has an exemplary attendance and scores high in teacher effectiveness in the classroom, it can offset shortcomings in another category.

"It takes more talent and creativity in a public school, because you have all those varying factors," Sanders said. "And actually, (the teacher evaluation) could be an instrument to show that."


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.