Regional
6:00 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Teachers Say State Evaluation System Does Not Effectively Measure Performance

Mayfield High School physics teacher Del Hansen is concerned the Public Education Department evaluation system is driving good teachers out of the profession.
Credit Simon Thompson

Before Del Hansen started teaching physics at Mayfield high in Las Cruces, he  accumulated a slew of teaching awards and held  a number influential positions in state education;  As an evaluator, school administrator and even working with the Golden Apple Foundation selecting the top teacher in the state each year. 

He says teacher evaluations must prioritize two things; subject knowledge and being able to impart key concepts

“You are just not presenting material you are teaching it. You are trying to elicit understanding. The second thing you have to have is ability  to communicate effectively  you have to be able to not only  present the material in a way that is clear and cogent but you have to communicate to the people to whom you are talking” he says.

But New Mexico Public Educations Department's calculation for teacher evaluations is far more complex. 50% based of it is based off student test scores, the other 50% is divided between in-class observations by administrators and measures some find perplexing.

New Mexico teacher evaluations can be based on classroom seating arrangements, the amount technology used, the display students work in the classroom and documentation of learning objectives. Teachers can even be evaluated based on student and parent surveys.

In an Albuquerque Journal column public education secretary designate Hanna Skandera said the new evaluation system has given the state more information about teacher performance. But Teachers like Del Hansen say the state system does not effectively measure performance.

“I see very good teachers that have been very good teachers for a long, long time to the point of tears. They are frustrated they're attention has been diverted away from what students learn in the classroom and how they learn best to following what I think are silly steps and rules in order to be able to accomplish this evaluation” he says.
 

Hansen says even if they the system was effective in measuring teacher performance it’s roll out has been riddled with oversights, oversights he says make the evaluations invalid. He uses the example of the students surveys of their teachers.

“There is not quality control on it. You know students could do multiple surveys, parents could do multiple surveys you have 3 or 4 students that you made mad during the  course of the semester and they go after you that takes you down” he says. 

Skandera's office didn’t respond to interview requests but Skandera acknowledged in the Albuquerque Journal column that the new evaluation system isn’t perfect. However she contends that it is a dramatic improvement over the old system that found 99% of teachers to be effective. The new system graded about three quarters of all teachers as effective.

But Hansen says teachers are not being given enough guidance to prepare students for the end of course tests. In some cases those tests comprise of 50% of the teacher evaluation.

“There aren’t any standards  so what you are essentially doing is trying to teach your students all of  physics and they are going to pick  fifteen questions from all of  physics and put it on there I am currently not spending  a lot  of time on electricity and magnetism  that is something I will get to in a later time, I am just not doing that, I made some other priorities. If seven out of the questions are electricity and magnetism the kids will fail" he says.

If the system finds a teacher be minimally effective or lower they are required to be put into professional growth plans. But their termination is ultimately left in the hands of local schools.