AP NEWS

New Mexico teachers evaluated under revamped criteria

October 25, 2019 GMT
FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2019, file photo, New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart speaks about the challenges at the state's public schools during an interview in his office in Santa Fe, N.M. Performance evaluations have been distributed to nearly 20,000 public school teachers across New Mexico as the state places a new emphasis on classroom observations by principals and leaves out student test scores. A deputy education secretary said Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, further changes are in store for teacher evaluations beginning the fall of 2020. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2019, file photo, New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart speaks about the challenges at the state's public schools during an interview in his office in Santa Fe, N.M. Performance evaluations have been distributed to nearly 20,000 public school teachers across New Mexico as the state places a new emphasis on classroom observations by principals and leaves out student test scores. A deputy education secretary said Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, further changes are in store for teacher evaluations beginning the fall of 2020. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Annual performance evaluations are done and have been delivered to nearly 20,000 public school teachers across New Mexico as the state places a new emphasis on classroom observations by principals and leaves out student test scores.

Deputy Public Education Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment says the state’s teacher evaluation system is evolving as a task force designs a solution that should be in place by next fall. She briefed lawmakers Thursday on those efforts.

Evaluations recently delivered to teachers for the 2018-2019 school year did away with a five-tier ratings system that ran the gamut from “exemplary” to “ineffective.”

Teachers are instead being evaluated for professionalism, preparation, creation of an environment for learning, and essential engagement with students.

A summary of evaluations for 10 major districts shows especially high average marks at Rio Rancho Public Schools and Roswell Independent Schools. The Public Education Department provided the summary to The Associated Press in response to a public records request.

Evaluation results for individual teachers or schools are not available to parents, but an online system for disseminating performance data about each public school is scheduled to go live in November, Warniment said.

She said information gathered from a series of public meetings across the state has highlighted the advantages of classroom observations by principals and administrators.

One current technique involves brief “walk-through” classroom visits of as little as seven minutes by administrators, who evaluate specific aspects of teacher performance and provide suggestions for improvement.

“One component of this entire system that we’ll build out will be more opportunities for feedback that will not necessarily be high-stakes,” Warniment said.

New Mexico is in the midst a wholesale overhaul of regulatory oversight for K-12 schools, as first-year Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham seeks to deliver on campaign promises to improve public education.

A district court judge ruled last year that the state was failing to meet constitutional obligations to provide an adequate education, especially when it came to students from minority communities and poor households.

The state announced last week it will pay for high school juniors to take the SAT college preparatory exam as the standard academic assessment, and the Public Education Department is in the final stages of selecting of a new testing regiment in grades 3-8.

Financial bonuses of up to $10,000 for top-rated teachers have been scrapped by lawmakers as they set aside money for statewide teacher pay increases of at least 6% and longer school years that can boost pay by an additional 14% at some elementary schools.

Gene Schmidt, superintendent of Farmington’s 11,000-student school district, said he is pleased so far with changes taking place on teacher evaluations — including measure that restore local control.

“The critical conversation is the principal with the teacher, looking at what does good instruction look like,” he said.