The end of the school year is the time when teachers are filled with uncontainable joy. We parents know how they feel because despite loving our offspring like nobody’s business we are pouring mimosas and skipping out of the school parking lot 3 months later at the start of another academic year. We don’t blame them for their Cheshire grins. We know they have worked hard for 9 months teaching our children, grading papers, checking homework, staying late to write lesson plans, coming up with creative ways to engage our kids, and instilling social-emotional health in our little citizens.
Sadly, the end of this year for New Mexico teachers coincided with the receipt of their evaluations. Not even the start of summer could produce the usual happy dance. Instead their slumped shoulders were weary from a year of over-testing and then being told that despite living out their passion to educate young minds that they were deemed “minimally effective” by an error-filled system. We chose our particular school because of its high ratings and sound reputation. We know that the vast majority of teachers at our school are highly effective. We have seen our children learning and have learned from them ourselves. We have no doubt that we leave our kids in capable hands every day from mid-August to the end of May. To be honest, if they were truly minimally effective, we would NOT be sending our kids there.
The current evaluation system that teachers are subjected to is inaccurate and unfair. From our school alone, a teacher who received high marks from classroom observations by her administrator and has a great reputation among parents for her skillful teaching, caring heart, and experienced organization was given a minimally effective rating. For her, it was because 50% of the evaluation is based on student achievement which is largely dependent on high-stakes testing and a hodgepodge formula that leaves more confusion than clear understanding. Despite having students who were reading several grade-levels higher than expected, her poor rating will endanger her license renewal if she is unable to show growth. The difficulty with showing growth in a high-performing school like ours is obvious. Just because the test scores do not show this change does not mean that she was not effective in teaching especially considering her students are performing well above average.
Another teacher in our school had to have surgery which she purposely planned near a school break as to miss as little teaching time as possible. However, because she still had to take some of the sick days she is rightfully granted in her contract, her rating dropped from highly effective to just effective. Although she knows the unjust reason for the reduction in her rating, she cannot help but feel demoralized in not officially achieving the standards she sets for herself as a teacher. Does this not violate an employee’s right to use a sick day when needed, employment lawyers? It can’t be right.
These were only a couple of the examples from our school that had many more similar ridiculous stories that left me feeling so badly for our hard-working teachers. Then I attended a town hall meeting and heard these stories and more were common across the entire Albuquerque Public School district from kindergarten to high school. There were countless examples of frustrated and devastated educators from every type of school existing in our area. It was almost comical at times to hear how absurd these stories were. It is obvious the evaluation system is highly flawed and needs to change. Already we have lost highly skilled educators (our school lost an awesome teacher I wish my younger son might have had the chance to have next year), and we are in danger of losing more. This will drastically affect the quality of education for our children. APS is already experiencing a teacher shortage and with existing teachers feeling unsupported and under attack, the future could be very bleak unless things change.
Change happens when action is taken. Here are 3 steps you can take to help support our teachers:
1) Sign a petition by clicking here. The teachers have filed a lawsuit against the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) who is responsible for establishing this current evaluation system. The PED and Secretary Hanna Skandera have requested the case be dismissed. The petition is simply asking the judge to hear the teachers’ case out and not immediately dismiss it. He will be making this decision on June 17th so all signatures need to be in place before then. It takes less than 60 seconds to read and sign. Then share it with everyone and anyone. You don’t have to be a teacher or a parent to sign. Any concerned member of the community who cares about public education can.
2) Write letters stating your support of our educators and concern regarding the evaluation system’s inaccuracy. If you need more stories and points, talk to your teachers. They will have plenty. Send these letters to your legislators. If you are not sure who they are, look it up easily here in 2 seconds: NM Legislator Lookup. It only takes 10 letters from constituents on one topic for it to stand out dramatically. You can also send these letters to your local Board of Education and the editor of your paper. Most of all, send them to the PED who has the immediate power to change this system:
Secretary Hanna Skandera
New Mexico Public Education Department
300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501
3) Share all of this to educate the community. Post it on social media. Join a group in support of your teachers such as the newly formed Concerned for Public Education group here in Albuquerque. You can request to be on their list serve by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, hug your teachers. They might really need it right now.