Teacher evaluations may reduce sick calls

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Attendance matters for students – and because of the state’s new controversial evaluation system, it also counts for teachers.

Fewer teachers are calling in sick to Albuquerque schools and it looks like it’s at least partly because of the new teacher evaluations.

“Consistency matters in the classroom,” APS Spokesperson Monica Armenta said. “Students absolutely benefit when their teachers are in the classroom and teaching.”

More than 6,300 teachers work for Albuquerque Public Schools and recently, more of them are spending more time at work.

“Well, what we’ve seen in the first half of the year is about a 15 percent decline in the number of absences,” Armenta said.

From August 2012 to January 2013, teachers called in sick more than 32,000 times. From August 2013 to January 2014, that number dropped to around 27,000.

Armenta says Superintendent Winston Brooks believes it is because of teacher evaluations.

“He believes there are aspects of the new teacher evaluation model that would be positive and attendance certainly is one area where we expected to see some difference.”

Brooks has been a vocal critic of the evaluations – and so have a lot of teachers,  some even holding protests to show how much they dislike it.

But Gov. Susana Martinez and Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera still put the controversial evaluations into place, which grade teachers on student achievement through testing and other measures. Ten percent of that grade is teacher attendance.

Armenta says the drop in absences needs to be looked at closely and the new evaluations shouldn’t be the only consideration.

“I think it probably might be a little unfair to rush to judgment without really studying these numbers,” Armenta said.

Skandera says these are the kinds of results the Public Education Department was hoping for.

“I’m really excited,” Skandera said. “I think this is the first of many great results we expect for our students. I would say it’s clearly linked to our new teacher evaluations.”

KRQE News 13 talked to the president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation who says she worries with the new evaluations, teachers are actually afraid to call in sick.

APS says it’s also important to consider that over the past five years, nearly 500 teaching jobs have been eliminated. Fewer teachers they argue, would account for some of the drop in sick days.

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