Taos teachers burn their evaluations

TAOS, N.M. (KRQE) – Teachers are fired up over their new evaluations. The scores were released earlier this month, but many teachers say their grades don’t hold any water. It’s why a group of teachers in Taos are striking a match in protest.

Some Taos teachers say their profession is being stomped on, citing a laundry list of issues surrounding teacher evaluations. They argue the scores should factor in growth, they say they’re not even testing students on the curriculum they’re teaching and the test scores they’re basing much of the evaluations on are from last year. It’s why they decided to take a stand.

After sending students off for summer break, a group of elementary school teachers in Taos received their evaluations. Then they burned them.

“It was very freeing. It was a way for us to show that we’re not going to stand for this anymore.”

One Taos teacher, who asked to remain anonymous, was there for the burning, but it wasn’t her score that had her up in arms. She says this was about sending a message to the state.

The new teacher evaluations have been the center of controversy since they were put into place by the state’s Public Education Department. The evaluations are based on standardized testing, classroom observations and other factors like student surveys and attendance.

“I did come up at effective. Do I think I’m exemplary? I’m not there yet, that’s what I’m shooting for, but I am highly effective and that’s not what came out,” she says.

She received 138 points out of 200 which is 69 percent.

“That’s a D+. That’s not OK,” says the teacher.

Yet, it is on par with most New Mexico teachers. Seventy-six percent received a rating of effective or better. The Taos teacher believes the problem lies in the evaluations. She takes issue with the makeup of the evaluations – the fact 50 percent of their grade is based on students’ standardized test scores.

“Our students are much more than a once-a-year pencil and bubble test sheet,” she says. “It is how that student performed on that particular test on that particular day under those particular circumstances.”

She’s not the only one. Other Taos teachers plan to burn their score cards, too.

“The evaluations should reflect what the realities of the classroom are for each individual student. All of the training and preparatory material for the education for the teaching profession really focuses on how students are individuals, how they have different learning styles, different intelligences, different interests and so, to try to then take what should be, in our field, a diagnostic tool and turn it into an evaluative tool is patently wrong,” says Taos Federation of United School Employees Local 1450 District Union Representative Orion Cervio.

Another group of teachers in Albuquerque burned their evaluations at a sit-in Wednesday.

Instead of basing half of their grade on standardized tests, teachers like Cervio believe the evaluations should be based more on the realities of the classroom for each individual student and their unique learning style.

Cervio challenges Gov. Susana Martinez and Secretary Designate Hannah Skandera to take a standardized test for themselves and asks Skandera to demonstrate the tactics needed to improve standardized test scores for students with learning and behavioral issues.

Skandera argues they’ve taken a broken evaluation system and improved it. The old evaluations relied on a pass-fail system. She says the new system gives educators a better picture of teachers and students.

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