According to a new teacher evaluation system in place in New Mexico, Santa Fe teachers are performing exceptionally well.
The rating reported 41% of the district's 800 teachers as highly effective, 54% as effective, and only 4% minimally effective. Less than 1% received an ineffective rating.
The ratings are based on in-class observations, making up 25% of the teacher's score. Another 20% comes from planning and professionalism. The last 55% is still in the works, but includes three years of students' test scores and a student survey.
Many educators have criticized the emphasis on test scores to assess a teacher's worth.
The new system came at the request of Governor Susana Martinez in her efforts to improve state's educational rankings by holding teachers more accountable. The state has consistently been close to the bottom of national educational rankings, writes Robert Nott for The Santa Fe New Mexican.
When the district asked for feedback, only 36 teachers, or 5%, replied with a mix of responses, which included both criticism and praise.
Teachers claimed the three hour-long observations caused administrators to spend too much time in the classroom and not enough time helping in other needed ways. One teacher suggested teachers should be observing and rating each other.
Richard Bowman, director of accountability and assessment for the district, felt the comments from teachers suggested that "being evaluated itself was quite stressful and possibly contributes to low morale."
Because the evaluations were done close to the end of the school year, many teachers said they did not have time to fill out the survey.
The new evaluations are an improvement over the old method, in which teachers were arbitrarily rated as meeting competency or not. According to Superintendent Joel Boyd, the evaluations were often done based on personality or without any classroom observation.
The new system does not come without flaws though. Many teachers received incorrect ratings that the Public Education Department plans on correcting by mid-August. Although the Santa Fe district reported very few of these errors, other areas, such as Rio Rancho, reported up to 50% of the evaluations submitted needing to be fixed, according to Jon Swedien for The Albuquerque Journal.
Many of the errors came from incomplete or inaccurate student testing data, or teachers being docked for more absences than they actually had.
The evaluations are especially important for new teachers, who will not be rehired after their fifth year if they continually have poor reviews. Evaluations are also used for teachers to move up the state's three-tiered licensure system, making it of increasing importance to teachers' paychecks that these flaws are found and fixed quickly.
"We continue to work with districts to make sure accurate data is used. We believe all districts should have final information in a couple of weeks," Larry Behrens, spokesman for the Public Education Department, said in an email to the Journal.