After weeks of debating with Santa Fe Public Schools about how its teachers would be scored under the new state evaluation system, Hanna Skandera visited Superintendent Joel Boyd on Friday to admit she was wrong.
Last week, just under 50 percent of Santa Fe’s teachers were rated “effective” or better. This week, it’s closer to 67 percent. Other categories went up as well, with over 15 percent ranking as “highly effective” and 1 percent “exemplary,” while 30 percent are “minimally effective” and just over 3 percent “ineffective.”
“In any new endeavor, you learn a lot,” said Skandera, head of the state Public Education Department. “We have to learn and improve.”
As for Boyd, he was right when he said the new teacher evaluation results for Santa Fe teachers were inaccurate. It was his first public confrontation with Skandera over the new reform — and one over which the Public Education Department pushed back hard.
“Superintendent Boyd’s position is incorrect,” department spokesman Larry Behrens told The New Mexican on Aug. 8.
Skandera was more contrite Friday.
The education secretary-designate reiterated her support of the new system. But she said the department has learned from complaints and concerns from other school districts about bad data that followed the release of preliminary scores in the spring. At that time, the state estimated about 76 percent of its teachers were effective. Following more data collection and analysis, the state revised the evaluations, and that number dropped to under 73 percent. The Santa Fe district turned in its data for the evaluations more than a month after other districts had.
Skandera said the education department will change the timeline for collecting and evaluating data next year to avoid such mistakes.
She said the new Santa Fe scores will impact the state’s overall teacher ratings.
Why the big change? Chalk it to up bad data and some scores of zero in categories that shouldn’t have counted on Santa Fe teachers’ evaluations.
Gov. Susana Martinez used her executive powers to initiate the teacher evaluation system this past year. The evaluations are based on a number of prerequisites: student test results and other achievement-growth measures, classroom observations, and assessments of how teachers plan and connect with students. Most districts figure in teacher attendance, while others — including Santa Fe — do not.
Santa Fe received permission to deviate slightly from the normal evaluation process, allowing for more emphasis on classroom observations and giving teachers the opportunity to develop additional achievement-growth measures. Unlike other districts, Santa Fe Public Schools also includes a student survey of teacher effectiveness.
The district has not yet compiled the results of its student surveys and thus had not turned those in to the Public Education Department before the evaluation process, which lowered teachers’ scores. And the Public Education Department zapped the district for teacher attendance, even though it gave the district permission to waive that measure.
As a result, Skandera said, in some areas “there were zeroes” that lowered the overall average for the district.
Boyd said there are about 3,000 data points to be analyzed in the teacher evaluations and that inconsistencies or omissions were found in more than a dozen of them.
He said the new rankings are “more accurate.”
Skandera called them “more complete.”
The two said they get along well and have a collaborative relationship. Last week, when the state released Santa Fe teachers’ results, it seemed to be a different story. Behrens had said the ratings were correct and that Boyd should know it. But Skandera said Friday that Behrens was referring only to the portion of the evaluations related to Standards Based Assessment scores and that Boyd knew the most recent scores, released in July, did not fit into this year’s evaluations.
Boyd denounced the initial results last week, calling them inaccurate. He stands by his numbers. He said the new figures more accurately represent preliminary reports that the district put out in June, estimating 41 percent of the district’s 800 teachers were rated as highly effective, 54 percent as effective and 4 percent minimally effective. It estimated fewer than 1 percent were ineffective and fewer than 1 percent exemplary.
The district wants another week to review its math on the teacher ratings, and then it will present new data to the Public Education Department, which will do its own re-evaluation.
As a result, Santa Fe teachers may find themselves with a different evaluation than they were given by the district back in the spring. Boyd said “any hypothesis is possible,” though it is unlikely there would be a huge leap from, say, a “minimally effective” to “exemplary” rating for an instructor.
Boyd said Santa Fe’s teachers are more dedicated than any in the state.
On a similar note, Santa Fe Public Schools has appealed the state-ordained school grades of D given to three of its facilities, arguing that some of the data points are inconsistent. Boyd said Friday he would not have made the appeal if he did not believe there are possible inconsistencies — as the district discovered with the teacher evaluations.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or email@example.com.