Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 17
fact, the National Conference of State
Legislators has tracked bills in 10
states that proposed such changes.
"We are just now starting to see the
effects of ESSA on state legislation,
and we don't anticipate seeing the majority of it till next legislative session,"
said Exstrom of NCSL.
A few other states, including Alaska,
Connecticut, and North Carolina,
passed policies backing away from student-growth requirements in teacher
evaluations through their state boards
Before ESSA, Kentucky required
that student growth be a significant
factor in teacher evaluations-and
didn't allow teachers to receive a high
final rating without a high rating on
student scores. In 2017, it passed a
bill that allowed districts to decide
whether to include student achievement measures at all.
So far, though, "a lot of districts have
chosen not to make huge changes to
their systems," said Robin Hebert, the
director of the division of next-generation professionals at the Kentucky
education department. That's likely
because they're waiting for the specific
state regulations to be released, which
should happen in the spring.
The Kentucky Education Association, the state NEA affiliate, for its
part, is pleased with the change.
"KEA has always felt that student
growth should not be one of the multiple
measures included in the teacher-evaluation system," the group's president
Stephanie Winkler wrote in an email.
However, Elizabeth Ross, the managing director for state policy at
NCTQ, which advocates for measuring
teacher effectiveness through objective
data like test scores, called the Kentucky change "a huge step backward
In Arizona, Maine, and New Mexico,
the legislatures approved bills to undo
or reduce the weight of the studentachievement requirement-only to
have them vetoed by their governors.
New Mexico, well known to have
the toughest evaluation system in
the country, has been at the center
of the debate. The state education
chief recently reduced the studentgrowth measure from 50 percent of
a teacher's evaluation to 35 percent.
(See story, Page 1.)
Several other states, including Indiana and Louisiana, have convened
task forces to look at the issue.
that have turned their back on decades of research about teacher
quality as a black mark upon their
records," Ruszkowski said. "Policymakers have essentially said this is
too hard. And I don't think too hard
should ever be a reason we don't do
what's right for kids."
That brought New Mexico closer in
line with other states.
And the agency upped the number
of sick days teachers could take before
their absences count against their
evaluation, from three to six. Classroom observations became the single
largest factor in evaluations, making
up 40 percent of a teacher's overall
score. The state also considers results
from student-satisfaction surveys and
teachers' professional practices.
The makeover was based in large
part on recommendations from the
New Mexico branch of Teach Plus, a
national organization dedicated to elevating teacher voice in policymaking,
State lawmakers' opposition to the
system began almost from the getgo. They introduced bill after bill to
remake teacher evaluation in New
Mexico. None of them made it over
Tweaking the System
Earlier this year, the New Mexico
education department, then led by
Hanna Skandera, made some important tweaks to the system, in response to feedback from teachers and
mounting pressure from the Democratic-controlled state legislature.
The education department dialed
back the student-growth component
of the performance reviews, from
50 percent of a teacher's overall rating-one of the highest such proportions in the country-to 35 percent.
New Mexico Offers Teachers
A Seat at Policymaking Table
Effort follows contentious battles over teacher evaluation
There's another way to view the
state policy changes so far, some analysts say: There could have been more.
"Some folks thought after ESSA,
states would rush to undo this," said
In another sense, the swing toward including student achievement
in teacher evaluations really didn't
change much on the ground.
Just as before, nearly all teachers
continued to get positive ratings,
even in states that overhauled their
evaluation systems, a recent study
showed. (New Mexico, where nearly 1
in 4 teachers were rated "ineffective,"
is an outlier.) That's largely because
principal observations still make up
the bulk of the evaluations nationwide-and principals almost never
give bad reviews.
"There was some thought that if
you [toughen evaluation systems], a
whole bunch of teachers out there will
be able to demonstrate they aren't
able to do their job," said Exstrom. "I
think that just hasn't come to light. ...
It hasn't caused the big traumatic effects some thought would happen." In
fact, many states are more concerned
with teacher shortages than they are
with evaluation policies, she said.
Even so, the fate of teacher evaluations in many states may be dependent on the 2018 election results.
"Probably the more Democratic victories you see in state legislatures and
governorships, the more likely you
are to see teacher-evaluation reforms
rolled back to one extent or another,"
said McGuinn. "What the electoral results are in states and at the national
level in 2018-certainly, it matters."
Coverage of policy efforts to improve
the teaching profession is supported by
a grant from the Joyce Foundation, at
Education Week retains sole editorial
control over the content of this coverage.
Visit the Teacher Beat blog, which
tracks news and trends on this issue.
PAGE 18 >
By Alyson Klein
Santa Fe, N.M.
New Mexico's teachers, like their colleagues around
the country, have had to adjust to a lot of change over
the past half dozen years-new standards, tests, and
evaluations. And many feel like they didn't have a
say in any of it.
New Mexico's Public Education Department-the
PED-is trying to change that. Hanna Skandera,
the former state schools chief, put in place a spate of
initiatives aimed at giving teachers a voice in policymaking. Her successor, Christopher Ruszkowski, has
The initiatives are about two years old. It's tough
to say yet whether they will transform the tense relationship between the education agency and many
teachers in the state. Some teachers feel empowered
by the new forums, while others see them as little
more than a public relations push.
Skandera, who stepped down as the state education chief in June, wishes she had gotten teachers to
the policymaking table earlier in her tenure. Instead,
she delivered her message to superintendents and
expected them to pass it on to principals, who would
then relay it to teachers.
"It was the worst game of telephone ever," Skandera said. Teachers wound up with misinformation.
Some thought, for instance, that Skandera planned
to fire every educator who got an ineffective rating
in the state's tough teacher-evaluation system. The
education agency, she decided, would have to create
its own "tangible pathways for conversation."
Those pathways include an advisory council, made
up of 26 teachers who meet quarterly in person and
once a month by phone. There are also 50 "teacher
leader ambassadors," who have biweekly, virtual
meetings to talk about different professional topics.
They also receive leadership
training. A 36-member literacy
"dream team" helped develop
curriculum materials, and a
similar group is in the works
for social studies.
The PED is also hoping to
place a liaison in every one of
the state's nearly 850 schools,
to improve teacher communication. So far, more than
600 teachers have applied for
the posts. And two full-time
teacher liaisons work at the
department, both of them
fresh from the classroom.
New Mexico isn't the only Texico, N.M., teacher
state that's been working to elevate teacher voice, said Olympia Meola, a spokeswoman for the Council of Chief
State School Officers. But the Land of Enchantment
is "exemplary" for its goal of having a state liaison in
every school, she added.
hadn't heard of the advisory council or PED liaisons. "There is definitely some work to be done,"
That's not for lack of trying, said Alicia Duran, one
of the teacher liaisons working on the initiative. She's
sent emails to all New Mexico teachers, letting them
know about these programs, professional development opportunities, and more.
Another initiative participant, Alanna Purdy, who
teaches at Six Directions Indigenous School near
Gallup, said it doesn't feel like all of the communication is a two-way street, at least not yet.
"It's a nice idea, but I don't see it as being super
effective at this stage of its development," Purdy said.
Purdy said she saw more give-and-take as a New
Mexico fellow for Teach Plus, a national advocacy
group aimed at elevating teacher voice. Teach Plus
helped revamp the state's educator-evaluation system and develop the state's plan to implement the
Every Student Succeeds Act.
Over the summer, the education department also
held its second annual "teacher summit" in Albuquerque, offering professional development and a
chance to network with PED staff.
That was a "beautiful opportunity," said Shelbi
Simeone, an 8th grade special education teacher at
Vista Middle School in Las Cruces, and a Teach Plus
fellow. She was impressed that Ruszkowski let teachers air their concerns. "He wanted to hear from us, he
didn't get up there with the PowerPoint," she said.
But Betty Patterson, the president of the National
Education Association affiliate in New Mexico, saw
the summit, held at a resort near Albuquerque, as a
commercial for the department.
She sees the PED's teacher initiatives as an attempt to circumvent unions.
The NEA and the American
Federation of Teachers represent about half the state's
districts, including the biggest
"I'm annoyed they're going
around us," she said.
Stephanie Ly, the president
of the New Mexico branch of
the AFT, said the department
is handpicking teachers to participate in these initiatives.
"I think it's PED's way to
build a team around what their
talking points are," she said.
But the department's two
teacher liaisons-Duran and
Isaac Rivas-Savell-said they
don't consider whether a teacher is part of a union when
they look at applications for the various initiatives.
"Everyone can say whatever they want," Duran
said. "Teachers are a strong voice. I know I came in
pushing back against everything."
But Rivas-Savell did agree with the unions on one
point: The teacher-voice initiatives are, in some ways,
an effort to get around the state NEA and AFT, in
part because interactions with the unions have been
strained. Both unions have filed separate lawsuits
against the teacher-evaluation system.
"Because the relationship isn't there with the
unions, we have had to create a different voice for
teachers," Rivas-Savell said. And he's hoping the
initiatives survive pending political changes when
a new governor is elected, including Ruszkowski's
possible departure. "We're trying to establish roots
that are so solid in every school that this work remains even after the new administration comes in."
I feel there was a huge
disconnect between the
and the classroom prior
to this starting."
'Huge Lack of Trust'
Some teachers involved in the education department's programs say they feel heard by policymakers
for the first time.
"I feel like there was a huge disconnect between
the PED and the classroom prior to this starting,"
said Dawn Bilbrey, a 17-year veteran who teaches
8th grade language arts at Texico Middle School in
Texico, near the state's Texas border. "I feel so empowered."
But others say the department has a long way to go
if it really wants to earn teacher support.
"There's a huge lack of trust, and there has been
a big lack of transparency," said Aiofe Runyan, a
teacher at Kearny Elementary in Sante Fe, who
is both her school's union representative and a
member of the secretary's advisory council. "I
know they are trying to make things more transparent," she said, but many teachers in her school
Coverage of policy efforts to improve the teaching
profession is supported by a grant from the Joyce
Foundation, at www.joycefdn.org/Programs/Education.
Education Week retains sole editorial control over the
content of this coverage.
EDUCATION WEEK | November 15, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 17
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 15, 2017
Education Week - November 15, 2017
E-Schools Adapting to Transgender Students’ Needs
In Florida, Laissez-Faire Approach to Monitoring Private School Vouchers
New Survey Details Effect of Inclusion on Teaching Time
Are States Changing Course On Teacher Evaluation?
News in Brief
Teaching Parents the Right ‘Questions to Ask’ in Schools
Rising Food Allergies A Challenge for Schools
GreatSchools Expands Its Ratings on Schools
Study: Do Parents Need a Reason To Go School Shopping?
SNAPSHOT: Single-Gender Education
New Mexico Offers Teachers A Seat at Policymaking Table
Repercussions for K-12 From Democratic Election Gains
GOP Tax Plans Could Affect K-12 Aid, Teachers’ Pocketbooks
A One-Year Scorecard for Trump On K-12 Campaign-Trail Promises
A Primer on the Teacher Tax Break
Emily Phillips Galloway, Paola Uccelli & Christina Dobbs: The Power of Precise Language
Adam Urbanski, Tom Alves & Ellen Bernstein: Without Teacher Input, Ed. Reform Is Doomed to Fail
William Sterrett: Time Is a Principal’s Most Limited Resource
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Elaine Weiss & Christopher T. Cross: Education’s Golden Rule
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Are States Changing Course On Teacher Evaluation?
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Cover2
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 3
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Report Roundup
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 5
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Teaching Parents the Right ‘Questions to Ask’ in Schools
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Rising Food Allergies A Challenge for Schools
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - GreatSchools Expands Its Ratings on Schools
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Study: Do Parents Need a Reason To Go School Shopping?
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - SNAPSHOT: Single-Gender Education
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 11
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 12
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 13
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 14
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 15
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 16
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - New Mexico Offers Teachers A Seat at Policymaking Table
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 18
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - GOP Tax Plans Could Affect K-12 Aid, Teachers’ Pocketbooks
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - A One-Year Scorecard for Trump On K-12 Campaign-Trail Promises
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - A Primer on the Teacher Tax Break
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Adam Urbanski, Tom Alves & Ellen Bernstein: Without Teacher Input, Ed. Reform Is Doomed to Fail
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - William Sterrett: Time Is a Principal’s Most Limited Resource
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Readers React
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - 25
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Cover3
Education Week - November 15, 2017 - Elaine Weiss & Christopher T. Cross: Education’s Golden Rule