My name is Heidi Schembri, and I have been teaching for 15 years in Los Alamos Public Schools. I love my profession and have had the honor to work with many wonderful children, parents, school employees and community members.
Over the last several years, there has been much controversy over the new teacher evaluation system. Our current New Mexico teacher evaluation system rates teachers on the following criteria: “Each category is weighted according to the amount of student achievement data available for the teacher. Improved student achievement is worth from 0 percent to 50 percent; classroom observations are worth 25 percent to 50 percent; planning, preparation and professionalism is worth 15 percent to 40 percent; and parent/student surveys are worth 10 percent.” (http://ped.state.nm.us/ped/NMTeach_EvaluationPlan.html).
For my entire teaching career, I have received highly effective or exemplary scores. This year I was shocked to receive a minimally effective score on my evaluation. The only area I did not receive an almost perfect score was the student achievement portion. On this portion I scored 0.162 percent. There are many errors in the data. For example the data reported that one year I taught 36 students, and the next year I taught four students. “Testimony from New Mexico Public Department’s own experts revealed as many as 10 percent of educators are incorrectly scored in the evaluation process.” (AFT, New Mexico, 2016).
I do not feel that this evaluation represents the education I provide my students. My co-teacher, school staff, parents, community members and I work very hard to provide hands on lessons through play based instruction to our students; we participate in numerous field trips each school year; we have lots of community presenters in our program; and we design our classroom environment to reach all students’ social development and academics needs. Our greatest goal is to teach students’ that the only way to learn is to make errors, work together, do our best, and grow from our mistakes. By doing these things we will become the best community members we can be.
Under the current New Mexico evaluation system, if the state miscalculates “again” my students’ growth on the state standardized assessment and I receive another minimally effective score the state will reject renewal of my teaching license. Without a teaching license, I will have to find a new profession.
The school district is in the process of appealing any inaccurate teacher evaluation. I am trying to collect artifacts from parents, students and community members that prove to the state that I am more than a minimally effective teacher. If you would like to help please send your letters to:
P.S. PED, Legislators and Secretary Skandera, please reevaluate this system to better reflect the work that teachers do in their classroom before we lose too many children to ineffective teaching methods, which focus only on test results; or we lose great teachers to better paying professions.