Educators voice concerns at forum

With the onset of a new teacher and principal evaluation system, local educators jumped at the opportunity to voice their concerns to the state's Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera at an educator forum Wednesday at Portales High School.

Parents also posed questions to Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, who sits on the House's education committee, about the new system which is scheduled to go into effect in August and the curriculum of the new common core standards.

"Common core is a new set of standards that were not created by the feds but a coalition of states emphasizing basic standards," Roch said. Roch described the new common core standards as ones that assess the grasp of a student's depth in a subject.

Roch said the system is also beneficial because it requires a child to dig deeper into core subjects, such as reading, and rather than just assessing if students understand what they've read, they will be asked tougher questions to determine their reading comprehension.

"It's raising the bar academically and it's preparing students for college and career and that's the goal," Roch said.

But teachers' main concern was that the switch to this new system will reflect negatively on their evaluations and the test scores of their students because the standards have been set differently.

One elementary school teacher said she feared that even after meeting the criteria set for them, the test scores of her students will reflect a negative score. Skandera admitted that these next couple of years, school grades will drop because of the new system, but she said schools won't be singled out if this happens because her department expects drops statewide.

"When we transition to common core, we're going to see the affects statewide," Skandera said. "We'll probably see a dip but it doesn't mean we're failing our students."

Another issue many teachers were concerned about was the amount of testing students will endure because of the new standards. In addition to final exams, and exit exams for high school seniors, students will be given end of course testing to make sure students are performing well enough, according to Roch.

Several teachers expressed that the testing dictates the way they teach their curriculum throughout the semester and stifles creativity.

Portales High School Principal Melvin Nusser said with these standards, students are being tested the last five weeks of school. Other teachers echoed Nusser in that they feel students are constantly being assessed and won't be able to explain why scores have improved or worsened.

"My fear is that we're moving so fast, we won't be able to tell you how graduation rates have increased," said Nusser as a critique of the new system.

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