PED releases report card grades on state’s teacher prep programs

Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski
By Shelby Perea
Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Starting July 1, teacher preparation programs in the state will be graded by the Public Education Department with the majority of points coming from components of its teacher evaluations — a controversial measuring system that gubernatorial candidates have vowed to do away with.

The new rule allows PED to rate educator preparation programs or EPPs — which ultimately license teachers — through site visits and a scorecard system, mirroring the A through F school grades. And it allows the department to decide which programs can stay up and running.

Despite pushback from senators and educators, PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski signed the rule into effect last week and told the Journal that the rule hasn’t really changed following public comments in May.

During that period, some supported the rule, saying the policy addresses teachers who aren’t prepared the first day of school and children facing the consequences.

But opponents said PED is overreaching its authority and was grading the program on factors that can’t be controlled, such as the diversity of a cohort or whether teachers stay in the state.

Ruszkowski said PED did alter how things were calculated in response to feedback from college deans.

“Part of what we did was adjusted the weights based upon what we want to signal as important versus what we want the bulk of the grade to be comprised of,” he said, adding the majority of points still reflect “how teachers are doing in the classroom.”

Instead of being monitored by national accreditation groups, New Mexico’s private and public EPPs will now be annually scored based on recruitment, training, hiring and retention, and graduates’ performances.

In anticipation of the rule change, PED released preliminary 2017 scorecards on 13 EPPs in the state — none of which got an A.

The majority of schools got a C. But the University of New Mexico, Central New Mexico Community College, New Mexico State University and Northern New Mexico College earned a B.

For each factor being graded, the program must meet a benchmark percentage to get the full points. For instance, PED’s goal is to have 75 percent of the cohort to be ethnically diverse, which the department says mirrors New Mexico’s student population. UNM had about 58 percent.

UNM’s data also showed that 56 percent of its teachers stay in the state, and PED expects that to be closer to 85 percent.

UNM got a B in all four categories. Dean Salvador Hector Ochoa couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.

Ruszkowski said there are five things all teacher prep schools could be doing better: practice over theory, clinical experience, collaboration with districts, data tracking on teachers’ post-graduation and bigger emphasis on recruitment.

“New Mexico has the absolute obligation to value teachers teaching in New Mexico and to incentivize teachers in the state,” he said.

The secretary-designate said New Mexico is among the first handful of states that are implementing evaluations on EPPs, saying Tennessee and Delaware are as well. And he said Massachusetts, Louisiana and Rhode Island are making similar efforts.

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