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New Mexico's Plan for Teacher Accountability Termed

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The New Mexico State Board of Education is putting into effect a new "staff-accountability plan" designed to improve the performance of the 1,200 new teachers who enter the state's public schools each year.

The plan, which one state education department official called "the most comprehensive teacher-accountability plan in the country," is the result of an 18-month study conducted by the state education department with $35,000 appropriated by the state legislature in 1980.

Teachers Evaluated

Working with 26 representatives from the state chapters of the American Federation of Teachers (aft), the National Education Association (nea), the Parent-Teacher Association, as well as state teacher-training institutions, representatives from local school districts, and others, the education department devised a plan that will evaluate new and prospective teachers at three points in their training and early career experience:

When seeking admission to teacher-training programs at any level. Under this part of the plan, a school of education must administer a basic-skills examination in reading, writing, and mathematics to teacher candidates prior to admission in order to receive or to maintain state accreditation.

The test will be given to prospective new teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

According to Carroll L. Hall, state director of evaluation, assessment, and testing, the content of the examination and the score required to pass it would be determined by the institution, but such standards would be subject to review and approval by the state board of education. This provision, adopted by the board last November, goes into effect in July 1983.

When seeking initial certification after graduation. The plan requires an examination in the areas of "general education," "communications skills," "methods and practices," and "content specialization knowledge" [in a candidate's desired teaching field].

However, the actual tests used for this purpose have not yet been adopted.

The state is considering several tests, including the National Teacher Examination developed by the Educational Testing Service.

The board has also directed the state department of education to develop tests of its own for possible consideration; the board will eventually set the passing score once a final decision is reached on which test to use.

This provision, which also goes into effect in July 1983, will not apply to teachers who are already certified. The question of whether and how many times a candidate can take retake the test is still under study.

During the first three years of a teacher's career. The state would conduct a series of "probationary" evaluations during the first two years, followed by a third-year assessment of classroom performance. The state education department will soon draw up "criteria of performance," Mr. Hall said, for use in these evaluations.

The method of evaluation, and the criteria involved, are not yet settled. A new group of 26 educators, representing the same state groups as the original commit-tee, is currently working on this third phase of evaluation.

This will not affect teachers currently in New Mexico's schools. There will be a grievance procedure, but the details of the procedure are not yet fully worked out; they are not due until July 1984.

nea Concerned

Bonnie Short, president of nea-New Mexico, said her organization is concerned with the second and third provisions.

"nea is opposed to the post-graduate elimination test prior to initial certification," she said.

"This is a quick-fix. We believe that early clinical classroom teaching experience is the key."

Regarding the third component of the program, she said, "We believe classroom teachers must have a meaningful influence in implementing that section."

How all of this will affect teacher contracts in the state is being studied by the state education department's legal staff.

nea-New Mexico represents 7,000 of the 17,000 teachers in the state.

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