The New Mexico Public Education Department has changed its teacher evaluation system to mandate teacher attendance as a factor in rating teachers.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reported in November, “Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the state has moved to a ‘more uniform’ evaluation system, and is now requiring both attendance information and surveys from all educators.”
Prior to the change, districts could use either attendance or parent and student surveys for 10 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Now, attendance must count for 5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. A teacher can miss up to three days of school without it negatively affecting the evaluation.
“A review in recent years showed Santa Fe teachers were absent an average of 17 workdays in a school year, compared to a national average of nine days at the time,” the New Mexican reported.
‘Not Just Lounging Around’
Lynda L. Hahn, a 7th grade teacher at Eisenhower Middle School in Albuquerque, says she has legitimate reasons to take days off.
“Wouldn’t life be easier if doctors, lawyers, bankers, accountants, therapists, dentists, etc. would take evening or Saturday appointments?” Hahn said. “It certainly would be for teachers in the State of New Mexico.
“I’m certain my students’ parents do not want me coming to school ill to spread the germs to their child,” Hahn said. “Frankly, some appointments cannot be scheduled outside of the duty day, and certain medical appointments must be first thing in the morning. I’m certainly not taking off just to lounge around. It is more work for me to prepare for a sub, because most substitutes are not highly qualified in our area of teaching, so I have to make a different lesson plan that is more student-directed instead of teacher-directed.”
Absenteeism ‘Cause for Dismissal’
Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation in New Mexico, says the public sector should imitate the private sector when it comes to employee absences.
“Clearly, in the private sector, absenteeism is cause for dismissal,” Gessing said. “Unfortunately, school districts, as government institutions, lack the ability to easily hire and fire employees in the same manner as do their counterparts in the private sector. And while there should be consideration for serious health issues and other problems that are out of educators’ control, it is fair for attendance to be factored into teacher evaluations.
“The best solution is to have a more market-based, school-choice model to hold teachers and schools accountable and provide financial incentives to top performers,” Gessing said. “Unfortunately, gains in those areas have been slow to come by, in large part due to powerful unions that both inhibit school choice and encourage preservation of the jobs of lower-quality teachers. However, if imposed reasonably, factoring attendance into overall teacher evaluations is a common-sense solution to absenteeism.”
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.