By: Victor Romero
I would urge everyone to support AB320. It is important to have equitable evaluations that reflect the individual teacher’s performance.
I have had the opportunity, and privilege of being a special education teacher at Desert Pines High School for the past 4 years. Desert Pines is a Title 1, Tier 1 high school just off of Pecos and Bonanza.
We have a student population approaching 3000 and around 13 percent of those students receive special education services. As of last count, that number was 362. We are understaffed and struggling to keep up. According to Nevada Administrative Code 388.150, the maximum caseload for a teacher in my position is 22 students. Over the course of the school year I have exceeded this limit multiple times. We have had caseloads of 32 and 36. That does not count the other students that I must take care of when we have someone on administration leave, maternity leave, or family and medical leave.
Why is this important and related to AB320? When I received my evaluation scores, I got all threes and one four except for one exception. That exception is the “School wide Aggregate Score.” Twenty Percent of my evaluation was determined by standardized tests scores and not the students I directly work with. I unfortunately received a 2. It had nothing to do with my teaching, how I teach, or what I teach - I got a 2 because I work at Desert Pines High School. We need more teachers who want to stay at Desert Pines. I stay at Desert Pines because I love those kids, I love my department, and I love the potential for excellence that we often demonstrate, despite our circumstances. However, the current evaluation system discourages people from staying at Desert Pines High School.
We need more teachers to support our students. I love Desert Pines and am very loyal to the students of Desert Pines. However, if this aggregate score begins to account for forty percent of my evaluation next year and drops my score below a three, I will have to leave Desert Pines. I really don’t want too.
For Special Education Teachers, this system is especially unfair. The goals for our severely disabled students have nothing to do with standardized testing. These goals can consist of, but is not limited to, functional skills like holding a fork or sweeping the floor, saying one's name, brushing one's teeth, eating independently, and even using the restroom independently. That’s why the formative exam part of this bill is important. Standardized tests are the wrong instrument to measure the progress of a student with severe disabilities.
Standardized tests are also the wrong instrument to evaluate teacher effectiveness. We educate all children in public schools. As the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states, all children are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. We need an evaluation system that reflects that.