Teaching Profession

New Mexico Judge Scotches Teacher-Evaluation Penalties, for Now

By Stephen Sawchuk — December 03, 2015 1 min read
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A New Mexico court has granted a partial injuction preventing the state from using its teacher-evaluation system to punish or reward teachers until a court can decide whether the system is fair, the Associated Press reports.

“The problem at this stage in the litigation is that New Mexico appears to be a Beta test where the teachers bear the burden for its uneven and inconsistent application,” Judge David K. Thomson wrote. "... There may be a use of the term value added model, but it is less like a model than a cafeteria-style evaluation system where the combinatino of factors are not easily determined and the variance from school district to school district is alarming. That said, the [state education department] is making serious efforts to normalize the process.”

It’s a win—for the moment—for the AFT-New Mexico and its Albuquerque affiliate, which argue that the system is based on flawed or incomplete data and should be tossed out.

In New Mexico’s system, student-achievement growth counts for up to 50 percent of a teacher’s rating, with teacher observations and other factors making up the rest of the evaluation. But unions in the state have repeatedly tried to prevent the system from taking effect.

The state education department said the state hasn’t used the results to penalize teachers and will continue to implement the system and collect data on teacher performance.

New Mexico isn’t the only state where teacher evaluation remains in a state of legal limbo. Other civil trials to decide the fate of teacher evaluation in Tennessee, New York, and Houston are still pending. (Education Week has a handy guide explaining the status of these lawsuits.)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.