- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - An ongoing legal fight between teachers unions and the state over New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system will get its day in court next year.

A District Court judge on Monday agreed to hear the case on Oct. 23, 2017. The long wait comes after Albuquerque Teachers Federation and American Federation of Teachers-New Mexico attorney Shane Youtz requested time to review New Mexico Public Education Department changes to the evaluation process.

The federation’s national president, Randi Weingarten, attended the hearing.

“This is an important lawsuit nationally,” she said outside the courtroom. “There is the right way and the wrong way to actually build the capacity of your workforce, and what PED has done is the wrong way.”

In January, the department announced changes that simplify the evaluations, moving from 107 assessment categories to just three.

The teachers unions argue the evaluation system is forcing veteran educators to retire or have their licenses jeopardized. The system ties teacher performance to test scores.

“Even though they know they can’t be harmed in their jobs right now, it bothers them in the core of their being, and nothing I can say can take that away,” said Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation. “It’s a cloud over everybody.”

PED has argued that their system creates accountability and helps teachers improve.

“A special interest group and their national union boss continued their quest to reverse the progress in New Mexico’s schools and preserve the status quo,” said department spokesman Robert McEntyre of Monday’s decision. “As we’ve said from the beginning, our teachers should be no different from every other profession that is evaluated, because it allows us to recognize those who are highly effective and help those who are struggling.”

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