- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The much-debated teacher evaluation system in New Mexico is getting a makeover amid a court challenge and feedback from educators, the New Mexico Public Education Department announced.

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera told The Associated Press on Friday that the revisions will streamline the system and will likely lead to less testing of students. She also said teacher evaluations will be more uniform statewide instead of each district submitting 89 different versions.

“Teacher evaluations will be simplified and transparent,” Skandera said.

Under the changes, evaluations will be based on improved student achievement, observations and teacher attendance or student surveys. Before districts had more flexibility on what criteria they could use to evaluate teachers.

The change come after a Santa Fe judge ruled in December that the New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system couldn’t be used to affect teachers’ licensures amid an ongoing legal fight between teachers unions and the state.

The ruling still allowed New Mexico officials to continue collecting data from the new evaluations that have drawn scrutiny from some Democrats and union leaders.

American Federation of Teachers New Mexico and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation had sought a partial injunction while their lawsuit against the evaluation system moves through the courts. They say the evaluation system is forcing veteran educators to retire or have their licenses jeopardized, and they want it thrown out.

The judge told New Mexico education officials to make the evaluations were uniform and Skandera said that’s what these changes do.

“This is better all the way around,” Skandera said.

Still, American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly denounced the changes and called them attempts to obscure deficiencies in the evaluation system.

“We are troubled, however, that once again, these changes are being implemented from the top down and if the secretary and her staff were serious about improving student outcomes and producing a fair evaluation system, they would have involved teachers, principals, and superintendents in the process,” Ly said.


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .

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