- Associated Press - Thursday, November 3, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A revamped New Mexico teacher evaluation changed after a court ruling is drawing surprise and concern from some educators.

Though the state Public Education Department earlier this year mandated that attendance be factored in teachers’ performance evaluations, Santa Fe and Los Alamos school leaders recently expressed surprise regarding the change, the Santa Fe New Mexican (https://bit.ly/2eDt5NT ) reported.

The department required attendance to be factored in to teachers’ performance evaluations after a judge ruled the evaluation system needed to be more uniform. Before, state officials gave school districts the option to use attendance as an alternative to considering surveys of parents and students.

The state says including attendance helps reduce teacher absences, saves money on paying substitute teachers and increases students’ learning time.

The department sent out a memo to school officials in January detailing the change and issued a second notice in August. Still, the leaders of the Santa Fe and Los Alamos districts were caught off guard and said they were concerned about how it will affect teachers.

Santa Fe Superintendent Veronica Garcia said she doesn’t want teachers to come to work sick because missing work could affect their evaluations.

“I don’t see how a teacher who is ill in school can provide optimum instruction,” Garcia said. “It’s not healthy for anyone to be at school with the flu.”

Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said he learned about the change during a conference call about a month ago. Steinhaus said he also talked to a colleague in a southern New Mexico district who was thrown by the change.

Garcia and Steinhaus both said they thought they still could choose between the two options.

Public Education Department spokesman Robert McEntyre said districts that haven’t been weighing teacher attendance must now count that measure for 5 percent of an evaluation.

McEntyre said teachers can miss up to three days of work without being penalized.

The new guidelines do not dock teachers for absences covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or absences because of military duty, jury duty, bereavement, religious leave or professional development programs.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.sfnewmexican.com

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