Teacher evaluation bill makes return

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By Tris DeRoma

A bill concerning teacher evaluation that was vetoed by the governor last year has come back again.
Sponsored by Sen. Howie Morales, the bill allows for school officials to negotiate certain parts of the process, such as the student evaluation part of the bill. The bill calls for limiting that part to 20 percent of the total evaluation. The bill also calls for the process to be more confidential, and for more teacher and district support.
Last year, the New Mexico Senate passed the bill 21 to 18. Sen. Richard Martinez voted for the bill while Sen. Carlos Cisneros was excused. In the house, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard voted in favor of the bill as well.
Through a written statement, Morales said he decided to resurrect the the bill for a few important reasons.
“SB 588 is important to New Mexico’s public education system because educators deserve to be evaluated by those who know that system inside and out,” Morales said. “Creating a sound and reasonable way to evaluate these respected professionals will not only keep good educators in New Mexico public schools, but will assure that our students have the best educators preparing them to be productive citizens in the global economy.”
The American Federation of Teachers, NM is a chief proponent of the bill. Stephanie Ly, president of the state chapter, said in a recent editorial that the critical attacks on the New Mexico Department of Education over the new system could have been avoided, if the governor hadn’t vetoed the bill last year.
“The confusion and stress around the implementation of an evaluation system could have been avoided had the governor not vetoed SB 588a in 2013,” she said. “SB 588a called for an evaluation system that complied with federal mandates and allowed districts to use measures of student achievement. It also allowed teachers and school districts to collaborate on what data would be used and how the data would used as well as how the new system would be implemented.”
At least one of Los Alamos lawmakers, Garcia Richard, is supportive of the bill’s return.
“I commend Senator Morales and am in agreement with his recent move to override Governor Martinez’s veto on the teacher evaluation system we worked so hard on last session,” she said. “Our current system is failing our children, teachers, and state. Governor Martinez has fought for years to pass a third-grade retention policy that would not be necessary if teachers were actually able to teach rather than spending hours trying to navigate a disastrous teacher evaluation system.”
Ellen Mills, president of the Los Alamos Federation of School Employees, an affiliate of AFT NM, said that indeed, the evaluation method being used by the New Mexico Public Education Department is flawed, and it’s not just teachers and administrators from Los Alamos that are saying that.
“The governor and PED created a teacher evaluation tool using the rule and regulation statute. This tool was implemented quickly and has proven to be incomplete or inaccurate. School personnel have raised many questions and concerns regarding the tool, and are particularlyconcerned about the high percentage of teacher evaluation relying on student test results,” she said.
“As I attend legislative related meetings, districts from around the state all report the same concerns about implementation, training, and content of the tool despite the distance and diversity of districts in New Mexico.”