ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — American Federation of Teachers-New Mexico and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation filed a motion against the state Public Education Department for using its teacher evaluations to decide which educators can teach at Albuquerque’s lowest performing schools.
The unions recently filed the motion in state District Court in Santa Fe, saying that a 2015 injunction prohibits PED from using value-added models (VAM) – including PED’s teacher evals – in a way that “affects teacher tenure or disciplinary status” until a final decision on the merits of VAM can be made, which is scheduled to happen this fall.
The motion notes that Albuquerque Public Schools can’t re-employ teachers, at “more rigorous intervention” schools Los Padillas and Whittier elementaries, who aren’t rated as effective or better per PED’s condition on the schools.
“These teachers are being removed from the school under PED order based on their VAM score,” said Shane Youtz, the unions’ attorney. “Absolutely, we want to get the best teachers to the students in need, but the notion that this is the best and accurate way to do that is not supported by any evidence.”
A teacher’s evaluation rating is based primarily on student growth – measured through test scores – and classroom observations. Planning, surveys and attendance are also factors.
Teachers can get from ineffective, minimally effective, effective, highly effective and exemplary ratings.
“The PED is attempting to use the summative evaluation ratings and VAM scores to determine who is able to continue teaching and who must leave the two MRI schools,” ATF said in an email to members.
The motion argues that is an adverse consequence to teachers and violates the injunction.
PED could not immediately be reached for comment.
There are 14 teachers at Los Padillas and 21 at Whittier, according to the motion.
“These teachers will be subject to a teacher evaluation scheme that was otherwise enjoined for all other teachers in New Mexico,” it says.
Youtz told the Journal the motion asks the judge to tell PED to hold off on the condition that requires MRI schools to be staffed with effective or better teachers until a final decision from the court is made on the injunction.
He was not sure when a judge will make a decision on this motion but said action is needed before the 2018-19 school year starts.
The motion comes in the wake of improvement measures being placed on chronically low-perfoming schools in the state. Los Padillas earned five consecutive F grades and Whittier earned six.
Since the announcement that Los Padillas and Whittier would be targeted for development, there have been months of back-and-forth between PED and APS, getting restructuring plans finalized and conditions agreed upon.
According to PED letters, the state agency had previously required that the teachers be exclusively highly effective or exemplary for these schools. That was later changed to the effective or higher measure now being required.