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Editorial: New teacher evaluations are evaluations in name only

The state’s Public Education Department is rolling out a new system it says will “evaluate” teachers.

It replaces evaluations that put student improvement front and center. Those evaluations, installed under the prior administration, were controversial, and though they were revised several times to balance student academic achievements with teacher concerns, they never received buy-in from those being evaluated. Little wonder they were among the first things Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham jettisoned when she took office last year.

Teacher Evals 2.0, aka the Elevate New Mexico system, will use professional development plans created by teachers, observations from fellow teachers and administrators, and surveys of families and students to gauge teacher performance. Notably absent is any mention of student academic achievement or teacher attendance.

PED Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment says while academic progression of students can be used to map out professional development plans, student achievement data will not be directly tied to teacher evaluations. Evaluating teachers with zero regard for the actual job they do – teaching students who are supposed to get a year’s worth of learning in a year – is shocking in light of the Yazzie/Martinez court ruling that says the state must stop giving short shrift to students, especially at-risk populations.

With evaluations like this, we will never know if we have done right by our more than 300,000 K-12 public school students.

This new “evaluation system” is one in name only, focusing on what teachers think they should work on and popularity surveys of colleagues and families. It gives the hardest-working teachers no credit for improving the academic performance of their students or for showing up for work every day. Making the system worth even less, it places no particular weight on any given component, and in its first year so-called soft rollout, PED will not send educators and school districts an official evaluation report with a ranking. Given the challenges of this year’s COVID-19, that makes sense. But long-term, the new system needs to be one that does take academic performance and absenteeism into account.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.