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Editorial: Teacher evaluation petition another stalling tactic

An Albuquerque representative calls it an effort to block an “end run” around the law-making process.

The New Mexico Public Education Department calls it “terribly unfortunate.”

But let’s just call the legal petition asking the state District Court to stop the state’s new teacher evaluation system what it is: yet another attempt to perpetuate a status quo that leaves around half of New Mexico’s students unable to read or do math at grade level.

The petition claims that some elements of the administrative rule put in place by education chief Hanna Skandera conflict with state law and are therefore illegal.


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Specifically, it cites language that teacher evaluations have to be “uniform statewide” and “the school principal shall observe each teacher’s classroom practice.”

In arguing that the evals are not uniform, the petition points to language in the rule that gives charter schools the option of a waiver.

Yet no charters have applied for waivers, none has been granted – and none could be if the state is to comply with its own waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. It’s a simple matter of PED cleaning up its enabling language to reflect reality.

In arguing that principals and only principals can do the classroom observation portion of the evals, the petition sets an unreasonable burden on school leaders while discounting the expertise of support personnel and master teachers.

It will be up to the court to parse the language, but if it decides principals must perform all classroom observations, then those hard-working folks will simply have to re-prioritize.

Because despite what the Legislature and teachers’ unions say, the status quo that leaves three of every 10 New Mexico students without a high school diploma is as unacceptable today as it was in January 2011.

And 2012.

Yet the inaction of the Roundhouse – as petitioners Sens. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, and Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, are aware – in the last three sessions is exactly why teacher evaluations tied to student progress had to be instituted via administrative rule rather than statute. And the petitioners should note that the evaluations are mandatory if the state public education system is to remain free of the pre-determined-to-fail regulations of NCLB.

Then again, it’s very comfortable for the status quo to remain under a system the petitioners can summarily dismiss as unfair while avoiding all measures of accountability.

Spokesman Larry Behrens says PED “will fight yet another tactic to delay because we understand over 300,000 New Mexico students deserve better.”

He’s right. And state lawmakers and teachers unions know better.

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.