ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A nonprofit group has caused a stir by sending out mailers that criticize the old teacher evaluation system used by Albuquerque Public Schools, while touting a new model being enacted by the state’s Public Education Department.
The fliers, paid for by New Mexico Competes, blast Albuquerque’s “failed status quo system” while claiming it has led to 99 percent of APS teachers being designated as high-performing.
Superintendent Winston Brooks of APS said Thursday that he believes the mailers are politically motivated and misguided.
“I think it would have been better for this nonprofit to use the money to purchase socks and underwear for our kids than to put out this flier that most people don’t understand,” Brooks told the Journal .
He said the 99 percent figure actually refers to competency and said many teachers are shifted out of teaching positions before they can be evaluated. Although Brooks said some changes should be made, he claimed the new PED teacher evaluation system will lead to too much time spent evaluating and not enough time spent teaching.
The executive director of New Mexico Competes, Sara Lister, a former deputy Cabinet secretary in the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez, declined to say Thursday exactly how many fliers were sent out, but said they were received by thousands of New Mexicans.
She said the nonprofit, which does not plan to disclose its donors, believes it is vitally important to inform state residents about the importance of education reform.
“Our recent mailer provides information about the new teacher evaluation system and the need to reward great teachers and provide assistance to those that are struggling,” Lister said in an email. “Additionally, it addresses the need for student achievement to be a factor in the evaluation process, which it is currently lacking.”
The new teacher evaluation model has drawn strong opposition from teacher unions.
The system, put into place this year, evaluates teachers by using several factors, including the academic progress of students and classroom observations. It was implemented administratively by Public Education Department chief Hanna Skandera after two failed attempts to gain approval in the Legislature.
Skandera has said the state’s old teacher evaluation system did not adequately measure student achievement. She has also said New Mexico is near the bottom in national rankings on teacher effectiveness.
However, Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said Thursday that she believes the new system is not policy-driven.
“This is not about getting better teachers,” said Bernstein, who had not seen the New Mexico Competes mailers. “This is a political system.”
The fliers sent out this week do not represent the first time New Mexico Competes has advocated on a hot-button issue. The nonprofit group also paid for radio ads last month that touted the Martinez administration’s handling of a state behavioral health system shake-up.