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PED plans $7M pilot merit-pay programs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s Public Education Department will announce today plans to spend about $7 million on merit-pay pilot programs at nine school districts and 12 charter schools this school year.

“Our best teachers deserve to be paid more,” Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera told the Journal on Monday.

The PED allowed school districts and charters to submit their own plans for merit-pay programs, which the department approved. All but four of the districts that submitted plans received approval and the PED is working with them to get them approved, Skandera said.

By allowing districts to design their own programs, state education officials can explore different ways merit pay might eventually work as a statewide program, Skandera said.

“These proposals are a critical first step in helping us to understand the best ways to reward and thank our effective teachers all over the state,” she said.

Albuquerque Public Schools did not apply for the program. APS School Board President Analee Maestas said she wishes it had, but the board never discussed the program and it was an administrative decision not to pursue the pilot. An official from APS’ human resources department was not available for comment Monday.

The nine school districts that did take part are: Santa Fe, Pojoaque, Floyd, Hobbs, Gallup, Farmington, Raton, Lordsburg and Des Moines.

Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said she hadn’t seen the specific merit-pay pilots, but is generally skeptical of merit pay. She said teachers are already working hard and she doubts merit pay will motivate them to work any harder.

“There is not a teacher in the world holding back their performance,” Bernstein said.

Because the programs vary by district, some provide extra pay to teachers on an individual basis, others focus on group accomplishments and some do both.

The Public Academy for Performing Arts has a program that awards teachers both as individuals and as group, said Executive Director Doreen Winn. One of the ways a teacher at PAPA can qualify for merit pay is if the school earns an “A” or a “B” on its state-issued report card and the individual teacher is rated “effective” or better on his or her state-issued teacher evaluation, Winn said.

If the school earns an “A” on its report card, a teacher with an “effective” or better rating on his or her evaluation will earn a $3,000 stipend. For a “B” grade, they would be eligible for $2,000.

“I like the group idea,” Winn said. “I think we all need to work together. Because there are too many other factors that can affect an individual’s score.”

The merit-pay pilot at La Promesa Early-Learning Center meanwhile is individually focused and tied to teachers’ evaluations, said Maestas, who is the executive director of the charter school.

Merit pay will be distributed this coming spring, said PED spokesman Larry Behrens.