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New lawsuit filed to stop teacher evals

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A teachers union, five state lawmakers and seven individual teachers filed a lawsuit Friday to stop New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system.

The group argues in the suit that the state’s evaluation system is too “riddled with errors” to be an effective measure of teacher effectiveness, according to an American Federation of Teachers-New Mexico press release.

“Every teacher in New Mexico has felt a deep betrayal by this unfair evaluation system. An injunction would give teachers the time and space they need to focus on teaching rather than on an uncertain future based on unfair measures,” Stephanie Ly, president of AFT New Mexico, said in the release.

The New Mexico Public Education Department put the new evaluation system in place last school year. After teachers received their evaluations in May, hundreds of teachers, maybe more, said their ratings were incorrect.

The Public Education Department and school districts have worked to correct the errors. Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera has said the errors were caused by bad data coming from school districts.

Six of the seven teachers who are plaintiffs in the suit are from Albuquerque. In the suit, each of them argues they were unfairly rated under the evaluation system.

Plaintiff Ron Lavandoski, a special education ninth-grade math teacher at Cibola High School, received a “minimally effective” rating because of faulty data, he said in the suit.

“Mr. Lavandoski states that his student achievement score is based on incorrect data and on his former students who took the math SBA in 10th grade in the year after they were his students,” the suit said.

The state called it a frivolous suit.

“Three separate times, three different courts in New Mexico have upheld our teacher evaluation system,” said PED Chief of Staff Ellen Hur. “It’s time for the union to stop obstructing so we can focus on serving our students and improving our education system instead of wasting precious time and resources on yet another frivolous lawsuit.”

Plaintiffs also include: Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque; Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque; Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces; Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City; and Sen. Linda Lopez D-Albuquerque.

A similar group – which included AFT New Mexico, Williams Stapleton, Lopez and Morales – filed a petition in 2013 that challenged Skandera’s authority to implement a new evaluation system by administrative rule and not through legislation.

The state Court of Appeals rejected the petition and so did a district court judge.

Meanwhile, another group – which includes the National Educators Association-New Mexico, Stewart and two teachers – filed a suit in September challenging the evaluation system.