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Editorial: Eval ruling hurts students, struggling teachers, public

A state district court judge has said the teacher evaluation system developed by the New Mexico Public Education Department is based on a sound policy and statistical foundation – but the data collection and reporting that feeds it needs a closer look.

Considering Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera’s contention that errors in the first round of evals were due largely to school districts supplying bad data as well as startup confusion, it would be good to get that closer look and finally put to rest the Sturm und Drang that has surrounded the evals since their inception. Meanwhile, it’s too bad those who need help the most will pay the price.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s interpretation, that Santa Fe Judge David Thomson recognized the eval system is “deeply flawed,” would fail any core English, history or civics class. It would fare no better in a forensics elective. In fact, the judge says his ruling “does not stop the PED’s operation, development and improvement” of the evaluation system. It does keep PED from taking “consequential actions” against teachers based on it.

To date the evaluations have not prompted a firing, pay cut or loss of license; those so-called “consequential actions” have amounted to placing struggling teachers on improvement plans so they, and thus their students, can get help and on a positive track.

That means the real losers from last week’s ruling are the struggling teachers, their struggling students, and taxpayers, who in addition to paying billions for K-12 public schools annually now get to fund the defense of twin lawsuits filed by teachers, their unions and a handful of state lawmakers. The lawsuits ignore the Obama administration’s push to tie student improvement to teacher performance evaluations, a move to rate educators like employees in the private sector – on the results of their work.

PED says “nothing changes” in light of the ruling and the evaluation system will move forward. What needs to change is how New Mexico has allowed its K-12 education system to deliver students ill-equipped for life after public school, the exact reason evals were revamped in the first place.

Both anti-eval cases are scheduled to go to trial in April, and the sooner the evaluations are again fully implemented, the better – for students, for educators who care about them, and for taxpayers.

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