In the wake of criticism from teachers unions and educators, the state’s Public Education Department will let school districts decide whether to fire teachers rated ineffective or minimally effective — for at least a year.
Late last week, school leaders and teachers union representatives accused Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration of reversing an earlier vow to let school districts have the final say on firing a teacher with a low rating under the state’s new evaluation system.
That outburst came after the department issued a letter Dec. 22 to district superintendents, principals and charter schools of policy changes directing them to not renew the licenses of Level 1 teachers if they are rated ineffective or minimally effective.
That letter also directed district leaders to request an extension on licenses for a Level 2 teacher rated ineffective.
The National Education Association of New Mexico and others, including TJ Parks, the head of the state’s school superintendent’s association, and Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan and superintendent of that district, argued that districts should retain that control.
On Friday, the Public Education Department stepped back, sending a follow-up memo “offering additional flexibility” for districts and school leaders. It now allows them to request a one-year extension on any Level 1 teacher deemed ineffective or minimally effective.
The rules regarding Level 2 teachers remain the same and include the provision that they earn at least 50 percent of possible points on their evaluation and submit a professional dossier, which costs $320.
“I am glad the second memo came out,” National Education Association-New Mexico President Betty Patterson said Sunday. “It does give us a year to work on this problem with evaluations. Hopefully, we can find some answers within this year of extension.”
The teacher evaluation plan, which Martinez initiated by executive rule in 2012, relies heavily on student test scores and classroom observations to determine whether teachers are “ineffective,” “minimally effective,” “effective,” “highly effective” or “exemplary.”
At that time, the state assured teachers it would not use the system to fire them and said the decision to do so would remain in the hands of local districts.
Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.