By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE — A teacher evaluation plan promoted by Gov. Susana Martinez has sparked protests from some educators and unions accusing Martinez and the Public Education Department of being anti-teacher but Martinez defended her reform measures, telling New Mexico Watchdog, “I’m so pro-teacher it’s not even funny.”
The Republican governor and PED Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera are calling for a new assessment program that calls for up to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to come from student achievement testing.
That has led to fierce pushback from opponents who say there’s too much emphasis on testing and allege Martinez and Skandera are unfairly targeting teachers.
“I’m so pro-teacher because I want to reward that profession as it should be rewarded,” Martinez said Wednesday after giving a speech in Albuquerque. “I don’t want an excellent teacher or school leader to be treated the very same as a teacher who walks into the classroom and merely says, ‘Read chapter 12 and leave when the bell rings.’ ”
But on Oct. 22 in Albuquerque, a rally was held denouncing the teacher evaluation system and Martinez-backed reforms.
And on Wednesday night in Las Cruces, a school board meeting centered on the evaluations as well as a requirement that would penalize teachers for missing too many days of work. Right now, teachers in Las Cruces are given 10 sick days per year under their contract with the school district.
“I don’t know when teachers became public enemy No. 1,” Mary Parr-Sanchez, a Picacho Middle School teacher and vice president of the state NEA teacher’s union branch, told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “It feels that way sometimes.”
At the Albuquerque rally, a number of anti-Martinez and anti-Skandera signs were on display, including one that portrayed the governor and PED secretary-designate with bloody fangs.
Stand4Kids NM, a group critical of Martinez and Skandera, has established a Facebook page with more than 3,000 “likes” and the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO New Mexico union has filed a lawsuit against the evaluation plan.
“Our kids are crying because they don’t want to be in school, they’re tested to death,” Alamosa Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Pamela Irvin told the Albuquerque Journal last month.
When asked why there’s been so much opposition, Martinez said, “I think it’s because the information about what we plan on doing in allowing to raise those teachers up and raise their profession isn’t getting out all the way down to the teachers themselves. That’s why we’re improving on our communication because we want them to know.”
Opponents have argued that Martinez and Skandera haven’t listened to their concerns and since neither of them have classroom experience, the governor and secretary-designate don’t understand what educators face each day.
Martinez supporters include an Albuquerque charter school, Albuquerque Institute for Mathematics and Science. whose principal attributes a more robust teacher evaluation program with dramatic increases in reading and math.
Martinez believes a better evaluation system should take the place of an assessment system that has seen nearly every New Mexico teacher deemed as competent, while student reading scores and drop-out rates consistently rank 48th and 49th in the country.
“I think it’s really important to separate our really good teachers,” Martinez said. “We want to reward them. You can’t have 99 percent (deemed) effective teachers and — when I first took office — 63 percent graduation rates. You can see that the math doesn’t match up. So we have to assess teachers based on student performance and progress. There has to be a link.”
Here’s NM Watchdog video of Martinez defending her education measures:
Contact Rob Nikolewski at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski