Commentary: Santa Fe – American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly and Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein released the following statement:
“Our union has filed a motion for summary judgment in the litigation in our continuing effort to make teacher evaluations beneficial and accurate in New Mexico.
“We have filed a motion for partial summary judgment, seeking a determination that the NM PED’s failure to provide teachers with adequate information about the calculation of their VAM scores violated their procedural due process rights. In another case, Houston Federation of Teachers, Local 2415, et al. v. Houston Independent School District, 251 F.Supp. 3d 1168 (2017), that court addressed a procedural due process challenge to a similar evaluation system using another value-added model. There, the Court agreed procedural due process ‘requires an opportunity by teachers to test on their own behalf the accuracy of their … value-added scores.’ Since teachers are not given adequate information or opportunity to challenge the calculation of their VAM score, it violates their constitutional rights for it to be the basis of possible disciplinary action.
“The evidence demonstrates that neither school administrators nor educators have been provided with sufficient information to replicate the VAM score calculations used as a basis for teacher evaluations. The VAM algorithm is complex, and the general overview provided in the NMTeach Technical Guide is not enough to pass constitutional muster. During previous hearings, educators testified they do not receive an explanation at the time they receive their annual evaluation, and teachers have been subjected to performance growth plans based on low VAM scores, without being given any guidance or explanation as to how to raise that score on future evaluations. Thus, not only do educators not understand the algorithm used to derive the VAM score that is now part of the basis for their overall evaluation rating, but school administrators within the districts do not have sufficient information on how the score is derived in order to replicate it or to provide professional development, whether as part of a disciplinary scenario or otherwise, to assist teachers in raising their VAM score.
“The PED’s failure to make teachers a part of the solution is further reflected in the moving target of excused absences for purposes of evaluation. First, PED told teachers their evaluations would be negatively affected by excused absences. Then, NM PED limited the number of excused absences, and now, the PED has changed its position again based upon the widespread flu virus this winter. Such random behavior makes it impossible for New Mexico teachers to rely on a simple policy, and it makes it impossible for New Mexico citizens to rely on evaluations produced by the NM PED.”