Education

New Mexico teachers mull strike over evaluation linked to actual, objective criteria

The president of the Albuquerque Teacher’s Federation is calling a new evaluation system that links teacher performance to student performance “draconian.” She is also warning of the possibility of a statewide teachers strike.

The state’s complex new appraisal scheme uses standardized test results and a variety of other measures to rate teachers and principals. A state website outlining the plan touts it as a way “to ensure that every student has equitable access to an effective principal and teacher every day they are in school.”

In an Oct. 14 letter to union members, teachers union president Ellen Bernstein discussed the possibility of a strike in response to the plan. She stressed her belief that only a statewide walkout would succeed. She also noted that teachers would not be paid for the duration of any work stoppage.

“It would be unprecedented for the teachers in New Mexico to organize a job action against the state,” Bernstein told local ABC affiliate KOAT. “But this evaluation system is unprecedented in how unfair it is, so you never know.”

The union leader claimed that a strike wasn’t her idea. Instead, she said, teachers hatched the notion.

“A lot of people have asked me, ‘Can we go on strike?’” Bernstein said. “So what I said to them in this letter is, ‘Of course we can. If we can organize to that point, we can go on strike.'”

Bernstein told KOAT that a strike would be the union’s last resort in its effort to fight rigorous, objective assessments of Albuquerque teachers.

“A strike is the ultimate act of civil disobedience.” she asserted.

In addition to the possibility of a strike, the Albuquerque teachers union has also challenged the demanding new teacher evaluation regime in court.

In a press release, the union describes a lawsuit filed by several teachers against the New Mexico Public Education Department’s secretary-designate, Hanna Skandera. The suit seeks to overturn the new evaluation system.

In an email to KOAT, a spokesman for New Mexico’s education department defended the new evaluation system because it makes students responsible for the progress of their students.

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