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Court Approves New Mexico Chief's Teacher-Evaluation Plan

A New Mexico state judge denied a petition by several Democratic state lawmakers and a state teachers' union to halt the imposition of a teacher-evaluation system by the state's education chief, a decision that, for now, seems to clear the path forward for the new reviews, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Teacher-evaluation reform has a complicated history in the Land of Enchantment. Despite pressure from Gov. Susana Martinez, state lawmakers have failed to pass a law revamping evaluations in the state, so state Secretary-Designate of Education Hanna Skandera moved to do so through administrative rulemaking.

Petitioners claimed that Skandera exceeded her authority in doing so and violated state criteria for teacher evaluation. But the judge disagreed, stating that lawmakers' inaction on the matter didn't preclude Skandera from establishing the system under the "broad authority" administrators have to craft personnel reviews. 

This is the second legal challenge to the system. Last year, the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers and its Albuquerque affiliate petitioned the state's supreme court on similar grounds.

Ellen Bernstein, the president of the Albuquerque union, told the newspaper that the latest ruling won't stop teachers from fighting the new system, which relies on students' standardized test scores as one component of the review. The unions are opposed to that use of tests, and Bernstein has discussed the possibility of a statewide teachers' strike in recent weeks.

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