In December 2015 in New Mexico, via a preliminary injunction set forth by state District Judge David K. Thomson, all consequences attached to teacher-level value-added model (VAM) scores (e.g., flagging the files of teachers with low VAM scores) were suspended throughout the state until the state (and/or others external to the state) could prove to the state court that the system was reliable, valid, fair, uniform, and the like. The trial during which this evidence was to be presented was set, and re-set, and re-set again, never to actually occur. More specifically, after December 2015 and through 2018, multiple depositions and hearings occurred. In April 2019, the case was reassigned to a new judge (via a mass reassignment state policy), again, while the injunction was still in place.
Thereafter, teacher evaluation was a hot policy issue during the state’s 2018 gubernatorial election. The now-prior state governor, Republican Susana Martinez, who essentially ordered and helped shape the state’s teacher evaluation system at issue during this lawsuit, had reached the maximum number of terms served and could not run again. All candidates running to replace her had grave concerns about the state’s teacher evaluation system. Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham ending up winning.
Two days after Grisham was sworn in, she signed an Executive Order for the entire state system to be amended, including no longer using value-added data to evaluate teachers. Her Executive Order also stipulated that the state department was to work with teachers, administrators, parents, students, and the like, to determine more appropriate methods of measuring teacher effectiveness. While the education task force charged with this task is still in the process of finalizing the state’s new system, it is important to note that now, although actually beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, teachers are being evaluated via (primarily) classroom observations and student/family surveys. The value-added component (and a teacher attendance component that was also the source of contention during this lawsuit) were removed entirely from the state’s teacher evaluation framework.
Likewise, the plaintiffs (the lawyers, teachers, and administrators with whom I worked on this case) are no longer moving forward with the 2015 lawsuit as Grisham’s Executive Order also rendered this lawsuit as moot.
The initial victory that we achieved in 2015 ultimately yielded a victory in the end. Way to go New Mexico!
*This post was co-authored by one of my PhD students – Tray Geiger – who is finishing up his dissertation about this case.