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Judge: VAM Likely a Sham

Judge: VAM Likely a Sham

The decision is a significant setback for Skandera and the governor, who have used VAM as the scientific rationale for shaking up the ranks of New Mexico's public schools


A Santa Fe District judge found a substantial likelihood that Gov. Susana Martinez’s and Hanna Skandera’s method for evaluating New Mexico teachers is a sham.

District Judge David K. Thomson issued a preliminary injunction against the evaluation method known as VAM — for Value Added Method –lacks the scientific certainty needed to justify its use in deciding the professional fate of thousands of New Mexico public school teachers.

GovernorThe judge ruled that the evaluation system is neither “highly objective” nor “uniform statewide,” and he temporarily banned its further use in evaluating teachers until a trial can be held on its scientific reliability. The ruling came in a lawsuit by five state legislators, the American Federation of Teachers, and several individual teachers who argued that the evaluation system is nonsense.

The judge’s 77-page ruling allows the New Mexico Public Education Department to continue collecting data on teacher performance via VAM, but prohibits the agency from using the data to evaluate teachers, discipline them or revoke their teaching licenses, The judge ruled that there was a “substantial likelihood” that the plaintiffs would win at trial. His order suspends use of the Skandera-endorsed system in evaluating teachers and forces the state to revert to a previous 2003 system.

“Judge Thomson recognized that New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system is deeply flawed, and deprives students of the high-quality educators they deserve while also hurting and demoralizing teachers—the very people we rely on to help students,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

The decision is a significant setback for Skandera and the governor, who have used VAM as the scientific rationale for shaking up the ranks of New Mexico’s public schools. The evaluation system has also led to a flood of early retirements of teachers disenchanted with the governor’s emphasis on testing and tying teacher pay and professional progress to that testing.

Last spring, thousands of New Mexico students walked out of classes over the emphasis on testing, which underlies the VAM teacher evaluation system.

“Superintendents, principals, parents, students and the teachers have spoken out against a system that is so rife with errors that in some districts as many as 60 percent of evaluations were incorrect,” Weingarten said.

The lawsuit’s plaintiffs included the following legislators, including some who are public school teachers. They are: Sen. Mimi Stewart, an Albuquerque Democrat; Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, an Albuquerque Deomcrat; Sen. Linda Lopez, an Albuquerque Democrat; Sen. William Soules, a Las Cruces Democrat; and Sen Howie Morales, a Silver City Democrat.


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Dan Vukelich is a writer and former editor of ABQ Free Press.

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  • Jeff Carr
    December 3, 2015, 7:52 am

    Long over due, but so welcome!

  • pamela
    December 3, 2015, 12:58 pm

    I’m glad this is coming about. The evaluation of these dedicated professionals is so flawed.

  • Jason Krosinsky
    December 3, 2015, 8:25 pm

    There are no other professionals who are as mistreated and maligned as teachers. The VAM sham is the main reason why the teacher shortage in APS is so bad. Good riddance to the worst evaluation tool ever conceived.

  • Robert Coffey
    December 4, 2015, 2:50 pm


  • Rena
    December 15, 2015, 9:25 am

    Thanks to Senators Mimi Stewart, Linda Lopez, William Soules, and Howie Morales, as well as Rep Sheryl Williams Stapleton.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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