Incentive bill for New Mexico teachers moves to Senate

SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) – A bill offering incentives to New Mexico teachers is heading to the New Mexico Senate. Teachers who want to experiment with their curriculum can qualify to opt out of part of the state’s controversial evaluation system. Proponents of this legislation say it will help districts secure smart, talented teachers by giving them the freedom to teach kids in new ways, but those against it say there’s nothing to stop them from doing that now.

Instilling a love for learning — proponents of House Bill 105 says this piece of legislation will help teachers do exactly that.

“It’s providing flexibility for teachers to experiment with their curriculum,” said Rep. Andres Romero.

Teacher and Congressman Andres Romero sponsors the “Innovation in Teaching Act.” The bill would allow teachers who want to try new, cutting-edge curricula to apply for a waiver from teacher evaluations. They would still teach to the same standards and still be evaluated, but not on their students’ standardized test scores.

“One of the reasons why teachers don’t create fascinating and innovating lessons is because they’re told if they teach based on the prescriptive program, they’re going to have higher test scores,” explained Albuquerque Teacher Federation President Ellen Bernstein.

Bernstein says teachers are worried to break the norm because low student test scores could mean lower evaluations for them. Yet, she says that’s not the case at all.

“When you engage with students with innovative lessons and you don’t just drill based on the test, they end up scoring better on standardized tests, anyway,” said Bernstein.

It’s why Bernstein believes the bill will help retain smart, talented teachers.

“When you have to create innovative ways to reach the students you are in charge of teaching, then you are working, not just with your brain, but your heart,” she said.

Not everyone is on board with the bill. Opponents say teachers already use cutting-edge strategies, while meeting standards and benchmarks.

“It’s more of a way to circumvent the teacher evaluation system, not necessarily an innovative strategy to teach in the classroom,” said Rep. Jim Smith.

The bill narrowly passed the House with a vote of 37 to 30.

According to the bill, the teacher would work with his or her principal and the Public Education Department to come up with evaluation standards for that particular teaching project.

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