Promoting Effective Teaching in New Mexico


In 2003, New Mexico introduced the three-tiered system to increase the recruitment and retention of quality teachers to improve student achievement. The system created a three-level career ladder for teachers to ascend based on experience, leadership, and skills. Movement up a level results in pay increases of $10 thousand. Previous evaluations of the three tiered system confirmed the system decreasing widespread teacher shortages, reducing unqualified teachers, and improving teacher pay.

Student performance, however, has not improved with taxpayer investments in teacher pay. A 2009 Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) evaluation using one year of performance data confirmed small differences in performance despite large differences in pay among teachers and offered solutions for improvement. The recommendations were not implemented. Since that time, nearly 6,000 teachers advanced to new license levels, receiving $59 million in mandatory salary increases.


New Mexico’s three-tiered career ladder system does not align pay with student achievement. Student performance within teacher licensure levels and between licensure levels suggests local and state evaluation systems are not screening teachers for effectiveness in the classroom. The difference in performance between teachers of each of the three licensure levels is small, with many high and low-performing teachers at each level. Teachers maintain levels throughout their careers because student achievement is not factored into licensure renewal. Establishing expectations for student achievement in the local and state evaluation systems will better align pay with student achievement.

Improving student achievement was a key policy goal of implementing the three-tiered system. The three-tiered system’s founding legislation identifies student success as the fundamental goal of New Mexico’s education system. The three-tiered system was designed to help achieve this goal by attracting, retaining, and holding accountable quality teachers.

The state has not established expectations for student achievement in evaluation of level I, II, and III teachers. Competencies used in the state and local evaluations of the three-tiered system include examples of student performance, but the evaluations have no expectations for the performance of all students, particularly on standardized tests. When the three-tiered system was established, the SBA was new and lacked longitudinal information; student performance, therefore, was not incorporated into evaluations. Teachers at different license levels achieve similar student performance, and a majority of New Mexico teachers do not feel the state evaluation process identifies effective teachers.

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