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Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce said Thursday he would immediately suspend New Mexico’s embattled teacher evaluation system if elected. He said educators are being judged unfairly as the state struggles to improve student academic performance.

Pearce, currently a U.S. congressman, said he would he would devise a new plan within six months in consultation with teachers and other stakeholders. He said teachers are currently being judged on metrics that do not accurately reflect their effectiveness.

“We all want accountability and quality results, but the current system has crushed the spirit of many talented educators and contributed to our state’s teacher shortage,” Pearce said.

Outgoing two-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has pushed to incorporate teacher evaluations and students’ standardized test results into a system aimed at instilling greater accountability. That has prompted protests by teachers and legal challenges from unions.

Union leaders said Pearce was late to denounce shortcomings in the evaluation system and questioned whether he would respond to the concerns of the majority of classroom teachers.

Pearce also raised concerns about teachers being penalized on performance reviews for taking days off that they are entitled to under their contract, though recent policy revisions from the state Public Education Department have allowed additional excused absences.

Pearce said the need to suspend the current system became clear based during conversations with teachers, local school officials, state lawmakers and advocacy groups.

He is running against Democratic nominee Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has garnered early endorsements of major teacher unions. Lujan Grisham also has called for reform of the state’s teacher evaluation system.

Martinez cannot run for a third consecutive term.