ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — More than 70 percent of public school teachers in New Mexico are effective or better when it comes to their success in the classroom, but there are just as many teachers who are struggling to make the grade as there are those who have improved over the last two years.

The Public Education Department on Friday released the results of the latest round of teacher evaluations under a much-debated system that’s the focus of an ongoing court battle between the state and teacher unions.

More than 21,000 teachers received scores, most of them taking into account student achievement measures. The evaluations are also weighted by observations in the classroom and attendance.

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said she’s pleased the data reflected an increase of about one-third in the number of highly effective and exemplary teachers since 2014.

The evaluations show improvements when looking at student achievement and classroom observations alone. However, they also show that more than a quarter of teachers are considered less than effective. That’s more than in 2014 and 2015.

Skandera acknowledged the overall drop in teacher ratings since 2014 and said the evaluations should be viewed as a tool for identifying what is working and where teachers can improve.

“This isn’t a good news-bad news story, as much as it is empowering — let’s empower our parents, our communities to ask good questions about how they can support their teachers better to close those gaps,” Skandera said in an interview.

New Mexico’s two teacher unions have both sued over the evaluation system, arguing that teachers should not be judged on student achievement that’s based on standardized test scores.

Charles Bowyer, executive director of the National Education Association of New Mexico, said Friday that such a value-added system doesn’t accurately reflect the impact a teacher has on an individual student.

He pointed to Massachusetts and Delaware as states that allow for learning goals to be set by teachers and students. Measuring a student’s movement toward such a goal would make for a better measure of how successful a teacher is.

Skandera said student achievement numbers are on the rise in New Mexico along with school grades, both signs that improvements in the state’s education system are being made.

She also said New Mexico now has more initiatives aimed at supporting teachers than when the evaluation system was first launched in 2012. Those range from improvements in teacher preparation programs and mentoring to performance pay for those who are effective or better. She pointed to success in the mentoring program for the increases in highly effective and exemplary teachers.

“To me, this is a great opportunity,” she said. “We’re starting a new school year. We’ve got to take this information and data and use it to support our teachers and see our kids succeed. It can be done; we’re seeing it.”