Education

Governor dumps controversial PARCC testing in N.M.

By Jesse Moya
jmoya@taosnews.com
Posted 1/10/19

For nearly four years, the PARCC test - has stirred up controversy over its rigorous grading and effect on teacher evaluations.

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Education

Governor dumps controversial PARCC testing in N.M.

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With the stroke of a pen, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has declared the end of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers in New Mexico schools and many educators across the state let out a sigh of relief.

Lujan Grisham signed an executive order Jan. 3, calling for a transition away from the PARCC standardized test and urges the state Public Education Department to begin work on another way of measuring students.

For nearly four years, the PARCC test - has stirred up controversy over its rigorous grading and effect on teacher evaluations. Students from grades 3-11 take the test to determine their proficiency in reading and math and are graded to standards that some say are impossible.

"It was a rigorous assessment that provided a snapshot on student proficiency," said Peñasco Superintendent Marvin MacAuley. "I would prefer a more meaningful assessment that would capture student data at multiple times during the school year so we can measure growth and make necessary adjustments in instruction to best serve our students."

Taos County educators and administrators are optimistic for the future of testing without the PARCC and are hopeful about the replacement that the state will be working on for their future students.

"I believe we need to design and implement accountability and assessment systems that measure what matters and drive student success in K-12 and beyond," said Taos Municipal Schools Superintendent Lillian Torrez. "We must use student assessments as a tool for growth while creating accountability for equity to support English learners and students with disabilities in order to close the achievement gap."

Schools in Taos have improved their proficiency scores in the past, with some schools above 50 percent proficient in some subjects. Taos Charter School held the highest scores within the district in 2018, scoring over 55 percent proficient in English and Language Arts.

Other schools in the area have seen success in their PARCC scores such as Questa High School, where students nearly doubled math proficiency scores.

PARCC was criticized over the years in New Mexico for its tough grading and test content. The test prompted several walkouts and student protests when it was launched under former Gov. Susana Martinez.

Lujan Grisham made an early campaign promise to seek other alternatives to the test, which is now only used by New Jersey and the District of Columbia. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that the test could not be mandated for graduating high school students.

The test faced numerous "opt out" pushback in New Mexico for its high stakes approach and challenging content.

"New Mexico's use of high-stakes testing like PARCC is failing our education system," Lujan Grisham said. "It limits the education of our students and fails to effectively measure the impact our educators are having."

According to Lujan Grisham, several teachers were dissuaded from continuing in the educational field due to the PARCC test and that ending it was a step forward in respecting the teachers and students across the state as well as the first move to developing a new system.

"[PARCC] wasn't fair to the students or to the teachers," said town councilor and former teacher Pascualito Maestas.

Maestas said the test was "almost impossible to pass." For the replacement test that the state will be working on this year, Maestas said his recommendation would be to use SAT and ACT tests to measure students' proficiency, as college-bound students are already focused so much on those tests.

The next step for the PED will be to bring parents, teachers and even students together to begin the steps of finding a new test. Elements of the PARCC may still be used to test students for the 2019-20 school year.

In addition to the order ending PARCC, Lujan Grisham also signed an order to stop the use of the test scores on teacher evaluations.

Lujan Grisham also announced that Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales, an educator, would be filling the position of Cabinet secretary at the Public Education Department for the time being. He is temporarily replacing outgoing secretary Christopher N. Ruszkowski.

The decision to end PARCC is the new Governor's first executive order to be signed into action.

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