New Mexico governor suspends student testing system
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday set in motion the replacement of the current statewide standardized testing system with a pair of executive orders that also calls for removing those exam results from teacher evaluations.
The orders by the Democratic governor on her third day in office correspond with campaign pledges to do away student assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC — a system Lujan Grisham described as high-pressure and counterproductive.
The orders hold major implications for teacher evaluations that were more closely linked to student test scores under preceding Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in the name of accountability.
Appearing alongside teachers and education specialists including the state’s new lieutenant governor, Lujan Grisham said her administration will follow a “bottom-up” strategy of consulting with teachers, parents and experts in education to find new methods of assessing teachers and students.
She said it is still too soon to say whether standardized questionnaires will continue to play a role in student assessments.
“The message today should be to students and families that they should expect New Mexico schools to transition immediately out of high-stakes testing,” she said. “We have to figure out how we are going to do that productively and meet our legal requirements.”
Despite uncertainties about satisfying federal regulations, Lujan Grisham said a new assessment system should be in place for the new school year in August.
She tasked Lt. Gov. Howie Morales to begin conversations with state officials at the Department of Public Education about possible new assessment methods for students, teachers and schools. Recruiting efforts still are under way for a new secretary of public education.
A state district court judge has ruled that New Mexico is failing its constitutional obligations to provide an adequate public education, especially among students from Native American, low-income and non-English speaking households.
Judge Sarah Singleton has set a mid-April deadline for the Legislature and governor to come up with a plan to address major educational shortcomings and increase resources to schools.
Her order also calls for a “system of accountability to measure whether the programs and services actually provide the opportunity for a sound basic education.”
Lujan Grisham has pledged to work with lawmakers to satisfy the judge’s order when the Legislature convenes Jan. 15. She said Thursday that negotiations already are underway with leading lawmakers about increases in teacher compensation to help reduce teacher vacancies and turnover rates.
Morales emphasized that the new administration would take a more collaborative approach to assessing school performance as it seeks to do away with an A-through-F ratings system for individual school performance.
“The Public Education Department is going to be here in support of our educators and our schools across the state rather than coming in as a police department,” he said.