SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's quick moves to transform how public schools test students are drawing praise from teachers unions but creating uncertainty among educators.
The new Democratic governor signed an executive order days into office that signaled the state would move away from a test developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.
Here's a look at what's at stake as New Mexico lawmakers consider various education reforms in one of the nation's poorest states:
Then-Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera introduced the PARCC exam to public schools in 2015. The test was designed to align with Common Core standards and was more rigorous than the state's previous standardized test.
At the time, New Mexico was one of 11 states adopting the PARCC. But the test drew fierce opposition from New Mexico teachers unions and from educators worried that the harder exams would unfairly hurt their schools. Student PARCC scores were used to calculate A-F school grades and teacher evaluations.
Liberal-leaning advocacy groups held training seminars for students and parents and organized walkouts to protest the PARCC scores.
The Public Education Department's latest results show only 31 percent of all students tested in 2018 are proficient or better in reading and around 21 percent are proficient or better in math based on PARCC scores. Some schools like Whittier Elementary in Albuquerque and Dulce Elementary are facing closure for earning failing grades for several years resulting from test scores.
As a candidate, Lujan Grisham vowed to scrap the PARCC. However, federal law requires that schools still measure student proficiency in various subjects.
Outgoing Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski pleaded with the incoming administration to stick with the PARCC and said schools were just getting familiar with the exam. He said it would cost the state around $10 million in research to develop a new test.
Educators for Elevating New Mexico, a coalition of educators from mainly rural school districts, called the move to eliminate the PARCC exam "rushed and "ill-informed." The group said money spent to create a new test should be used for other educational purposes.
In a memo to superintendents across the state, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, overseeing the Public Education Department until a secretary is named, announced this month that all schools would administer this string a PARCC-like test called the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment of Mathematics and English Language Arts. He said the test would be aligned with New Mexico Common Core State Standards.
Morales said teachers, parents and professionals will help develop a new test in time for the 2019-2020 school year. Lujan Grisham's proposed budget calls for $7.8 million to develop a new test and revamp the state's school and teacher evaluation system.