Lawmakers poised to finally drop use of PARCC tests

Lawmakers poised to finally drop use of PARCC tests

(N.M.) One New Mexico lawmaker appears to finally be making headway following numerous efforts to scrap the national Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment in favor of replacing it with a new statewide test.

State Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, introduced a bill requiring the state to drop the PARCC test–which is based on Common Core State Standards and has been taken by students in grades three through 11 since 2015. His bill would also direct the Public Education Department to develop a new assessment.

Previous incarnations of the bill died in the Republican-led Legislature, but Sapien told local reporters that he re-introduced it in December because it appeared to be a good time to get a fresh start revamping New Mexico’s educational system.

The Senate Education Committee moved the bill forward earlier this month, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signaled in January that she may look favorably on the bill. In one of her first acts as governor, Lujan Grisham signed an executive order halting the statewide use of the PARCC test.

In 2010, the PARCC consortium was made up of 25 states and the District of Columbia that worked to create a standard set of kindergarten through 12th grade assessments aligned to the Common Core. Each year since, a number of states left the consortium, with only seven members remaining at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year–though both Maryland and New Jersey policymakers have announced intentions to step back from the consortium as well.

Despite the newfound support to do the same in New Mexico, legislative analyst Timothy Bedeaux noted that there would still be a number of challenges associated with actually implementing the requirements outlined in the bill.

For one, the State Public Education Department would need to design or contract for the design of a new assessment by the 2019-20 school year in order to remain in compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and the state Assessment and Accountability Act.

“Designing a new assessment is a labor intensive process that will likely require the department to contract with technical experts,” Bedeaux wrote in his analysis. “[The Education Department] will also need to provide training and resources to school district and school test coordinators, principals, and teachers statewide to ensure the new assessment is reliably implemented.”

Additionally, analysts noted that designing a new assessment from scratch or contracting for the design of an assessment would have significant costs upfront that go beyond what has already been recommended by the budget committee to cover recurring costs of the current annual assessments.

Still, policymakers have said they’re driven by complaints from parents, educators and school officials about the amount of time set aside to administer the PARCC exams, as well as its use as the primary determinant of school grades and teacher evaluation scores.

The previous administration originally reserved three weeks at the end of the school year for PARCC testing, but after receiving feedback from teachers and students that the amount of time used for testing was cutting into instruction time, reduced the length of the tests for this school year.

Following the recent executive order, however, districts will instead administer the Spring 2019 Transition Assessment as a temporary replacement for the PARCC exams.

The Public Education Department sent a memo to schools last month noting that the transition assessment will maintain comparability to prior years’ assessments and will be aligned to the Common Core, and will also reduce overall testing time by 30 percent–down one to one and one half hours of testing time per subject area.

Meanwhile, Sapien’s bill, SB 110, is continuing on to the Senate public affairs committee.

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