Gov. Susana Martinez’s recently announced changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system came from discussions between a panel of New Mexico educators and state Public Education Department officials. This is according to Chris Eide, the national director of state policy, advocacy and partnerships with Teach Plus. The Boston-based nonprofit, which focuses on teacher-driven education reform, launched an initiative in New Mexico last year to look at teacher evaluations and teacher preparation. Over the weekend, Martinez accepted two recommendations from the New Mexico Teach Plus task force. One allows teachers to use up to six absences without affecting the attendance portion of their state teacher evaluations.
Objections by U.S. Senate Republicans ended talk that Hanna Skandera might join the Donald Trump administration, according to a report in Politico Thursday. The report, which led the outlet’s Morning Education tipsheet, said the New Mexico Public Education Department secretary’s support for the controversial Common Core standards were one reason Republicans were skeptical to confirm her as assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. “I am focused on continuing the great progress we have started and will continue in New Mexico,” Skandera said in a statement to NM Political Report when asked about if she had any conversations about joining the Trump administration. “When education focuses on students and not politics, everyone wins.”
Skandera is the head of the governing board of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which produces a standardized test in public schools aligned with Common Core. Republicans have largely criticized Common Core standards, which the Barack Obama administration supported. Common Core standards’ roots came out of the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act.
Both New Mexico senators voted in favor of a No Child Left Behind replacement Wednesday, following unanimous support last week on the same bill from the state’s Congressional delegation. Democrats and teachers unions have widely praised the Every Student Succeeds Act for taking away federal oversight of accountability from standardized tests. Under No Child Left Behind, the federal government could withhold money from schools that scored low on the Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which were made from standardized test scores. The new bill, which cleared the House of Representatives last week, leaves this type of accountability measures to the states. “It gives states the decision on high stakes testing, which unfortunately in our state the governor wants,” Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said in an interview.
Standardized tests took a blow this week nationally and locally after Congress abandoned No Child Left Behind and a local judge suspended schools’ abilities to use state teacher evaluations for personnel decisions. On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Every Student Succeeds Act, which will replace the controversial George W. Bush-era federal education law if passed by the Senate and approved by President Obama. All of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation, which is usually split along party lines, voted for the bill. While the new law would still mandate schools give standardized tests to students from grades three-eight and once in high school, it restricts the federal government from measuring the results. One of the most controversial parts of No Child Left Behind was its Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which measured progress on state-mandated math and reading tests.
A proposed moratorium on certain pieces of Common Core testing was tabled on a party-line vote on Monday in a House committee. House Minority Whip, Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, sponsored HB 17, a bill that would limit the effects of Common Core testing. According to Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Dr. Ellen Bernstein, a witness for Stapleton, the bill would allow the state to better prepare for the standardized test associated with Common Core. Bernstein told the committee that the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam, or PARCC, computer based and many students are not proficient in computer skills. According to their website, PARCC is, “a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.” The PARCC exam is a computer-based assessment that New Mexico and other states use to determine student advancement eligibility and overall school grades.