The state Public Education Department is tweaking parts of its controversial teacher evaluation system. Mainly, school districts won’t need to use standardized tests to evaluate teachers who teach subjects that aren’t tested. New Mexico Political Report wrote about that problem earlier this summer. For that story, we profiled Nick Prior, a 26-year-old music teacher at Albuquerque’s Eisenhower Middle School. From our earlier report: This year, Prior scored just 112 out of 200 possible points on his state-mandated teacher evaluation, ranking him “minimally effective.” It’s also a dramatic drop from last year’s evaluation, when Prior scored a “highly effective” ranking.
A Santa Fe district court judge threw out a challenge to a contract for a controversial standardized test. The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit American Institutes for Research challenged the state’s decision to award a lucrative testing contract to education conglomerate Pearson. The contract, worth an estimated $1 billion over eight years, included writing and administering the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers’ (PARCC) flagship test. Although most associate the term with the test, PARCC is a consortium of 12 states and the District of Columbia that were tasked with developing a new standardized test that abides by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The PARCC test is projected to reach up to 10 million students across the consortium over the length of the contract.
Critics of New Mexico’s teacher evaluation model often point to an unfairness in letting a teacher’s job performance weigh so heavily on standardized test scores. Now, several questions are being raised about whether this testing material has anything to do with subjects many instructors actually teach, or even the students in their classroom. In most cases across the state, the New Mexico Public Education Department bases half of a teacher’s yearly evaluation on standardized test scores results. A bad evaluation, ultimately marked as “ineffective,” means that teachers in some cases can’t advance up to a higher teacher license level, which would bring a higher salary. At worst, some teachers may lose their license and be out of a job.
New Mexico got a small mention on a popular HBO news show this weekend, with clips from local TV stations including one high profile union leader. Last Week Tonight is hosted by former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver. Oliver’s show typically devotes a long period of time—in this case more than 15 minutes—to one specific topic. This week’s topic was standardized testing in schools. New Mexico uses the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests in schools.
A New Mexico judge will hear an appeal of a lawsuit over what has been called “bid-rigging” in relation to evaluation tests that are performed throughout the state. This could cut short the contract between the state and the vendor involved in the tests. The Associated Press reported on the appeal that will take place on Tuesday. The American Institutes for Research appeal challenges the multi-year contract awarded to Pearson to conduct the tests for the state. The tests are for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.
Susana Martinez said that she knows students have the rights to protest, but it is time for students to get back in the class room and take the PARCC tests. Martinez made those statements speaking about the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, test in an interview with KOAT-TV that aired Wednesday night. KOAT does not include embeddable videos of stories. “They have a right to protest, I’m not saying they don’t,” Martinez said. “But when it’s time to be in class, that’s where they belong: in class.”
Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera said earlier this legislative session that her agency doesn’t include practice time in numbers it quotes regarding total time the tests require, an about-face from past statements from the department. Skandera relayed the new information in a February 3 Senate Finance Committee meeting in response to Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, who has worked as a special education teacher. Her agency has relied on a consistent set of numbers in public statements meant for students, parents and educators, many of whom are increasingly concerned that standardized assessments detract from valuable classroom time. Those numbers, such as the ones quoted in this March 2014 handout, are reassuring: Overall, on average across all grades, state-mandated testing time has decreased by about 30 minutes per year. Today, less than two percent of the school year is dedicated to state-mandated testing.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]HOWIE MORALES is a Democratic state senator from Catron, Grant and Socorro Counties. He is an educator, member of the Senate Education committee, and former candidate for governor. [/box]
There is a lot of misinformation circulating regarding the upcoming Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test (PARCC) that will be administered to students from grades 3-11 this spring. I want to clarify the options parents have in deciding to opt their children out of taking this test. Many of you have expressed concern and, indeed, dissatisfaction with the intensity of the current amount of standardized testing taking place in our schools. One of the top concerns I share is the elimination of a parent’s right in deciding whether or not their child has to take the test. I was appalled to be notified that school districts are intentionally telling parents that they cannot “opt out” their children from taking standardized tests.