Legislators Are Now Asking Questions

Members of the Legislative Education Study Committee met in Hobbs this week. (http://www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/agendas/ALESCageSep22.14.pdf)

The lawmakers took the 5th grade mathematics practice PARCC exam (http://practice.parcc.testnav.com).

Overwhelmingly, the legislators were shocked at the difficulty of the exam and expressed grave concern about its implementation and the impact it will have on schools and students.

It’s fair to say most of them probably didn’t “pass” the test. One legislator, a Republican from SE New Mexico, confessed that he took the test the previous day with his spouse and it took them 2 hours to complete the 36 questions on the 5th grade practice test.

That’s only one section of a multi-section test.

Another legislator, a Democrat from SW New Mexico, expressed extreme concern over how discouraging this will be for special education and ELL students and the budgetary strain this has placed on schools. One more unfunded mandate.

Yet another legislator, a Democrat from S Central New Mexico, said the 5th grade test covers common core standards that aren’t taught until high school geometry. That’s the very definition of unfair.

There was even bigger concerns surrounding the Public Education Department announcement that school districts will not receive their 2015 school grades until late November or even December due to the conversions PED will have to make to the VAM due to the transition from SBA to PARCC.

That’s 4-5 months later than this year.

Additionally, the NM Superintendent’s Association sent a formal letter to Secretary Designate Skandera this summer asking her for a one year delay from consequences, VAM scores and accountability measures tied to the PARCC (flexibility allowed by the U.S. Department of Education) so they may learn what the PARCC means for our students before punishing them for poor results. Still no answer from Santa Fe.

Just these past few weeks, Rio Rancho Board of Education members and Santa Fe Superintendent Joel Boyd are also asking for a moratorium on using these tests to grade teachers and schools.

Finally, superintendents are learning from their Higher Education colleagues that PARCC is having conversations with them to have the PARCC replace college entrance exams and remediation exams.

If PARCC has its way, ACT and SAT scores will no longer matter for college entrance. (To be clear, UNM officials told APS Board of Education members recently that they are resisting the push to replace ACT/SAT with PARCC – so far.)

The PARCC — and Gov. Martinez/Hanna Skandera’s Higher Ed Task Force? – want colleges and universities to use the scores from a student’s 11th grade PARCC to determine college entrance and remedial courses to take.

One legislator today said: At some point we have to ask when something starts to stink like a profit monger.”

Another legislator from Albuquerque summed it up nicely: “This is depressing. I guess this proved that I am REALLY NOT smarter than a fifth grader!”

UPDATE, Sept. 26, 2014: LAWMAKERS WANT TO HEAR FROM TEACHERS (NOT THE PED!):

This message went out to teachers at a local school district:

Last week it was the PED, this week it is the Legislative Education Study Committee asking for information about testing times.  This select group of Representatives and Senators would like to know how much STUDENT time is spent on district-wide and state-wide assessments by grade level.  They are looking specifically for time “taken away from instruction”.  You are not required to provide any feedback.  We certainly know how busy you are.  However, you are closer to the source than I am and could provide me with some valuable feedback if you would like to do so.  In order to meet the LESC’s deadline, I will need to receive any responses that you may like to submit by the close of business on Wednesday, October 1.

The categories are:

Preparation time – Things like test-taking strategies that are taught solely because of the test

Pre-test tasks – How much time it takes to distribute the tests, read directions, etc.

Test-taking time – How long does the group of students sit and wait for the last student to finish (before students who are still working go to an overflow room)

Post-test tasks – Time spent IN THE CLASSROOM gathering materials, etc.

If an STC (School testing coordinator) would like to provide feedback to me on the amount of time it takes by test and grade level, I would be appreciative.  Tests listed by the LESC include:

NMAPA

SBA

ACCESS

Alternate ACCESS

W-APT

DIBELS

NWEA

There is space for additional comments at the end if you would like to add clarifications or discuss some of the more indirect impacts on students caused by the time that it takes adults to manage the logistics of assessments with high stakes attached.  Comments will be read by a wide variety of stakeholders so please make sure that any comments that you submit are worded carefully.  Please also keep in mind that there is a limited space for comments as well and I will need to compile from what is sent to me.

Thank you and please do not feel pressured to respond if you do not have the time or have the inclination.

 

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