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Editorial: What’s next for NM kids after PARCC decision?

It comes as no surprise that one of Michelle Lujan Grisham’s first acts as governor was to opt New Mexico out of the PARCC exam. She’s fulfilling a promise she made on the campaign trail. The executive order on her third day on the job was praised by the usual suspects – National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers Association union officials, and others who supported her campaign.

They claim PARCC isn’t working. The data on student achievement gains dispute that.

Since PARCC (and the Common Core curriculum it tests, along with the teacher evaluations, and school and district grades that draw from it) has been implemented:

• More than 13,000 additional students can now read at grade level and more than 11,000 additional students can now do math at grade level.

• More teachers are rated “highly effective” and “exemplary” – 1,500 more.

• More students are graduating high school – the rate is at an all-time high of 73 percent.

• Fewer high school grads require remedial coursework in college – what was 50 percent is now 33 percent.

• Native American student achievement is up more than any other student group.

• The PARCC is aligned with other important benchmark tests – NAEP, SAT and ACT.

PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, was implemented in grades three to 11 back in 2015. There were serious issues during its initial implementation – some of which were addressed, and some of which were eased by teachers and students adapting to the new tests and computer format.

PARCC tests how well kids are meeting Common Core standards, which New Mexico began moving to under then-Gov. Bill Richardson. Lujan Grisham says a new state-specific assessment that will meet federal standards will be created and in place by August.

She was among the majority of Democrats in Congress who voted for those standards in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The standards require not only a test, but also that teacher evaluations include student achievement. Not complying puts a lot of federal funding at risk.

Lujan Grisham says parts of the PARCC exam may still be used this spring to ensure the state complies with ESSA. But with the testing window just 11 weeks away, a plan needs to be put in place quickly.

During her campaign, Lujan Grisham heard plenty of complaints about PARCC from parents, teachers and teachers unions. Many of them continued to bash PARCC even after major changes were made to curb the testing time and lower the impact its results had on teacher evaluations.

She listened and obviously agreed. But she apparently disagreed with the many teachers in Educators Elevating New Mexico, which represents all areas of the state, and NewMexicoKidsCan – both support the PARCC and improvements to it.

Replacing PARCC will not be easy. Changing tests will cost millions more, and with PARCC, the state has been able to build up five years of essential longitudinal data on student performance. That is crucial, considering the Legislative Finance Committee emphasizes that the recent Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit decision makes “maintaining longitudinal data on student performance that can be compared to recent data collected on PARCC” paramount to funding reforms.

Lujan Grisham says feedback from teachers, school administrators and parents will be used to create the new assessment. We hope all sides are included. Because if PARCC is dead, then it’s crucial it not be replaced with a feel-good exercise whose main goal is to improve teacher morale. It should be a data-based tool that accurately assesses student and teacher performance. Our children deserve no less.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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