Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Finding a new standardized test, rolling out school profile “dashboards” to replace the A-F grading system and auditing special education services statewide.
These were among priorities the state Public Education Department highlighted this week to the Legislative Education Study Committee – a panel of lawmakers that focuses on education issues.
Early this year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham eliminated the state’s former assessment, PARCC, through an executive order.
While a transition test was put in its place, that left the state in need of a permanent replacement.
PED said at the LESC meeting that it will cast its net soon to find that replacement.
Gwen Perea Warniment, the deputy secretary of teaching, learning and assessment, said a request for proposals will be issued next week.
“This RFP is pretty major. It includes an ask for a comprehensive assessment system for the state,” she said. “This includes grades 3-8 major assessment as well as the high school assessment. Those are the two pieces that are required by federal law.”
Perea Warniment said PED wants a college entrance exam – such as the ACT – to be the high school assessment.
She told the Journal this has the added bonus of the state paying for entrance exams, which students can use when applying for college admission.
The RFP is multifaceted, seeking resources for teachers and students on how to use the test and the purpose of the assessment.
It also seeks a Spanish language arts assessment and formative tests to be administered across the school year.
The department has conducted community input sessions and convened a task force to help in the assessment process.
Perea Warniment said the task force and the department will work together reviewing assessment proposals and developing the test, which would then have to be peer reviewed on a federal level.
She said the roll-out of the test is projected for next spring.
Another PED priority is tackling school “dashboards,” which are individual school profiles that will be available online.
These portfolios, which are included in a Senate bill from the most recent legislative session, replace the A-F school grading system used by the former administration.
Tim Hand, the deputy PED secretary of policy, strategy and accountability, told the Journal the aim is to launch school dashboards by Nov. 15, presuming the U.S. Department of Education approves New Mexico’s accountability changes in its education plan. Those changes were submitted earlier this year.
He explained the shift from school grades to dashboards is in limbo until that approval, which he expects soon.
Hand said the current system for grading schools must continue to be used until a change is approved, but there’s a “strong possibility” that dashboards could replace the school rating system for the 2018-2019 school year. He expects dashboards to be fully implemented for the 2019-20 school year.
Hand told the LESC that he wants dashboards to include information about per pupil spending, teacher qualifications and tenure and the number of counselors at a school – in addition to academic achievement and graduation rates.
Deputy Secretary of Academic Engagement and Student Success Katarina Sandoval told the committee that special education is a major priority for her team and the department is working on getting a clearer picture of what is offered in the state.
That’s why a statewide special education audit is planned for the upcoming school year, she said.
“Next school year we will work with our New Mexico schools to really do a deep dive in terms of how well are we serving students with disabilities,” she said. “How are parents feeling about the services their children are being provided?”
She said the analysis will identify challenges and highlight what is going well in the special education system.
Sandoval told the Journal that more details will likely come in the fall. She didn’t have a cost projection or specifics on what indicators the audit will cover.
The deputy secretary also didn’t identify a particular cause for the review, simply saying “it’s aligned with our mission of serving the most vulnerable students.”
Secretary of Education Karen Trujillo said the ultimate goal of the audit is to get more information before making any decisions surrounding special education.
“We’re finding that there are issues across the state but we kind of have to step back and not be reactionary. Kind of go out and kind of get a picture of where the needs are and what’s taking place,” she said.
Sandoval did say the audit will be statewide and include both rural and urban and small and large school districts.
She told the LESC that the projected timeline is to compile the data by summer of 2020 and to host a special education summit at that time.