Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The New Mexico Public Education Department is pursuing a federal waiver for standardized testing this spring to make way for flexibility and to lower the stakes during the pandemic.
Last spring, all testing was waived after March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to PED.
Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment said the agency is now seeking permission to do testing without the usual consequences that are tied to the assessment outcomes, such as holding a student back or penalizing a school.
“We are, right now, in the process of applying for a waiver,” Perea Warniment said during an interview in late January.
“We are submitting a letter to the Department of Education that would allow us what's called flexible testing options.”
She said she expected the waiver application to go out this week.
Under the plan, Perea Warniment said, districts could use the summative assessments that would typically be required during this time – the New Mexico Measures of Student Success and Achievement and SAT – or schools could submit data from a different, uniform test they've done throughout the year. But, she said, a district wouldn't be allowed to skip testing altogether.
Families, however, could opt out under PED's proposal, she added.
This spring would be the first time that students take the New Mexico Measures of Student Success and Achievement that replaced PARCC and the first time 11th-grade students take the SAT as a standardized exam.
The education department would also give districts more time to get testing done.
“The window starts in March and then it will expand into May. Typically, it's just a smaller window in March,” Perea Warniment said.
The deputy secretary said the plan is to do that testing in-person with COVID-safe practices so that they can be supervised.
Students do federally required testing once a year in third through eighth grades and once in high school. In New Mexico, that equates to 167,773 students, according to PED.
Gauging students' knowledge is more high profile after a legislative report said spring 2020 school closures could have cost students between four months to more than a year of learning for the state's elementary and middle school students. That predicted learning loss could increase as remote learning continues.
While Perea Warniment said she doesn't think there will be wholesale learning loss, she said that the testing results will likely enforce concerns about academic achievement gaps for students who are at-risk and the PED will be eyeing data from these students to see where their skill level is.
Student assessment scores are no longer part of teacher evaluations.