Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
The New Mexico Public Education Department isn’t releasing statewide spring standardized test results after only 10% of public school students participated in testing last school year, the agency announced Monday.
Citing low participation rates, inadequate access to broadband internet for students, and social and emotional impacts on students and teachers, department officials said it is impossible to make a valid interpretation of data from the spring testing.
Designed by the education nonprofit Cognia, the New Mexico Measures of Student Success and Achievement, or NM-MSSA, is designed to measure English and math proficiency for students in third through eighth grade. It was originally slated to be administered in the spring of 2020 as a replacement to the PARCC exam.
In the spring of 2020, testing was waived after March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to PED.
The announcement of the lack of data comes on the heels of a legislative report finding that the pandemic caused New Mexico public school students to lose an equivalent of 10 to 60 days of instruction time.
Legislative analysts said this lost learning time could cause students to fall even further behind academically.
Reliable statewide data concerning academic losses or improvements will likely not be available until 2023 due to pandemic related testing issues and the state’s move away from the PARCC test to the NM-MSSA, said Alexis Alvarez, PED’s director of accountability.
Alvarez said metrics like growth require at least two points of time to be compared, which requires the test to be administered with high levels of participation at least twice – something that won’t happen until 2023 at the earliest.
Before the pandemic, the state was required to have a 95% participation rate in yearly standardized assessments in order to meet federal requirements. This spring the state fell far short of that threshold, but it received a 2021 federal waiver allowing it to opt out of the accountability portion that sets the 95% participation rate requirement for public school students.
This year, individual districts were allowed to decide whether to participate in testing. Most school districts, including Albuquerque Public Schools, Rio Rancho Public Schools and Las Cruces Public Schools, declined.
Alvarez said that data gathered from the schools that did participate in testing might not be representative of the entire state; affluent districts may be overrepresented.
The 95% participation rate required in normal years also served as a benchmark that allowed the state to accurately interpret data and make generalizations about the progress of subgroups of students like Native Americans, low income students and students with disabilities, according to Lynn Vasquez, PED director of assessments.
With the lack of data on student educational outcomes, PED is now urging school districts to administer some form of standardized testing this fall in order for districts to gauge where students are academically.
“Our message is really that it’s not so much about the assessment of the past year or two, it’s about the assessment right now,” NMPED Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment said. “Right now is a critical space to push forward and understand where students are.”
The PED is not requiring districts to participate, but it will be tracking which districts opt in, PED spokeswoman Judy Robinson said.