Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
With students largely stuck behind computer screens during the COVID-19 pandemic, standardized testing in New Mexico understandably took a hit.
Despite kids being back in classrooms, the state likely won’t be able to tell how they’re doing until next school year.
During a Legislative Finance Committee meeting in mid-May, New Mexico Public Education Department officials said data from the SAT, the standardized test for juniors, will be available in August. But data for the final Measures of Student Success & Achievement assessments, the tests for grades three through eight for reading and math, won’t be available until November. Testing for both wrapped up in May.
The delays are only expected for this year, said Lynn Vasquez, director of assessment & learning management system. That’s because the MSSA tests are new, according to the PED, meaning the state has to determine new proficiency levels.
Next spring, reports should be available about 10 days after testing windows close in mid to late May, the PED said.
Still, several state legislators questioned this year’s turnaround time on assessment results, pointing out that a new school year will have started by the time the results are in.
“I’m curious why it’s gonna take us six months to get the data back,” said Rep. Meredith Dixon, D-Albuquerque. “It seems like a long time, not only to get the data back but then making it difficult for us to plan moving forward for the budget of things that potentially would need to be changed.”
New Mexico Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus acknowledged that turnaround time was “just not acceptable.” He added that may be an issue to be addressed in negotiations with Cognia, Inc., which processes assessment results. That contract expires in 2024, according to the PED.
However, students have been tested at various times throughout the year. And according to interim assessment data for the 2022 school year, student achievement this year has been a bit of a mixed bag.
The kindergarten through second-grade students, who all took the “Istation” interim tests, fared the worst.
Reading at their grade levels at the beginning of the school year was 24%, compared to 31% at that time the year before, according to interim Istation testing data. That number edged up to 25% by halfway through the year, compared to the 37% who were reading at grade level by the middle of the 2021 school year.
Students identifying as American Indian and Alaskan Native were at 26% by the middle of 2022, compared with 43% halfway through 2021.
Special education students in those grades went from 54% proficiency halfway through the 2021 school year to 36% by the middle of 2022. English-learner students’ proficiency rates were the same.
The interim data for third- through eighth-grade students was not as complete. It was based on the 38% of students who took the interim MSSA tests.
The percentage of third- through eighth-grade students who were “on target” in reading and math for the 2022 school year began 5 percentage points below numbers from the year before, according to interim MSSA data.
But by the end of the year, the percentage of students on target for reading was on par with those from 2021 at 54%, and math achievement had pushed past previous levels of 19% in 2021 to around 22% of students.
According to the interim MSSA report, the amount of students identifying as American Indian and Alaskan Native, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students who were proficient hovered around 30% halfway through the 2021 school year.
For Hispanic students and economically disadvantaged students, those numbers improved to 34% midway through 2022. American Indian and Alaskan Native-identifying students remained at 29%.
Steinhaus noted that not all districts use the same interim tests; many use alternative tests to the MSSA tests.
“In an ideal world, I think we would all prefer that it be the same test,” Steinhaus said.
However, all students take the same MSSA tests at the end of the year.
Testing was waived in 2020, according to the PED, because of the pandemic. That came after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham nixed the state’s previous testing system in favor of the current MSSA tests, which were set to be rolled out that spring. In 2021, the state allowed the tests to be voluntary.