About 40 Alamogordo High School students gathered at the Tigers football field Monday morning to protest New Mexico’s newest standardized test.
The Alamogordo students were among hundreds of students at high schools throughout the state who boycotted the first day of the exams, which assess math and English language arts skills in accordance with more rigorous Common Core standards.
AHS students gathered at the football field around the first bell Monday while many of their peers inside began the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exams or PARCC.
Students signed a petition, held up signs reading “No PARCC-ing Zone” and “Hear Us Now” and gave speeches arguing that schools hadn’t prepared them for what they described as overly difficult tests. They also chanted “can’t start PARCC” and “not a test score,” particularly when administrators approached the field.
In an email sent to parents last week, AHS Principal George Heaton said that students who chose to boycott the test would be counted absent for the day or for the periods they missed. District administrators said that protesters risked their ability to receive a diploma, even though they could still graduate with a certificate of completion.
A sophomore in attendance said he saw the chance to voice his opposition to standardized tests with the debut of the new exams.
“I’m not going to sit here and allow myself to be defined by a test score, to be told by somebody that I don’t have potential for the rest of my life when it comes to a standardized test,” he said.
Another student, a senior, described his decision to protest as the result of frustration that’s build up through years of standardized testing.
“This is like seven years of hate right here,” he said.
Alamogordo students were hardly alone in opposing the exams yesterday.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reported that nearly 500 high school students in Las Cruces staged protests against the PARCC exams Monday. The Albuquerque Journal wrote that hundreds of Albuquerque-area students organized demonstrations as well.
Protesters were following the lead of Santa Fe students who organized walk outs last week that included marches to the Capitol building and the Public Education Department building.
At Tularosa High School, students and one or two parents gathered outside the front of the school around 10 a.m. Monday, according to those involved.
Student organizer Jerry Lujan, a junior, said about 30 people protested for close to an hour. Tularsoa Municipal Schools Superintendent Brenda Vigil put the number of participants at closer to 20 and said the demonstration lasted until the school began serving breakfast at 10:20 a.m.
Back in Alamogordo, strong winds and the threat of rain led students to move from the football field to the front of the school around 10 a.m. Students continued to protest for the rest of the school day, though the number of participants dropped into the 20s.
Alamogordo Public Schools Chief of Staff Doyle Syling said students demonstrated peacefully and that the first day of PARCC testing proceeded without significant difficulties.
Students who chose to protest, he said, were allowed to eat school lunch and also to use the restroom with a staff escort.
Several students said they plan to continue protesting as testing continues, a situation Syling said the district would address as it develops.
“I just hope that everybody continues to do their best in the testing and that those who choose not to participate please be respectful of those who are,” he said.
Vigil said the parents of 37 students in the Tularosa Municipal Schools had refused to allow their students to take the PAARC test as of Monday afternoon. She said parents who wish to refuse the test should go to the school their child attends to complete a district refusal form and submit a letter requesting an opt out.
Students who don’t take the test will still be able to participate in school activities like athletic teams, student council and clubs, she said.
Vigil said she respects the right of parents to refuse to have their child tested but discourages them from doing so.
“It really does provide us with information about students’ academic progress and growth,” she said. “Contrary to what some parents have expressed to us, this isn’t a pass-fail test.”
Syling said last Friday marked the deadline for parents of students at Alamogordo Public Schools to refuse PARCC testing. Parents submitted refusals for about 50 students district-wide.
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