RIO RANCHO, N.M. — A district official told the Rio Rancho school board this week that preparing for and administering the state’s new standardized test pushed staff to the “breaking point” and changes should be considered in future planning.
The first round of testing on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers has come to a close statewide, including for Rio Rancho Public Schools students.
Happy Miller, the district’s executive director who oversees testing, gave a wrap-up to the school board Monday night during its meeting, which was held for the first time in the new boardroom. She said there were only a few minor hiccups along the way because of the hard work from staff. But there are areas of concern, including the added workload online testing has created for staff.
“We have pushed our testing coordinators to the breaking point,” she said. “I’m very concerned about them. They are being pushed beyond their limit.”
Testing coordinators are individuals at each school site who oversaw the testing process.
Unlike its predecessor, the Standards Based Assessment, that was taken on paper, the PARCC test is done electronically. Students in grades three to 11 must take the test to determine whether they have mastered skills at their grade level in math, reading and writing. Juniors are required to pass the test for graduation. PARCC has been aligned with the Common Core Standards recently adopted by the state. A second phase of the exam will start in late April.
Miller said assistant principals also are overloaded because testing has become a full-time job for them, but they also are responsible for teacher evaluations, student discipline and various other tasks at their schools.
“Online testing is only going to continue to grow,” she said. “We need to prepare.”
Board member Ramon Montaño said he would like district staff to evaluate how many extra hours staff, including teachers, worked beyond their regular day to prepare for and give the PARCC exam.
“It’s not fair they are having to do this extra stuff,” he said. “I want to find out how much it would cost if we were going to compensate these teachers and staff.”
Richard Bruce, RRPS’ chief operating officer, said the district has tracked expenses related to the test, including the cost of minor construction needed to create testing space, computers and other equipment. He said evaluating the amount of extra work people put in “is a little more nebulous,” but they are trying to attach a cost to it.
Board president Don Schlichte said he ran into a Rio Rancho High teacher recently who told him the test had created a lot of angst for staff. Schlichte has often criticized the state for the way the test was rolled out, saying it was done too quickly.
“I want to commend the staff for carrying out the will of the state,” he said. “When I hear people are working weekends, it’s frustrating.”
Miller said, going forward, the district must purchase more computers to make sure there are enough for next year’s testing cycle. This year, the district’s third- and fourth-grade students were allowed to take a written version of the test, but next year that will not be the case. She said the district was not yet sure if the state was going to provide funding for more technology or whether the district would have to find that money somewhere else.
The district also needs to be mindful of the amount of time being spent on testing, which has been a main criticism from parents who say students are spending so much time taking exams that there is little time to learn, she said.
“We need to find a balance between assessment and instruction in terms of time and resources,” she said.