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APS board votes not to pay state for PARCC testing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Public Schools board has narrowly rejected a plan to reimburse the state Public Education Department for costs associated with this spring’s PARCC testing.

By a voice vote, without a roll call, the board voted 4-3 Wednesday night against repaying the state $1.4 million in administrative costs.

The vote followed a brief presentation by Rose-Ann McKernan, APS’ executive director of instructional accountability, who explained what had been expected to be a fairly routine reimbursement approval.

Superintendent Brad Winter and several board members did not return calls Thursday for comments on the vote.

Ellen Hur, chief of staff for state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera, issued a two-sentence statement late Thursday blasting the board’s move.

“It is absolutely reckless and inexplicable that a school board would refuse to pay for a service that is not only required by law, but is also critical in bringing $400 million in federal funding into our classrooms,” she said. “By refusing to pay its bills, the school board is only hurting our students, and that is disappointing.”

The vote also followed a number of comments from audience members opposed to the PED’s recently released teacher evaluations, which this year were based in large part on the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests.

The PARCC tests, introduced in New Mexico and several other states this year, continue to face widespread opposition from teacher unions, as well as from individual instructors.

Just before Wednesday’s board meeting, dozens of teachers rallied in front of APS headquarters to protest the evaluations and the PARCC tests. Fifty percent of teacher evaluations are based on student scores in the PARCC and other statewide tests.

Also on Wednesday, the national PARCC Governing Board decided to consolidate two testing windows into one and reduce total test time by about 90 minutes beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

“We’ve listened to the voices of all stakeholders – educators, parents and students – and are using the lessons learned and feedback to produce a better assessment for New Mexico’s kids and administer a single testing window that reduces unnecessary work for educators,” Skandera said in a news release issued by PARCC.

Because this was the first year that the PARCC tests were conducted in New Mexico, it was also the first time the issue of reimbursing the state has come up. Previous assessment tests were negotiated directly between the school district and the testing agencies.