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Common Core, PARCC right for NM

We have a skills gap in New Mexico and it is limiting our children’s opportunities.

Consider this: Over half of New Mexico’s students require some sort of remediation because they lack knowledge and skills they should have mastered in high school.

Students and parents are spending more than $20 million a year on courses to cover content their high school diploma claims they mastered, while earning no credits towards their college degree.

A majority of these students do not even finish college.

In a time when a college education is almost a prerequisite for having a job, much less a career, we need to serve our students better.

Fortunately, New Mexico is on the right path to addressing this challenge.

In 2010, New Mexico adopted the Common Core State Standards. These standards set consistent expectations in English and math for every student.

Business leaders support these standards because they align with skills students need when they enter college and the job market. New Mexico’s economic future depends on students graduating high school with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed.

This is why New Mexico worked with other states to develop a better student learning assessment.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) replaced New Mexico’s Standards Based Assessment in English, language arts and math. The PARCC test assesses the problem solving and critical thinking skills that are needed to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Like in any good business, educators continually assess student progress and need multiple measures to determine what changes are necessary to improve outcomes for students.

In the past, teachers have not had adequate measures to effectively identify where students need academic support. The PARCC score report provides information about how students are learning so that teachers, parents and students can adapt instruction and supports to better meet each student’s needs – to prepare them for success from grade to grade and beyond high school.

Our state has been transitioning to this new system of standards and aligned tests for a few years. This fall marks a pivotal moment in our state’s efforts to raise expectations and performance.

With Gov. Susana Martinez’s and Education Secretary Hanna Skandera’s leadership, students are learning under higher standards and now we have a more accurate assessment of our students’ academic progress.

New Mexico officials have released results from the PARCC test, setting a new proficiency baseline to measure student performance moving forward.

Just like there may be a few kinks to work out when a new product is released, implementing a new test requires fine-tuning. Our students’ scores may look lower, but they provide a more accurate representation of our students’ performance.

With PARCC, we have better information to help students improve their academic performance and overall success.

As we move through this transition period, it is important to stay the course. We applaud the commitment to being more transparent with students.

This is a critical time for New Mexico’s schools. As employers, parents and community members, we need to serve our students better. New Mexico is poised to do so, by maintaining high standards and the more accurate, honest tests.

Rick Alvidrez is vice chair of Education and Workforce and Terri Cole is president and CEO for the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

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