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Governor signs bill to cut back on standardized tests

SANTA FE – New Mexico high school freshmen and sophomores will spend less time taking standardized tests, under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Susana Martinez.

The new law, which will be in effect for the 2016-17 school year, will do away with a requirement that ninth- and 10th-graders in public schools and charter schools take at least three periodic assessments during each academic year in reading, English and mathematics.

However, students at those grade levels will still face the computer-based PARCC exam, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, an annual state-required standardized test that is administered in April or May.

The measure, House Bill 97, sponsored by Rep. G. Andrés Romero, D-Albuquerque, passed both the House and Senate during this year’s 30-day legislative session without a single “no” vote.

Romero, who teaches history at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, said school districts will still be able to offer the non-PARCC tests, or short-cycle assessments, but will not be required to do so.

He said teachers approached him last year with the idea for the legislation, which is intended to free up more time for teaching and avoid duplicative testing.

“That’s the desired effect of this, to reduce testing time,” Romero told the Journal .

Test taking has been a controversial issue in New Mexico in recent years, as teachers unions and some parents have complained the state-required exams take up too much time.

However, the Martinez administration has moved to trim the amount of time students spend taking tests, and the governor vowed during her State of the State address in January to reduce it even more.

“We’re spending more on education than ever before, and we’ve also reduced time spent on state-mandated testing,” Martinez said in her speech.

Meanwhile, the state’s two-term Republican governor also signed eight other bills into law Monday.

The signed bills include:

• Senate Bill 81 – Based on a similar program for K-3 students, creates a “K-5 Plus” pilot project that will add 25 more voluntary school days per year for students in kindergarten through fifth grade in 20 schools around New Mexico.

• Senate Bill 171 – Prohibits truck drivers and drivers of other commercial vehicles from using cellphones while at the wheel, except in emergency situations.

• Senate Bill 19 – Exempts from state taxes, and from certain regulatory and licensing requirements, out-of-state workers who come to New Mexico to repair telecommunications, energy and other infrastructure after a disaster.

Martinez has now signed 64 – and vetoed none – of the 101 bills passed during this year’s legislative session, which ended Feb. 18. She has until Wednesday to act on the others.

Some high-profile bills still awaiting the governor’s signature include a measure aimed at bringing New Mexico into compliance with the federal Real ID Act, a $166 million package of public infrastructure projects and a proposal allowing judges to order individuals with a history of severe mental illness into treatment programs.

Journal staff writer Deborah Baker contributed to this report.


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