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NM education wins praise for PARCC testing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico has received recognition for setting rigorous math and reading proficiency requirements by administering PARCC, a controversial assessment aligned with Common Core.

The policy journal Education Next ranked the state fourth highest on standards and gave it an A grade, up from a C+ in 2013.

In addition, the nonprofit Collaborative for Student Success included New Mexico among 26 “top truth tellers.” The designation is meant to reflect whether student achievement data is accurate – in other words, if a child is rated “proficient” in algebra, can she really solve an equation?

Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera highlighted her commitment to strong standards during a CSS media conference call Tuesday.

“New Mexico has gotten honest about the gaps that we see and the importance of giving good information to our parents and our teachers to support our students,” she said.

Advocates for PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, argue that it more accurately measures children’s abilities than many other exams.

PARCC results closely match the independent National Assessment of Educational Progress, also called the Nation’s Report Card, which is considered an international standard.

Education Next ranked three PARCC states – Rhode Island, Colorado and Maryland – at the top of its proficiency standards list. Overall, 24 states earned A’s.

The journal’s article, “After Common Core, States Set Rigorous Standards,” said the ratings gauge “truth in advertising.”

“To be clear, high proficiency standards do not necessarily reflect high student performance,” the article states. “Rather, good grades suggest that states are setting a high proficiency bar – that students must perform at a high level to be deemed proficient in a given subject at their grade level.”

On Tuesday, Skandera said teachers and kids are responding to the tougher standards.

“We had great progress this year,” she said. “We are beginning to see a delivery on the promise that our students truly are prepared for success.”

The New Mexico Public Education Department has mandated PARCC in third through 11th grades since 2015.

Scores improved slightly between the first and second rounds of testing – English proficiency went up 1.3 percentage points and math 2.5 percentage points, with every test posting gains except third-grade English.

But the overall results were still dismal.

Only 19.9 percent of students reached the benchmark in math and 27.7 percent in English.

New Mexico’s teachers unions have stood against PARCC, and over a thousand students walked out of class the first time the exam was administered.

Opponents of the assessment say kids are being overtested, cutting into instructional time.

They also argue that PED is improperly using the results to calculate school grades and teacher evaluations ratings.

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