Students across New Mexico are planning to walkout of classes Monday en masse to protest high-stakes standardized testing they say have little or no correlation to curriculum in the classroom but are closely connected to teacher evaluations and place their own graduation opportunities in jeopardy. And many of these students have support from parents, educators and elected officials statewide.
First, take a moment to hear from the students themselves. The anxiety over these tests is palpable.
Students in a media arts class at Washington Middle School made a YouTube video that has been making the rounds:
These students explain it better than any policy wonk or bureaucrat so far. Students (and their parents and educators who work with them everyday) share the individual experiences they bring to school — ‘gang violence almost killed me’ and ‘watched stepdad beat my mom’ — which require individualized education plans to help them become the musicians, artists, future engineers or educators featured in this student piece.
Bottom line: Students are not just a test score.
Read more below on why students are walking out and how Martinez/Skandera reforms are failing NM students.
Live updates from today’s protests:
— ProgressNOW NM (@ProgressNowNM) March 2, 2015
— ProgressNOW NM (@ProgressNowNM) March 2, 2015
— Daddy (@camdaddy___) March 2, 2015
See more updates on Twitter @Progressnownm
Skandera/Martinez reforms already led to lower reading and math scores. More testing won’t help.
Students and parents are right to be skeptical of the benefits these tests are supposed to bring.
Last year we profiled statewide student performance since Martinez/Skandera reforms were implemented. They were down in both reading and math.
When asked about the results, Skandera told reporters the problem was not her tests, it was the kids. Students should just “try harder” she said in an interview last year.
Per-student fee routes to out-of-state company
Education Week, a national online education-focussed news outlet, explains how much this new testing scheme costs New Mexico taxpayers.
The potentially huge scope of the work is described in the language of the New Mexico contract with Pearson. It says that anywhere between 5.5 million and 10 million students would be tested annually, with a projected per-student cost of testing in the new contract of about $24.
The state PED said it would spent about $6M to test this round.
Some complaints which have, so far, gone unaddressed by PED
The new PARCC tests are much different than the old pencil and paper version you and I are used to.
Third-graders are required to take the tests on computers, yet many third graders do not have access to computers at home or in the classroom. And, third graders haven’t learned to type on a computer keyboard. Remember how confused you were when you first sat at a modern keyboard and didn’t find the letters in the same A-Z order you expected them to be?
And all of these additional testings now require third graders to take up to 15 hours of tests a year, an evaluation by Santa Fe Public Schools found.
Parents in different districts are getting different information about their options to opt children out of testing. We profiled two of those conflicting districts online last week.
Ruidoso Schools sent a letter to parents affirming that they always have and continue to have a right to opt students out of standardized testing. In contrast, Belen Consolidated Schools told parents in another letter that there was no policy to permit opting out. So which is it?
As of last week, the state’s Public Education Secretary, Hanna Skandera refused to say how the PED would respond to walkouts. From KRQE:
KRQE News 13 requested an interview with the New Mexico Public Education Department early Wednesday through phone and email. 30 minutes before the story aired, a spokeswoman declined to answer any questions. In part, PED said, “PED supports those districts that have made the decision to act in accordance with the law.” The department refused to clarify its position on districts allowing students to “opt-out.”
And there are still concerns that the test have no correlation to curriculum being tested because neither teachers nor students know the content of tests which are developed and administered by out-of-state companies.
We profiled some of the ongoing implementation problems in an online report last month:
And parents and teachers who took the practice test in November called the tests “shoddy” and said they weren’t confident the tests demonstrated proficiency.
Rio Rancho school leaders said this to the Albuquerque Journal: “Is this going to totally screw up instructional time,” asked board vice president Don Schlichte. “This just seems so discombobulated.”
And with just days to go before testing begins, some schools seem to have big problems even getting the tests up and running.
In Albuquerque, test runs found that half of the computers in one school did not have the right software to run the tests, while many students who could get online couldn’t log on.
Students around New Mexico are now planning walkouts on Monday in line with those in Las Cruces and Santa Fe last week.
This was the scene last week in front of the Public Education Department’s headquarters where more than 250 students braved below-freezing weather to march on and around the complex to protest the coming PARCC tests
“There’s too much testing,” student Liliana Reza Carrillo, a junior at Capital, told the Santa Fe New Mexican “There’s eight weeks of testing, one week of review and then finals.”
The all-computerized PARCC exam — short for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — is designed to test students’ knowledge of the newly adopted Common Core Standards, which encourage critical thinking and essay writing.
The tests are expected to take up to nine hours of time over several days. Students and teachers have been taking pilot PARCC exams to prepare for the real thing.
Some students who stayed on the Capital campus said they think the PARCC tests are too hard and that the pilot PARCC testing periods are taking time away from classroom instruction.
“It’s unfair; we aren’t going to pass,” said 11th-grader Ana Iris, who took part in a practice test last week. Another student said, “We test too much.”
Now students around the state are organizing similar events on Monday when testing is slated to begin.
Las Cruces Public schools are preparing for Monday’s planned student walkout to protest the new PARCC tests.
There are a number of risks for students planning on walking out of Monday’s test. The test is necessary to receive a high school diploma. An Alternate Demonstration of Competency, which would be an end of course exam approved by the state, can be taken only if the student has attempted the PARCC test three times.
Superintendent Stan Rounds says students who walk out on Monday can still graduate if they take the make-up within the next three weeks.
“So, you walk out,” Rounds said. “If it’s peaceful, it’s using your democratic rights, we support that, that’s fine. Here’s the deal. It can’t interrupt testing that is happening, and you must make it up during this time period and we’ll accommodate you. And we are going to let your parents know your out.”
The Walkout will be considered an unexcused absence, and students will be disciplined according to individual school protocol.
Alamogordo and Tularosa high school students are organizing on Facebook a plan to protest the state’s new standardized tests that begins on Monday. Some parents have also chosen to submit forms to the school districts which allow their students to refuse to take the tests…
Around 40 parents, students and teachers attended a meeting to discuss the PARCC tests at the Tularosa Community Center Thursday night. Tularosa resident Lorrie Stone said her daughter, a senior at Tularosa High School, is “making herself physically and emotionally ill over this test.”
Students at Hot Springs High School in Truth or Consequences staged a walkout to protest the PARCC standardized test on Friday.
Witnesses told KOB they chanted “You take the test” while marching onto the school’s football field. A video sent to KOB shows students yelling “No PARCC” as they held up signs.
Facebook and Twitter and other online groups have also popped up helping students in Artesia, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Estancia, Carlsbad, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe organize similar events.
Here are a few of the schools where local students have publicly posted plans to enact walkouts on Monday to protest PARCC:
At least one parent in Socorro told a local paper she plans to relocate to Texas next year to help her child avoid the unnecessary testing.
Students from Santa Fe Public Schools walked out of school last week and met with legislators in the Roundhouse to express their concerns:
— NM Senate Democrats (@NMSenateDems) February 28, 2015
— NM Senate Democrats (@NMSenateDems) February 27, 2015
There is some speculation that the students will return on Monday to meet with legislators before turning protests to the Public Education Department across the street.
So, the big question: what happens if students walkout?
Part of the confusion for students and parents comes from different information coming from the districts and PED’s refusal to clarify statewide policy. High school juniors must demonstrate proficiency in key subjects in order to graduate. PED has said that high-stakes testing can satisfy those requirements, presuming the student is able to pass the test designed around curriculum many of these students have not fully seen.
Some districts provide Alternative Demonstrations of Competency (ADCs) for students who opt-out or are unable to complete the tests. Other districts have publicly reported that students who walk out on Monday March 2 will have the option to make up the tests later in the year. More information is available on nmoptout.org or from school districts.