Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a pair of executive orders today that pave the way for ending use of the PARCC standardized test that has been administered to New Mexico's students since 2015.
A news release from Lujan Grisham's office says one of the orders "called on the department to immediately begin working with key stakeholders" to start assembling a new assessment. The order notes that PARCC testing accounts for the vast majority of ratings the state gives to public schools, causing educators to "spend excessive resources" teaching to the test.
A second order signed by Lujan Grisham today will end the practice of using students' PARCC scores to evaluate teachers' professional competency. Instead, the press release says, the Public Education Department will use a new method that draws on "a variety of proven means of measuring teacher efficacy and performance."
The PARCC assessment has generated controversy since it debuted four years ago. Critics pointed to its length, strict time limits and inflexibility, particularly for students with special needs. A dozen high school students risked suspension to protest it back in 2015.
PARCC, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers, is a federal consortium of several states who opt-in to using the standardized test. Under the former governor, New Mexico was the fiscal agent for a contract to write and administer the test in the entire consortium. The state awarded the contract to multinational education corporation Pearson, a decision that sparked allegations of cronyism.
The press release was short on details for what would replace PARCC, or whether the assessment would still be administered to students in March or used to evaluate teachers for this school year. Lujan Grisham said during her gubernatorial campaign that she would stop using PARCC.
Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia tells SFR the decision by the governor was "exciting."
"It's my hope the new secretary of education will include various stakeholders and we'll have an opportunity to redesign our evaluation system and take advantage of flexibility in federal law," Garcia says. "We have to make sure whatever [PARCC] is replaced with, we have a fair and transparent system of accountability."
Lujan Grisham's office says Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, a former special education teacher, will fill the role of education department secretary until it finds somebody for the position full-time.