MLG ditches standardized test

Out with the old, in with … something else. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered the state to stop using its standardized test, which has been closely tied to teacher assessments through student scores. The governor called the system counterproductive and "high-stakes testing." She ordered the Public Education Department, which doesn't yet have a Cabinet secretary appointment, to begin talking to both teachers and staff about a new test.

New duties

To help oversee the removal of the testing regime and the creation of a new one, the governor looked to the office down the hall: Lt. Gov. Howie Morales. He'll temporarily lead the Public Education Department ($). It's an unusual move, but the lieutenant governor doesn't have a lot of constitutional duties until the legislative session starts in two weeks. He leads the Senate in its sessions, but he's served there for years and has a backup. The move buys Lujan Grisham more time to attract a secretary candidate. Morales is an educator and has a doctorate from New Mexico State in the field.

Crude awakening

As lawmakers get set to figure out how much money to spend on schools and everything else (they roll into town Jan. 15), they're keeping an eye on the price of oil, which has tumbled from the mid-$60s per barrel to the mid-$40s. That's dangerously close to the level at which drillers can't make enough profit. Activity in the Permian Basin has already slowed, according to a survey from the Dallas Fed.

Construction spin-up

Buoyed on a sea of oil, the New Mexico's construction industry is among the top third of states. The construction of new pipelines in the oil patch (which will help keep oil prices competitive) and a booming Santa Teresa industrial center pushed the state's construction jobs above 50,000 ($) for the first time since 2009.

Waste not

One of the last moves of Susana Martinez' Environment Department was to OK what seems like an accounting change for nuclear waste storage at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. The facility can now count the volume of waste according to the size of the inner-most barrel ($), not the outer protective barrel. As long as that's what the engineers who designed the place were thinking, right? Well, some advocates point out that the air between the two containers is contaminated, has to be kept away from the public and should be counted as waste. With the change, WIPP goes from half full to one-third full. Or two-thirds empty, depending on what kind of a person you are.

What’s it do again?

A new rule requiring hospitals to post the cost of procedures online is in effect, but whether it actually provides useful information is debatable. What hospitals charge and what they negotiate with insurance companies and how it all adds up is, the Word believes, witchcraft. However, more relevant to you is that those negotiated numbers aren't posted, and unless you have medical coding training and an accounting degree, good luck.

Metal

The heavy kind. Zephyr Community Art Studio has a rather loud way to ring in the first Friday of the new year, but with band names like Giardia and Snot Goblin, how can you resist? It's futile. The show starts at 8 pm and it's $10.

C-c-c-cold

Temperatures are expected to venture into the wild territory above freezing today. Many places around the state will see high 30s and low 40s for the next few days. There's another storm expected Saturday night, but it's likely to be mostly a rain event, with snow in the higher elevations.

Thanks for reading! The Word knows it should spray the grime off the car, but it's just going to dirty again with the warm temperatures. Then it gets the hose again.

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