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New Mexico’s new governor ending PARCC standardized testing to evaluate students, teachers

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during a private swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 1 in Santa Fe. Her daughter, Erin Grisham, is holding a Bible, and Sandra A. Grisham, the governor's sister-in-law and a retired judge, is administering the oath. (Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican/AP) (Lius Sanchez Saturno/AP)
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Not long after being sworn in as New Mexico’s new governor this week, Michelle Lujan Grisham signed executive orders to suspend and replace the controversial PARCC test, the standardized exam used in schools to evaluate students and teachers.

Grisham on Wednesday ordered the state’s Public Education Department to begin the process of ending the state’s use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers standardized test, which was created by a multistate consortium funded by the administration of President Barack Obama.

She also ordered the department to find a better way to assess whether schools are complying with federal law and to include teachers, parents, students and assessment experts.

“This is the first of many steps we will take to transform education in this state,” KOB-TV quoted the governor as saying. “High-stakes tests like PARCC do our schools a disservice, and we are about empowering our school system. Including those who will be most empowered by a better assessment in the process will help us build something better from the ground up, as opposed to a test mandated from on high.”

The move by Grisham, who was sworn in Tuesday, ends what critics have called an obsession with high-stakes standardized tests to evaluate schools and teachers through complicated algorithms that educators and assessment experts say are not fair or reliable.

PARCC was implemented in the state under former governor Susana Martinez and Hanna Skandera, the former secretary for public education in New Mexico, who were supporters of high-stakes tests to evaluate students and teachers.

PARCC is one of two multistate consortia given $360 million in federal funds by the Obama administration to design new standardized tests that align with the Common Core State Standards that were supposed to be used to hold students, schools and teachers “accountable.” Controversy over the exams sparked an opt-out movement among parents in various states. The PARCC consortium once had 26 member states, but after numerous defections, only a handful are left.

Grisham’s move was the second hit that PARCC sustained this week: The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state could not use PARCC as a requirement for graduation from high school graduation.

Greg Ewing, superintendent of Las Cruces Public Schools in New Mexico, issued a statement expressing support for Grisham’s move:

“We’re very pleased that the Governor is recognizing the importance of education and is clearly committed to fixing the broken testing system that has harmed teachers and students for far too long.
“We are confident that, by involving committed educators and key stakeholders in this decision, she and the Public Education Department will arrive at a solution that more accurately and effectively assesses the performance of our students and teachers while still complying with federal guidelines.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten also praised the governor’s moves. The union leader said in a statement:

“It’s telling that the first action by Gov. Lujan Grisham is focused on strengthening public education by first and foremost helping students and their educators. After years of former Gov. Susana Martinez’s obsession with testing over teaching, New Mexico now has a governor who wants to work with educators, not against us, and do what works for kids, parents and schools. Elections matter. Thank you, governor.”