States will not receive a waiver from standardized assessment tests this year, but the U.S. Department of Education threw them a lifeline on how they can conduct them.

In denying waivers for testing, Assistant U.S. Education Secretary Ian Rosenblum wrote state assessments are important in identifying student needs and targeting resources to address them — even amid the coronavirus pandemic. He also wrote states may need flexibility in administering the tests, depending on circumstances.

Rosenblum added data from the tests should be a used as a source of information for parents and educators to target resources and support, rather than for accountability purposes this year.

“We also recognize that at a time when everything in our education system is different,” Rosenblum wrote, “there need to be different ways that states can administer state tests like moving them to the fall so that precious in-person learning time this year can be spent on instruction. Balancing these priorities is the best approach.”

State Public Education Department Secretary Ryan Stewart said Tuesday that New Mexico made a request Feb. 17 to the U.S. Education Department to waive the requirement that 95 percent of all students participate in math and reading assessments, which take place in the spring. Stewart added his department proposed to test a representative sample of students that will give it information on where they are academically, and the department could receive a response from federal officials in two to three weeks.

“Given the nature of the pandemic, that requirement is the biggest challenge we face because we have limited numbers of students in buildings at a time and we have some districts that are completely remote,” Stewart said.

A news release states some of the recommendations the federal government made included extending the testing window into the summer or fall, giving assessments remotely or shortening them to make testing more feasible.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García said that should the state Public Education Department’s request be granted, the district already has submitted preliminary numbers of how many students it estimates will elect to take the test. The alternative, however, could make for a messy adjustment of the district’s testing plans.

García said trying to accommodate 95 percent of students in grades 3-8, plus 11th-graders, would be difficult, especially considering the district must still adhere to Public Education Department COVID-19 guidelines.

“It would get more complex, but it would be something we can overcome,” she said.

Santa Fe Public Schools administered its own formative assessments at the beginning and in the middle of the school year so parents could gauge how their child was doing, García said.

Even if the state’s request is approved, she cautioned against comparing results to other districts because the number of students opting to take the test will vary. She added smaller districts are better able to accommodate more students because of their size.

“We’re always compared to other districts,” García said. “If we’re all not doing the same thing, it can give skewed information results, in my opinion.”

García said waiting until the summer or fall might be an acceptable alternative if all students are required to take the test because it gives districts time to work on plans and more students might be allowed into the classroom if the pandemic continues to wane. It also could give a more accurate assessment of where students are in their learning.

“If we’re all doing the same thing under the same conditions, then I think you have a little more comparability,” García said. “Even at that, it is going to be skewed because some school districts had more in-person instruction than others. It would still be better than a hodgepodge of variables that would make comparisons difficult.”

(10) comments

Mike Johnson

Sorry incompetent bureaucrats, you will not get a pass for showing how badly NM has done compared to other states due to your Dear Leader's unnecessary and draconian lockdowns. It will be there for all the world to see how much further entrenched NM is in last place for education. Live with and accept your reality.

Lee DiFiore

Teacher unions hate standardized tests of any kind as they are an empirical measure of their successes or lack thereof. Dropping them will shortly be added to the list of demands made by their unions before returning to full in-person learning.

Lisa Jo Goldman

Gee, I guess the Feds forgot we are in the midst of a pandemic, and that any ACCURATE measures of student learning and progress will be rendered useless. What a waste of these kids' time...I am SO sick of this country (pun intended).

Lisa Jo Goldman

Thank you, Jerry. You obviously understand the concept of empathy and our current reality. I will choose to ignore the snarky comments from "Lee" and others. I teach. I teach high school and college My students are struggling emotionally and physically. Sure, we WANT to return safely (as opposed to "Lee's comment suggesting otherwise); we do NOT enjoy virtual learning, staring at avatars, etc. But, the fact is we are living in a pandemic; we are attempting to retain some semblance of normalcy for ourselves, families, students..our COMMUNITY. I don't give a rat's-bum about testing. It's a construct that harkens back to the early inception of public based on a Prussian industrial model intended to create good little worker bees out the population. The ludicrous hyperbole of "Kids falling behind" is ubiquitous; I am tired of it. WHO or WHAT are we falling behind? Frankly, it's hard to test when you're dead, or when your family member is ill, or when you are too stressed to focus on a test. It's time for people in this country to learn a thing or two about empathy and compassion. It's something I instill daily in my college and high school student.

Lee DiFiore

Yet another teacher against in-person learning and standardized tests. For the rest of you, now you see why so many of the schools are closed. And don't buy for one minute that malarkey about "we teachers all want to be back in the classroom". If they did, they would.

Lisa Jo Goldman

For my additional comment below: students, not student (sic). Thank you

Jerry Appel

Asst. Sec. of Ed. Ian Rosenblum is a pseudo-educator. His parents were teachers, but he has not taught according to online sources. He has worked for education think tanks, but has never had to deal with being a teacher. Even Arne Duncan did some tutoring, but Rosenblum is cut from the same cloth, like Duncan, he thinks he knows what's best. I've already emailed Dr. Biden.

Our children (I just retired from teaching in New Mexico) do not need more tests. What they need is not "precious extra learning time", but the time to heal from this trauma. After 9/11, I watched my students cringe every time they heard a jet fly overhead . . . for months. This pandemic is ongoing and will be with us for another year, at least. Now, in all returning classrooms, how many children will cringe and shrink away every time their teacher or fellow students sneeze, cough, blow their nose? That fear will be with them for a long time because of the ongoing trauma. How many of these kids or teachers have lost a family member, friend, or neighbor to COVID-19? Stop traumatizing them by testing them and telling them they need to catch up in some area or another. They need the space to heal. Besides, their teachers will be full aware of their weaknesses which will be different for each student. Gov. Lujan-Grisham and NMPED Sec. Stewart should tell Rosenblum to put this where the sun don't shine.

Lee DiFiore

Gee, a former teacher against in-person learning and standardized tests. Who would have thunk!

Jim Clark

It’s a good thing we have Dr. Biden, so we don’t have to do standardized testing! What? Never mind. What are we doing to help our kids and not the testing companies?

Ralph Myers

Testing should not be happening this year. It shows that the big data mining/testing companies still hold too much power over education policy.

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