About 250 students walked out of classes Monday at Santa Fe High and Capital High schools in protest of the upcoming PARCC exams, the state’s newly imposed standardized tests that will be used to assess student achievement and evaluate schools and teachers.

Police were called to Capital after some students pulled down a parking lot gate with a truck, but otherwise the walkouts remained largely civil. About 30 students made their way to the Capitol building in downtown Santa Fe to make their concerns known directly to lawmakers.

The protests reflect the anxiety both on the parts of students and teachers over the exams — the latest evolution of high-stakes testing to hit public schools. Teachers unions and some school boards across the state have asked the New Mexico Public Education Department to delay the implementation of the exams — which test students’ aptitude in reading and math using Common Core standards.

The protests, which students promoted using social media, began about 10:30 a.m. About 150 students walked out at Santa Fe High and about 100 at Capital.

Superintendent Joel Boyd stopped by Santa Fe High around 11 a.m. and urged students to write letters of concern regarding the PARCC testing to Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera and told them he would personally deliver them to her.

Boyd said Monday afternoon that while the district supports students expressing their points of view, principals at both schools will “mete out consequences” for those who violated school code policies or damaged the fence.

One Capital student, who did not want her name in the newspaper, said of her peers who damaged the fence, “They did not act responsible. This makes our school look really bad.”

Charlotte Gonzales, a 10th-grader who stayed on campus, said, “This was about saying ‘no’ to PARCC tests. We weren’t supposed to leave the campus.”

There were no reports of property damage at Santa Fe High School, according to Lt. Andrea Dobyns of the Santa Fe Police Department and Latifah Phillips, chief of staff for Santa Fe Public Schools.

The protest was announced on social media sites, including Facebook, over the weekend. It was intended to start a weeklong walkout of classes to demonstrate against the PARCC exams, which will start in March for students in grades 3 through 11.

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.”

Many Capital High students said the initial protest plan was to form as a group right in front of the school around 10:30 a.m. — the start of the third period. But more than half of the students involved immediately began walking off the campus.

When security guards closed the main gate to the Capital campus to vehicles, students began pulling down fencing surrounding the student parking lot so they could drive off. School administrators then called the Santa Fe Police Department. A patrol car arrived shortly after all the students left.

School administrators, who were tipped off to the protest, attempted to convince the departing students to return to class. Some did. The school officials urged students to organize a more formal protest at the state Capitol so lawmakers could hear their concerns.

Some of the students said they asked their parents or teachers for permission to protest in advance. Many planned to return to their campuses later that day.

At the Roundhouse, where some students traveled by city bus from their south-side campuses, students gathered in the House gallery, but it was unclear whether they were able to speak to any lawmakers, many of whom were locked away in committee hearings. Boyd showed up as well to speak to the protesters and arrange transportation for them back to their schools.

As they waited for rides back, three of the protesting students engaged in a conversation with Boyd.

Jose Medina, a 15-year-old freshman at Capital High School, said he objects to the amount of time that testing takes up in the classroom and wasn’t just following the crowd when he left school to demonstrate at the Roundhouse.

“There’s too much testing,” agreed Liliana Reza Carrillo, a junior at Capital. “There’s eight weeks of testing, one week of review and then finals.”

“We asked permission before we came here, of one of our teachers and the secretary,” Carrillo said. “There’s a lot of teachers that even came here and protested against this testing themselves.”

The students wouldn’t identify the teacher that they said let them leave school to protest testing.

“She didn’t encourage us, but she said, ‘Go and do whatever you think is best,’ ” Carrillo said. “We know if we stay at school, nobody’s going to hear us. If we come here, more people might hear what we have to say.”

Boyd said the purpose of his conversation with the students protesting at the Roundhouse was to make sure they were safe “and to make sure that our young people feel that their voices are heard.”

“They’re looking to express themselves on a matter of public policy that has a direct impact on them,” Boyd said. ” I think every teacher would support that. What teachers are not condoning is any type of disruption to school or leaving school grounds without permission. I don’t think any teacher is supporting a violation of school rules.”

Boyd was less direct about his stance on testing than the students were.

“There are pros and cons to each assessment,” Boyd said, “And every type of assessment warrants a conversation.”

One of the students involved in the protest said he would confer with other students to find out if they want to continue the protests through the week.

“If so, hopefully they will be more peaceful; no tearing down of fences,” he said.

Staff reporter Patrick Malone contributed to this report. Contact Robert Nott at 986-3021 or rnott@sfnewmexican.com.

(25) comments

William Wadsworth

Well, at least part of the Common Core Standards has been realized - "critical thinking" - which was admirably practiced by the students who took their objections to the streets. Fortunately they were not tear-gassed. I suppose learning to take tests well and write essays will be useful survival skills for our youth, though subsistence farming and military training might be more appropriate for the brave new world they face.

Richard Donaghey

I am an educator, yes, I am against all of the testing, it is overrated. OK, that said. I speak as a taxpayer. The taxpayer is getting ripped off, with additional infrastructure, the American taxpayer will spend about 20 Billion on Common Core and the PARCC testing. Your elected reps did not tell you that did they. 20 Billion for 7-8 days of testing. Will the students benefit? No, the students will not benefit. The testing companies will benefit, and they will laugh all the way to the bank. The state also paid for Teachscape, the teacher evaluation system. That will cost the NM taxpayer about 20 Million. Mind you, for a program that does not work as designed. Yes, a revolution is in order. Not from teachers, but from the NM taxpayer who is being robbed.

Steve Salazar

It is so very convenient to blame Skandara for all the testing, blah, blah, blah. You libs wanted out of NCLB, and so NM opted out. Requiring this testing, the teacher evaluations, are the conditions set forth by the Obama administration for opting out.

You got what you wanted, but you forgot to read the fine print, deal with it.

Ron Romero

Teachers hate it, students hate it... but you know better about what testing and what it's like to educate or youth. Right? I'll bet dollars to donuts that you have not walked into a school in decades. But you know better. What a joke.

Ron Romero

Our youth.

guero

New Mexico students rank next to last among all states in the country in their academic performance, above only the District of Columbia. Every attempt to try to improve student learning has been opposed by the teachers' union, including this one.
If you agree with the students, please tell me your proposals to improve student learning in the state.

Richard Donaghey

English immersion would many of them. But, teachers must use Bi-lingual teaching strategies, or we are breaking the law. Everyone in education knows what holds back the students. They do not speak, read, or write English well. In many cases the parents and culture hold them back. Interestingly, the senate must decide on a bill which will hold back 3rd graders if they cannot pass English tests at the 3rd grade level. Guess, we have to see what happens?

Kenny Gonzales

Good to see these kids taking active part in this. Pulling down the fence was not a good idea, but some of these kids are young, and will have to face the consequences of a poor decision. The people in charge, Martinez, and Skandara, have never ever been educators, or have even had children, they have no clue what it takes to educate these kids. Seriously, Skandara came the Florida system that was a mess, she was bought and paid for long ago by a private testing firm, and word is, her appointed position was paid for also. How can anyone say that she knows what she is doing, when it took five tries to finally get her confirmed?

W Ben Bransford

SERIOUSLY! If you dont realize the politics involved with her confirmation and the teachers union you are blind or terribly naive.

W Ben Bransford

Irresponsible for the teachers and teachers unions to encourage this behavior. They are so afraid of any accountability they will do anything to avoid it even at the expense of the kids.

Cruzito

No wonder I saw a group of teens get on the same bus I was on around lunch time

Emily Koyama

It won't take a brain surgeon to track down that truck and the driver. Make him pay for the damage... after all, my property taxes are supposed to pay for I-pads, not replacement gates.

Mark Ortiz

[thumbup]

Cate Moses

It's great to see students take active responsibility for their education. Excessive testing and the privatization of our schools that goes with it are destroying public education, critical thinking, and imagination. Parents, you have the right to refuse these tests. Join us for a FREE statewide conference and activism planning session this Saturday, Education Powerhouse 2015; no preregistration required. WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. WHERE: NEA-Santa Fe, 2007 Botulph Road, Santa Fe

Steve Salazar

What public schools have been privatized?

seaheather

When our current administrators for the Department of Education were in primary and secondary, were they subjected to rigorus testing? I think not!! Go back to teaching our children and give them educational information they can use in the real world. Stop teaching to the test and start teaching to life's experiences.

Max Wilson West

Could be interesting if Santa Fe parents kept their children home on testing days. That could send a pretty clear message to the NM PED!

Jason Shields

I feel for the students because I know how hard these tests have become. With that said, they are necessary if we ever hope to improve our abysmal schools. The status quo is changing under the feet of these kids. I don't have a problem with the demonstration but there comes a time in life when you realize that life is not fair. Hopefully this situation will harden the resolve of these students and not throw them into a life of hopeless despair.

seaheather

Our schools are not medicore due to lack of testing...why don't we start with showing students the fun side of learning. Since when does increased testing harden the resolve of students?? Guess you must be one of the ignorant administrators that believe that testing is the answer to our educational demise.

Pierce Knolls

Way back when I was in high school, we just called it ditching.

Ron Romero

With no cause. Some students ditched, probably, others are sick of being judged by tests that have no track record of valid assessment. Not all students are ditching idiots. Pay attention , open your freakin mind for once!

Pierce Knolls

I have very little sympathy for high school students who don't want to take tests. Learning and being tested on what they learn is literally the reason they're in high school.

Joe Ray Anaya

A person whom is truly educated has the ability to think for themselves. Education is about enlightenment, not memorization. PARCC has more to do with Teacher assessment than what it does with the child's. I challenge you to take a PARCC practice test at the 3rd grade level and post your results...
http://epat-parcc.testnav.com/

Pierce Knolls

PARCC is just the latest iteration of the standardized assessment test we all had to pass to receive a diploma from a New Mexican high school. Since I have a diploma from a high school down in Albuquerque, I can attest to the fact that I have taken some predecessor to PARCC and survived. So if I could do it, then these kids should be able to get through PARCC.

Pierce Knolls

By the way, JoeRay Anaya, the link to take the practice PARCC requires a login, so I couldn't get in to take the test.

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