After field testing the assessment in the spring of 2014, New Mexico is moving ahead with the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Teams from the state’s two- and four-year universities and colleges have met to discuss how to use PARCC for placing students into college-level courses and also how to transition students more successfully from high school to college. New Mexico adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in October of 2010, and is a governing state in the PARCC consortium. In spite of the resolve of New Mexico’s Public Education Department and Higher Education Department to continue implementing CCSS and PARCC in the state, there has been controversy over recent decisions.
New Mexico’s PARCC page online assures readers that the new assessment “measures real world skills that colleges value, like critical thinking and problem solving.” In addition, the page asserts that NM’s public community colleges and universities are involved in developing the assessment so that it will align nicely with college curricula. However, there is only one university specialist in math and one in language arts currently listed in the New Mexico Educator Leader Cadre (NMELC), and it is difficult to find information on which New Mexico educators are actually assisting in test development.
In February of 2015, NM Senator Linda Lopez introduced Senate Bill 296 in an attempt to stop implementation of CCSS. She expressed her concern in the following statement:
Today’s CCSS was created by an educational industrial complex whose focus on educating children is skewed by the tremendous pressures related to their selling of a product and making a profit. This pressure to make money has led to an over-testing of our children and a diminished quality in K-12 education. The complexity continues to expand as the same corporations move toward marketing educational products—including textbooks—to accompany the standards and tests. (Nmsenate.com)
The bill died, but controversy surrounding NM PARCC continues. In July of 2014, the American Institute for Research sued in an attempt to limit Pearson’s PARCC contract, which could last for up to eight years, “effectively committing a billion dollars in a sole-source contract” (Blogs.edweek.org, Cavanaugh, 2014). The lawsuit has complicated testing plans in other states, among them Mississippi and Louisiana (Gulflive.com).
As Senator Lopez pointed out (NMSenate.com), the stakes for New Mexico’s students are high. “We were just ranked 50th in the country for child wellbeing,” she said. “Using our children as testing guinea pigs will not improve their lives or their education!” Since 80% of the black and Latino students tested in New York in 2013 failed the assessment, it remains unclear whether PARCC will prepare more New Mexico students for college study and gainful employment or whether it will plunge state residents and educators into deeper turmoil.