By T.J. Wilham, KOAT News
In one of her first acts as governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two executive orders that will eventually change how school children are tested and how their teachers are evaluated.
In her third official day in office, Lujan Grisham came through with a campaign promise and signed two executive orders that will ultimately end students taking the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test.
However, it is likely children in grades 3 to 11 will have to take components of the test come March as the governor’s team works with federal officials to implement a new evaluation system for students that meets federal law. The governor’s goal is to have a new system to test students and evaluate teachers by next school year.
What that process will look like is unclear. The governor’s executive order was directing the Public Education Department to come up with a new process and end PARCC. Lujan Grisham has assembled a team of educators to make recommendations on what student and teacher evaluations should look like.
Whatever they decide, it must meet the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
In a news conference Thursday, Lujan Grisham did say that it was likely that there would be some sort of standardized tests and it would be used to help evaluate teachers. Federal law requires some sort of an evaluation process.
“Getting a quality experience in our education system is what I am after,” Lujan Grisham told KOAT after the news conference. “This is not an abandonment of making sure we close those achievement gaps but a commitment of creating a positive culture that focuses on the needs of the children.”
Teacher evaluations and PARCC tests have been controversial among lawmakers and educators since former Gov. Susana Martinez started initiating her pledge 8 years ago to hold teachers more accountable.
Critics have said there is too much testing in schools, and that PARC tests rely too heavily on federal and not local standards and using them to evaluate teachers is unfair for those who teach in lower income areas or special needs students.
“Right now we are being judged and they are looking for the gotcha and now that is not going to happen anymore,” said Billie Helean, a second grade teacher at Maggie Cordova Elementary School in Rio Rancho, who attended the news conference. “We are going to end up in a place in which are evaluated fairly and students are evaluated the way we should be.”
The governor did not announce a new public education secretary who will ultimately carry out her vision. She said she hoped to have her entire cabinet complete by the time the new legislative session starts Jan. 15.
In the meantime, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, who holds a PhD in education will lead the department with an acting secretary.
“We are sending the message that the public education department is going to be here in support of our schools and our educators across the state,” Morales said “rather than as a police department looking for areas in which we can shut down schools.”