NM educators make school-based decisions about non-mandated assessments

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by Brian Washington

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By the end of this year, the testing landscape for public schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico could look a lot different—thanks to local educators working with the district leaders.

According to Grace Mayer, a middle school Arts teacher, the district’s interim superintendent has issued a voluntary freeze on the use of all non-mandated tests. The decision follows years of educators working with leaders in the district to get them to see how these tests were negatively impacting students and their education.

“We’re really encouraged and enthusiastic about the announcement,” said Mayer. “It’s taken years to get our Board of Education and the people in leadership to understand that all this excessive testing isn’t really helping us or our students.”

It’s doesn’t improve students’ skills and is draining all the joy out of learning. We want to motivate kids to graduate and to be excited at school. With all these different tests, it’s getting harder and harder to do that.

Mayer, who is the president of NEA-Santa Fe, which has majority-membership in the district, said educators last year were asked about their professional concerns in a survey. Not having enough time to teach and giving students a well-rounded education topped the list.

“We’re over-testing kids to the point where they don’t know which ones are important anymore,” said Mayer. “It’s overkill.”

As a result of the superintendent’s announcement, educators and staff at each school will now make site-based decisions about which assessments, outside of those required by New Mexico and the federal government, should be given to students.

The district is also pulling together a task force made up of teachers, principals, and district staff. The task force, which will begin its work on Monday, October 3rd, will look at which, if any, of the non-mandated tests should be used and make recommendations to the district. The superintendent will then issue new, more permanent guidelines regarding the tests and their use.

Mayer says possibility of change is giving educators new hope and helping them reconnect with their passion—creating an educational environment that inspires students and triggers their desire to learn.

“They (educators) feel like they may be able to again build those classroom relationships that are not just about putting students through some inappropriate testing process that doesn’t measure anything,” said Mayer. “We’re feeling a lot more connected to our work as professionals and to the kids we want to inspire.”

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