February 27, 2014
Memorandum For Raton Community
Regarding the tests and why all students should take them:
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests are not new to Raton this year. Selected classes participated in a Practice PARCC last spring. It is understandable that as with anything new and challenging, there are concerns and questions. There are many good reasons all students should participate in testing and do their best for themselves and their school:
1. The test is part of the NM state graduation testing requirements. If students do not participate in the PARCC testing, there is the potential it could jeopardize their ability to obtain a high school diploma. In the Elementary/Middle Schools the results also contribute to the decision whether a student is truly prepared for the next grade. State rules require that students pass a high school competency exam in order to earn a diploma. The PARCC and SBA serve this purpose in New Mexico. While there are Alternative Demonstrations of Competency (ADCs) that can permit students to qualify for graduation, students must first exhaust their opportunities to pass the SBA and/or PARCC before ADCs can be considered. Students who do not take the PARCC are passing up one of their very limited opportunities to take and earn a passing score on the test.
2. Taking the test now gives students the opportunity to become familiar with taking an online test and helps them to do better the next time they take it. This situation is similar to taking the ACT test. Many students do better the second time they test, which enhances their scores as they prepare for college and career. Many college classes require online instruction and testing. This helps them prepare for college.
3. Our students generally do well on standardized tests such as the PARCC and are a reflection of our students, parents and teachers hard work. We are proud of our schools, our teachers, and our reputation for providing the best we can for students. The federal law requires that 95% of our students at each school participate in the assessment. Failure for any school to reach the 95% threshold causes the schools rating to be dropped one letter grade. Our reputation for high expectations and high student achievement impacts our community in many positive ways, and parent/student refusals to take the test could jeopardize that reputation which helps attract families and businesses to Raton.
4. We know in good conscience our students would not want to distract others who are trying to focus on the test from doing their best during the test sessions. Taking staff away from test proctoring to offer diverse and meaningful educational experiences to students who refuse to test would do this. For this reason if students refuse to test they will be provided alternative assessments such as Discovery-Ed and/or formative and end of chapter tests during the same time and room that PARCC is being administered. This will provide limited but useful assessment for teachers and also contribute to an equal educational environment for all students. The alternative assessment results will be used in the same way the PARCC is being used; to inform instructional practices and to determine the promotion.
We would note that federal and state laws require the participation of all students. Parents, students, and schools do not have the ability to opt out of the assessment. We have received guidance from the New Mexico Public Education Department with a reminder that the law does not offer an exemption or a right of refusal to take the test.
Regarding rumors of protests:
While we appreciate that students have the right to express their opinions, there is an appropriate time and place to do so. That time is not during class time. Also, please be aware that Raton Public Schools cannot be responsible for the safety and security of students who choose to leave their school campus.
A decision to participate in a walk-out will result in an unexcused absence. We expect that our students will respect the rights of their fellow students to participate in testing without being disrupted. Under no circumstances will disruption or disorderly conduct be tolerated and such behavior will be addressed through disciplinary consequences as indicated in the student Code of Conduct.
Our schools have and continue to work on having a positive and respectful climate for everyone. We are proud of our students and expect that they will conduct themselves in a manner that respects the choices made by others.
How can we share our opinions responsibly?
RPS understands and respects there are differing opinions about the value of achievement tests such as PARCC. As a school and district we must follow state and federal law, and the states testing requirements stem from federal law. The federal Congress is currently considering changes to No Child Left Behind (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA) that mandates testing for all students. So the timing is right for those who have an opinion to make their voices heard!
If you have an opinion about mandatory testing or changing the testing requirements, you may wish to contact your federal representative and senators (Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Lujan) as well as the New Mexico Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandera.