NM senator seeks opinion on student testing
SANTA FE — A state senator from southwest New Mexico wants Attorney General Hector Balderas to weigh in on whether parents can legally opt out their children from taking an upcoming standardized test.
Democrat Howie Morales of Silver City says parents have a fundamental right to direct the education of their children and that includes whether they take assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.
Morales sent a letter to Balderas on Thursday, asking for a formal opinion.
Balderas' office confirmed it is reviewing the request.
Testing will begin for some students next week, while others will start taking the exams later in the month.
Morales said there's confusion because some school districts are telling parents they don't have a right for their children to opt out.
Officials with the state Public Education Department said state and federal law is clear that all students without a medical exemption must participate in the annual statewide assessment.
"This is nothing new — students have taken assessments in our public schools for decades," said agency spokesman Robert McEntyre. "Parents deserve to know whether their child is struggling, and our schools use the information to give those students the help they need to get back on track in the classroom."
Morales argued there's no effect on a child's grade or retention if the child does not take the exam but that a school's overall grade could be affected if more than 5 percent of students fail to take the test.
"Using a school's grade to leverage administrators to pressure parents negatively impacts the educational outcomes of New Mexico's schools," the senator said.
Education officials within the Obama administration warned in January that despite the end of No Child Left Behind, at least 95 percent of students grades 3-8 still must be tested and federal funding could be at stake if too many children skip the exams.
The PARCC tests first took effect last year and sparked a round of intense opposition from teachers, parents and students who said testing requirements take away from classroom instruction and put undue pressure on kids.
Parents in pockets of the country opted their children out of test taking in PARCC states and elsewhere. In New Mexico, hundreds of students walked out of class to march in protest if the exams.