Focus of exam changes should be on students
November 29, 2017
Some conspiracy-minded educators who sit on the state Legislature’s Education Study Committee seem to think it’s their job to rewrite the U.S. history exam administered to New Mexico students at the end of the school year.
Matt Montaño, the state Public Education Department’s deputy secretary for teaching and learning, was grilled by committee members earlier this month about what’s not on this year’s standardized U.S. history exam, which assesses students’ proficiency in the subject. He explained a number of test questions had been omitted — by history teachers themselves — to address a common teachers’ complaint — they have to spend too much time testing.
Questions omitted in order to shorten the test include those on Rosa Parks, whose refusal to ride in the back of a bus because she was black became a rallying point for desegregation; the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion; and the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan to end World War II.
Montaño noted that all of those topics are still in the curriculum teachers are supposed to be teaching, but that wasn’t enough for some committee members.
Sen. William P. Soules, D-Las Cruces, a teacher and opponent of standardized testing, called the PED’s omissions “a subtle way of changing what will be taught.” He also made the disturbing comment that, if something isn’t on the test, “it’s not going to be taught.”
Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, an Albuquerque Democrat and occupational education coordinator for Albuquerque Public Schools, took exception to the Rosa Parks omission, saying Parks is “the reason I can sit here as a black woman and question you about what has been redacted.”
Simply stated, any question the PED includes, or excludes, from standardized tests is going to bother someone, and the alternative is to require tests so long they would quite literally take a school year to administer — the complete opposite of what teachers and teacher unions have sought for years.
Montaño duly noted the committee members’ concerns, and PED should give them due consideration. All three questions involve important social issues that need to be covered. Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski — a former history teacher who has demonstrated a willingness to listen to and work with teachers and school districts, most recently on science standards — then should decide which are the best questions to cut. It’s a decision that should be based not on politics, but on what’s best for N.M.’s students.
— Albuquerque Journal