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New Mexico Teachers Win Right to Criticize Tests

Just weeks after New Mexico teachers took the state to court over a ban on school employees deriding standardized tests, education department officials have announced that they will abolish the so-called "gag order."

Robert McEntryre, a spokesman for the state education department, called the 2009 ban an unintentional holdover from the administration of previous Governor Bill Richardson

"This was a Richardson-era rule put into the books, and we never enforced it. We reviewed it just as we said we would, and we've decided to roll it back," said McEntryre, the Associated Press reports

In settling the case, the state has backed off of earlier claims that the lawsuit—which was filed by the New Mexico branch of the American Civil Liberties Union—was just a part of an "extreme agenda" against all testing.  

ACLU attorney María Mártinez Sánchez says that lifting the ban was necessary for the public to be able to tap teachers' critical wisdom in the ongoing debate about the proper role of testing in schools. 

"Many New Mexico educators have serious and legitimate concerns about over-reliance on standardized testing, and the harms it can cause to individual students and the educational process as a whole," said Sánchez in a statement following the announcement that the ban would be lifted"We should be listening to the teachers' expertise on these issues, not trying to stifle their free speech by threatening their jobs."

Mary Mackie, a teacher at Montezuma Elementary School in Albuquerque and one of the suit's plaintiffs, told the news service that the decision was also a win for parents. 

"Educators need to be able to have open and honest conversations about standardized tests, not just in the public sphere, but also in talking with parents about what's best for their children," said Mackie in the same ACLU statement.  "I've seen situations where standardized testing can actually be harmful to the education and well-being of certain students, and parents have a right to hear that from their child's teacher."

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