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New Mexico Law Would Halt Common Core, Require Public Hearings and Investigation into Costs

It looks like Mercedes Schneider will have to add New Mexico to her list of 22 where there is unrest regarding Common Core standards.  And this time, the source is not from any conservative wing of the Republican party; it is a Democratic legislator, State Senator Linda Lopez, who is leading the charge. 

The bill Senator Lopez has introduced would halt implementation of the Common Core and withdraw the state from the PARCC testing consortium. It would also require public hearings and a fiscal analysis of the new standards before they are brought into effect.

By focusing on public hearings and a careful review of the costs associated with implementing the new standards, Senator Lopez is addressing two of the areas that defenders of the Common Core have had the hardest time explaining away. How could we completely change academic standards in state after state with such minimal opportunities for public review, and based on such incomplete information regarding the costs? This lack of a legitimate democratic process  has left the Common Core standards vulnerable from start. Instead of building support through a legitimate process such as this, its corporate sponsors have sought to buy support after the fact, and wage public relations campaigns such as the one revealed in this recent presentation

A press release from Senator Lopez said the following:

"First let me say, I support excellent standards for our children in New Mexico," said Senator Lopez.  "But standards such as Common Core State Standards cannot be enacted in a swirl of confusion.  We must first identify who will write these standards and how will they be measured. Most importantly we must understand the consequences to our children, teachers, and schools if the standards are not met.

Today's Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were created by an educational industrial complex whose focus on educating children is skewed by the tremendous pressures related to their selling of a product and making a profit.  This pressure to make money has led to an over-testing of our children and a diminished quality in K-12 education.  And the complex continues to expand as the same corporations move toward marketing educational products - including textbooks - to accompany the standards and tests.

The CCSS agreement was put in place in October 2010 as a US Department of Education eligibility requirement in obtaining a Race to the Top grant.  The agreement was entered into prior to completion and examination of the standards.

The PARCC consortia, funded with $190 million by the US Department of Education, has seen numerous states withdraw from the consortium over the past years, including Oklahoma, Georgia, Indiana, Florida and most recently Kentucky. The states have withdrawn as it became apparent that states desired to engage in a Request for Proposal (RFP) process, concerns regarding piloting tests, limited resources, and competing priorities.

Public Education Department Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera serves on the PARCC Governing Board; while Dr. Jose Garcia, Secretary of the Higher Education Department, serves on the PARCC Advisory Committee on College Readiness.  As a Governing State, Skandera agreed to participate exclusively in PARCC and administer the assessment system statewide during the 2014-15 school year. The governing states also pilot assessments and commit to using the results from the PARCC in their state accountability systems.

Lopez expressed the following concern, "PED is 'field testing' the PARCC assessments on our children.  Many of our youngest New Mexican's are struggling; we were just ranked 50th in the country for child wellbeing.  Using our children as testing guinea pigs will NOT improve their lives or their education!"

In New York last year, only 3% of the second language learners passed the common core PARCC assessment. Only 5% of Special Education students with IEPs passed. Also, 80% of Black and Latino failed the assessments. 

Here is the language of the New Mexico bill.

DISCUSSION DRAFT

An act relating to public schools; prohibiting the public education department from continuing to implement the common core standards until certain requirements have been met; providing requirements for the adoption or revision of curricular standards; requiring the state to withdraw from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers; prohibiting the state from implementing assessments aligned to common core standards by the partnership; requiring the state to use assessments in place before the adoption of the common core standards; prohibiting the department from entering into certain agreements; requiring public hearings and a fiscal analysis on implementation of common core standards; making appropriations. Be it enacted by the legislature of the state of New Mexico:

SECTION 1. A new section of the Public School Code is enacted to read:

     "[new material] common core standards--ceasing continued implementation--providing for hearings and a study--limitations on secretariat power to enter into curricular agreements.--

A.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the department shall cease implementation of the common core standards in English language arts and mathematics, or any other subject areas which were adopted by the state as part of the May 2009 memorandum of agreement with the national governors association and the council of chief state school officers, until the provisions of this section are met.  School districts shall continue to use New Mexico academic content and performance standards and the New Mexico standards-based assessments until the requirements of this section have been met.

B.  The department shall hold at least four public hearings in each congressional district by November 1, 2014, with the attendance of the secretary or the deputy secretary for policy and programs, or a designee who is an appropriate programmatic manager or director, and the director of the legislative education study committee or the director's designee.  At the public hearings, the department shall explain the state's decision to change from New Mexico academic content and performance standards and the New Mexico standards-based assessments. Public testimony shall be taken on the implementation of the common core standards and the process by which the department entered into agreements that changed New Mexico academic content and performance standards. The hearings shall feature a nonbinding vote of the audience to demonstrate public sentiment on the topic. Hearings shall be publicized through notices to staffs and parents in the school districts in the congressional district in which the hearing is being held and through public service announcements and community organizations. Hearings shall be recorded and available to the public for listening or viewing, as applicable. Continuing reports of the hearings shall be presented to the legislative education study committee at its regularly scheduled meetings.

C. The legislative education study committee shall contract with an independent entity with expertise in the development, implementation and assessment of curricular standards to conduct a fiscal analysis of the implementation of common core standards in New Mexico. The analysis shall include:

(1)  the projected cost of implementing the common core standards and providing necessary professional development for teachers and principals;

 (2)  the projected cost of developing, administering and grading assessments tied to the common core standards; and

(3) the cost of retaining the state's academic content and performance standards and the standards-based assessments.

D. Before adopting a system of curricular standards, after July 1, 2015, the department shall compare state standards with other nationally recognized standards of student achievement, including common core, and shall consult with school superintendents, in-state curricular experts and others. After a fair and balanced study of state and national  standards, the department shall report to the legislature on  its findings and selections.

 E. The department shall not enter into or renew any  agreement that cedes control over curricular standards or assessments to an entity not under the absolute control of the state. The department shall withdraw from the partnership for assessment of readiness for college and careers while the requirements of Subsections B and C of this section are being conducted, and the department shall not implement the assessments aligned to the common core standards by the partnership.

SECTION 2. APPROPRIATIONS.

A. Fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the public education department for  expenditure in fiscal year 2015 to fund public hearings on core standards and the decision to change from New Mexico academic content and performance standards and the New Mexico standards-based assessments to the common core standards and assessments. Any unexpended or unencumbered balance remaining at the end of fiscal year 2015 shall revert to the general fund.

 B. Fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the legislative education study  committee for expenditure in fiscal year 2015 to contract for a  fiscal analysis of adoption and implementation of the common  core standards and assessments. Any unexpended or unencumbered balance remaining at the end of fiscal year 2015 shall revert to the general fund.

What do you think about this proposed law? 

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