KUNM

Testing Walkout Gains Momentum

Mar 2, 2015

Connor Guiney, Daniel Schilling and Anna Bentham-Grey organized a mass walkout at Highland High School on Monday.
Credit Rita Daniels

More than a thousand students walked out of their classrooms across New Mexico on Monday in protest of a new standardized test. Many of the students said the test robs them of valuable learning time and will ultimately hurt their schools.

When the first bell rang at Albuquerque’s Highland High School on Monday morning, students got up and walked out of their classrooms. They were protesting the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC test. Schools began giving it this week as part of federal Common Core standards. By mid morning at Highland, the crowd of students holding picket signs had grown to over 300.

Elisa McInbuyer just transferred to Highland and says she really needs to bring up her grades.

“It’s really bad because I have to get my grades up from an F,” McInbuyer explained, “and it's like, I can’t have any class time to get that grade up so what am I going to do? We’re all testing.”

The high-stakes math and language test will be given in multiple sessions over the next two months. If McInbuyer doesn’t take the PARCC test, she can’t graduate next year. But if she doesn’t bring up the F, then she won’t be graduating anyway.

“It’s a pass or fail thing to graduate,” McInbuyer says, speaking of the PARCC test, “so people are kind of in a bind about it.”

Connor Guiney, a junior at Highland, was one of the organizers of the walkout. He just took a practice version of the test and says, unlike the old test that New Mexico used, PARCC has no creative writing or literature section. Guiney says that will change the way teachers are teaching.

“They’re going to start wanting to teach to the test. If the test is dull then what’s going to happen is students aren’t going to want to come to class any more,” Guiney said. “Truancy is going skyrocket and that’s not what we want. We want kids to be able to come into class to learn. We want them to graduate and that’s not going to be able to happen if this test takes over the entire curriculum.”

In New Mexico, the tests are not only being used as a graduation requirement. The state is also basing 50 percent of teacher evaluations on student test scores.

Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera told the Albuquerque Journal that the PARCC test is harder then previous tests, but that in the long run it will ensure that students are truly ready for either a career or college.

Anna Bentham-Grey is also a junior at Highland and helped organize the protest along with Guiney.

“We’re not here so you can throw boring tests at us and then fail us out of high school!” Bentham-Grey said. “We’re here to get a public education, that we have a right to, and I also think we have a right to say how we want that education and this is not the way students want it.”

Benthan-Grey says the PARCC tests don’t accurately measure what a student has learned during the school year because each student processes information in a different way.

“I have taken a practice tests, I’ve gone over study guides for this test, and it’s so specific to one learning style,” Bentham-Grey said. “It’s all detail oriented, it’s picking details out of texts and not all students are good at that.”

Bentham-Gray and Guiney collected hundreds of signatures on a petition they plan to present to lawmakers in Santa Fe.

“The petition directly says, and I quote, ‘By signing this petition I’m giving my full support to the anti-PARCC cause at Highland High School for the following reasons,” Guiney read the eight bullet points from the petition aloud. “Number one, the test does not accurately assess the academic ability of a student. Number two, the test uses an excess of class time directly affecting a students learning…”

The students say that they aren’t opposed to tests in general, they just want a fair assessment of their skills. And they don’t think the PARCC test will do that. The protesters say they’ll go ahead and take the test on Tuesday, but they plan on protesting every morning before school until the tests are over.