ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) High schools throughout out New Mexico saw a massive walkout from students to welcome in the first day of testing under the state’s new standardized test and more walk-outs are expected in schools over the PARCC test Tuesday.
As promised, high school students in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Las Cruces, Carlsbad, Hot Springs and other cities protested the new “PARCC” test by walking out as classes began Monday morning. In Albuquerque, the protests continued throughout the day with one of the largest drawing several hundred at a west side high school.
In the largest collective demonstration, APS estimates that about 900 to 1000 students walked out and protested the PARCC exam Monday. The district estimates around 1,700 students opted out of the test.
Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent Brad Winter responded to the disruptive protests Monday afternoon in an interview with KRQE News 13. Winter said while the district expected some push back over the test, they hoped more student would have taken their concerns to the New Mexico state Legislature instead of the sidewalks. However, students say they had no choice.
“The test is taking away students’ opportunities to learn in their optimal state and it’s taking away teachers’ opportunity to teach how they teach best,” said Daniel Schilling, a junior at Highland High School who walked out Monday morning.
About 60 to 70 students protested the test at Highland High School, following a large protest by teachers before school early in the morning. Students at Highland lined the sidewalk in front of the school holding signs and chanting “say no to PARCC!”
“We want school people to be able to teach their kids and we want learning to happen, it’s what’s supposed to happen here and people can’t learn if no one is coming to class because of how dull these tests and the curriculum is,” said Connor Guiney, a junior at Highland High School.
From there, the numbers got bigger. Between 200 and 300 students walked out of Albuquerque High School.
The largest protest of the day came at Atrisco Heritage Academy on Albuquerque’s west side. Students protesting at that school were greeted by a group of hundreds of students who walked from two neighboring schools, South Valley Academy and Rio Grande High School.
“We’re more than just a grade and we don’t have to be testing to determine if we got our diploma or not,” said Josmar Venegas, a sophomore at South Valley Academy.
Similar demonstrations took place in Las Cruces and Rio Rancho, where a small group of students lined the road across the street from Cleveland High School.
“It feels like we’re being pressured to take a test that we feel like we’re bound to fail because of a lot of things on the PARCC test we never went over,” said Aspen Morgan, a sophomore at Cleveland High School. “It’s cold but we’re still standing out here because we believe in our cause.”
Sophomore Jayde Layne, also of Cleveland High School, said, “Analyzing these stories and writing essays on why this one line was important to this third subplot in a three-page story has nothing to do with what we’re going to be doing in the real world.”
2015 marks the first year that New Mexico has used the PARCC exam for third through eleventh graders. The state’s Public Education Department is planning to use the result to grade schools and teachers.
Students are claiming that the tests aren’t fair for a lot of reasons including the timed nature of the test, how it’s only on computers, and how the test is harder than the previous. Many students believe that the test contains too much information that students are not being taught and too many concepts that are different from ways students are learning.
“Common core and this type of education just doesn’t work for students anymore because it’s all standardized so we’re all learning the same way and not all of us can pass like that,” said a female Cleveland High School student who didn’t want to share her name.
“Our teachers always tell us use our voices, so why not us it here,” said Gwen Prior, another Cleveland High School student.
News 13 took the students’ concerns to the New Mexico Public Education Department.
“After the assessment window, I will meet with students but right now is an important time to focus and make sure that we’re in the class room and taking on this challenge and learning from it,” said Education Secretary Hanna Skandera.
Ultimately, she said, it was a successful first day.
“What we saw today was about 48,000 students successfully started taking their assessment, so when I put this in perspective, I’m proud of our teachers, school leaders and students who stood up for a great challenge,” Skandera said.
APS says any kids who skipped PARCC get an unexcused absence and a zero. Any high school juniors who never passed the old standardized test need to pass PARCC to graduate or an alternative. APS says it’s still waiting for PED to decide what the alternative will be.