PED: Feds Approve New Mexico’s Request For Spring Testing Waiver


New Mexico students will take annual standardized tests this spring to the greatest extent possible, but the results will be used only to inform families, educators and the public about academic achievement after a year of mostly remote learning.

The U.S. Department of Education this week granted New Mexico’s request for an accountability waiver, which means no student, school or district will be graded, rated or ranked based on this year’s test scores.

“This waiver will allow New Mexico educators to get the student achievement data we need to guide accelerated learning programs without adding stressful consequences at the end of an already stressful school year,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Education was attentive and receptive to our state context and request for flexibility.”

The notification letter, sent Wednesday, also waives the requirement to test 95% of all students.

Students who returned to in-person learning will be encouraged but not required to participate in spring assessments. For students who remained in remote learning based on family choice, schools and districts will have the option of using locally designed assessments, the state’s formative assessment system or other local measures of academic progress.

The Public Education Department, anticipating the waiver would be granted, asked K-12 public schools last month to conduct spring assessments to the greatest extent possible — language that gives districts and schools the flexibility to determine how many students participate in spring testing.

“We are not proposing a particular threshold but will leave it to districts and charter schools to determine the extent testing is possible,” Stewart said.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education waived spring tests across the country after schools moved to remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the federal agency said it would not issue a blanket waiver but invited states to request flexibility. New Mexico first applied for a waiver Feb. 17. 

Because of the waiver, the state will not be required to use 2020-2021 testing data to identify schools for comprehensive support and improvement, targeted support and improvement and additional targeted support and improvement. Instead, schools so identified in the 2019-2020 school year will retain that status for another year.