Native American students' perceptions of high-stakes testing in New Mexico

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Given the political and public demands for accountability, using the voices of students from the frontlines, this study investigated student perceptions of New Mexico's high-stakes testing program taking public schools

Given the political and public demands for accountability, using the voices of students from the frontlines, this study investigated student perceptions of New Mexico's high-stakes testing program taking public schools in the right direction. Did the students perceive the program having an impact on retention, drop outs, or graduation requirements? What were the perceptions of Navajo students in Navajo reservation schools as to the impact of high-stakes testing on their emotional, physical, social, and academic well-being? The specific tests examined were the New Mexico High School Competency Exam (NMHSCE) and the New Mexico Standard Based Assessment (SBA/ High School Graduation Assessment) on Native American students. Based on interviews published by the Daily Times of Farmington, New Mexico, our local newspaper, some of the students reported that the testing program was not taking schools in the right direction, that the test was used improperly, and that the one-time test scores were not an accurate assessment of students learning. In addition, they were cited on negative and positive effects on the curriculum, teaching and learning, and student and teacher motivation. Based on the survey results, the students' positive and negative concerns and praises of high-stakes testing were categorized into themes. The positive effects cited included the fact that the testing held students, educators, and parents accountable for their actions. The students were not opposed to accountability, but rather, opposed to the manner in which it was currently implemented. Several implications of these findings were examined: (a) requirements to pass the New Mexico High School Competency Exam; (b) what high stakes testing meant for the emotional well-being of the students; (c) the impact of sanctions under New Mexico's high-stakes testing proficiency; and (d) the effects of high-stakes tests on students' perceptions, experiences and attitudes. Student voices are not commonly heard in meetings and discussions about K-12 education policy. Yet, the adults who control policy could learn much from listening to what students have to say about their experiences.