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New Mexico confirms K-12 education testing, secretary

February 2, 2022 GMT
Public Education Department Secretary Kurt Steinhaus shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales after being confirmed by the state Senate during the annual legislative session on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M. During a confirmation hearing Wednesday, Steinhaus told state senators that the state would conduct state testing this spring, for the first time during the pandemic. He's been running the state's education department since August. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)
Public Education Department Secretary Kurt Steinhaus shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales after being confirmed by the state Senate during the annual legislative session on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M. During a confirmation hearing Wednesday, Steinhaus told state senators that the state would conduct state testing this spring, for the first time during the pandemic. He's been running the state's education department since August. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)
Public Education Department Secretary Kurt Steinhaus shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales after being confirmed by the state Senate during the annual legislative session on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M. During a confirmation hearing Wednesday, Steinhaus told state senators that the state would conduct state testing this spring, for the first time during the pandemic. He's been running the state's education department since August. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)
Public Education Department Secretary Kurt Steinhaus shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales after being confirmed by the state Senate during the annual legislative session on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M. During a confirmation hearing Wednesday, Steinhaus told state senators that the state would conduct state testing this spring, for the first time during the pandemic. He's been running the state's education department since August. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)
Public Education Department Secretary Kurt Steinhaus shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales after being confirmed by the state Senate during the annual legislative session on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, in Santa Fe, N.M. During a confirmation hearing Wednesday, Steinhaus told state senators that the state would conduct state testing this spring, for the first time during the pandemic. He's been running the state's education department since August. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s top educator said Wednesday the state will carry out testing of K-12 students this spring, after receiving waivers to federal testing requirements for the past two years.

“We do have a statewide standardized assessment that will be given at the end of this school year,” Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus told state senators at a committee hearing before he was confirmed by the Senate Wednesday.

He said that the department will also try to backfill the lack of testing in part by asking school districts to submit internal testing data for analysis by the state this summer.

“Student assessments are an essential part of giving feedback to the student and the parent, to the teacher to see if the curriculum is right and to you as a legislative body,” Steinhaus said in response to concerns about lack of testing and academic achievement data.

He added that the Legislature funds education with $3 billion in taxpayer money annually, saying lawmakers “want to know what that check is going to and how it’s being used and whether it’s effective.”

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Like most states, New Mexico took advantage of a blanket waiver on federal testing requirements in 2020. It was one of a handful to obtain a waiver in 2021.

But data points from 2019 won’t be directly comparable to the testing in 2022. That’s because Steinhaus’ boss, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, replaced the testing system of her Republican predecessor after taking office that year.

The plan was to pivot to another testing format in 2020, but that was delayed due to the pandemic. Grisham is running for reelection this year with few objective metrics of educational achievement in the K-12 system.

Steinhaus has led the education department since August.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter