State school ratings leave Clovis scoring well

By Mike Linn and Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff

Fourteen of 17 Clovis schools met the state’s standards for performance and participation, according to ratings released Monday by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Clovis High School, Cameo Elementary and Marshall Junior High School failed to meet the department’s yearly progress standards. Cameo failed to meet state standards for the second straight year, meaning the school will be placed on “school improvement” status and be forced to develop an improvement plan.

The ratings were based on student performance on new standards-based math and reading tests administered to fourth, eighth and 11th graders; attendance rates for elementary, middle and junior high schools; and graduation rates for high schools.

The Clovis school district did better than the state as a whole, with 82 percent of Clovis schools meeting standards as opposed to 66 percent of schools statewide meeting standards.

As a group, Clovis schools Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Ladona Clayton said she was pleased with the ratings.

She said she expected Cameo to be rated at “school-improvement” status, but is sure the school will meet requirements next year.

“They’re very proactive at Cameo and have some strong programs in place,” Clayton said. “They’ve fine-tuned some instructional strategies and we believe 100 percent in that school coming out of ‘school improvement’ next year.”

Scores on standards-based tests taken last spring show that 22 percent of fourth graders at Cameo were proficient in math and 24 percent were proficient in reading, well below the state average for fourth graders at 49 percent proficient in reading and 58 percent in math.

Clayton said the low socioeconomic status of students at Cameo may have played a part in the scores.

“We don’t use that for an excuse. When you have different demographics for a school, then you look at that population and where their needs mainly are. We have found that at Cameo we’ve got to continue to enhance reading ability,” Clayton said.

To help bring the school out of “school-improvement” status, Clayton said she has cut the student/teacher ratio by an average of three to four students per class.

Cameo Principal Carrie Nigreville said she believes instructional programs already implemented will surge the school out of “school-improvement” status next year.

“Quite honestly it is not going to change a lot of what we are doing instructionally because we have a sound plan in place,” Nigreville said. “There are lots of good things that come out that are not displayed when you have a one-word rating system.”

The school, which was on probation from last school year, has been given a designation that will force it to hold a public meeting, implement a school-improvement plan and allow students a choice to attend another school.

“I have teachers who know what they’re doing in the classroom,” Nigreville said. “I am very confident that it is only a matter of time before we are not rated as ‘school improvement.’”

Clayton said the graduation rate at Clovis High may have hindered scores there, and said she was surprised Marshall eighth graders scored low in math. Forty-four percent of eighth graders at Marshall were proficient in math, compared to 48 percent at Gattis Junior High School and 63 percent at Yucca Junior High School.

Among other area schools, 25 meet the adequate yearly progress standards, while 12 did not.

All eight of Portales’ public schools failed to meet standards.

Portales schools superintendent Jim Holloway said the report is misleading.

“We are ahead of where we need to be on the spectrum,” Holloway said. “AYP doesn’t reflect all of the students. If one subgroup didn’t meet AYP then the entire school did not meet AYP. It only takes 25 to make a subgroup. It’s very frustrating.”

In Fort Sumner, two elementary schools were rated as not meeting standards because the district failed to administer the tests.

PED spokesperson Ruth Williams confirmed Fort Sumner schools did not meet requirements because the fourth- and eighth-grade levels did not take the test.

Last month, Superintendent Lecil Richards apologized to state officials for failing to administer the tests, saying school officials administered the older Terra Nova test, not the version required by the state.

Fort Sumner High School, which administered the correct test to 11th-graders this past school year, met standards. Neither of the elementary schools were on probation from the previous school year.

“Our kids are awesome kids,” Richards said. “They would have done extremely well on the test, but the test was not given and that is just where we are at.”