Board addresses test issues

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

Clovis school board officials expressed reservations Tuesday about whether state tests that measure yearly progress are fair.

Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Ladona Clayton delivered a presentation outlining why the district and six schools were rated as not meeting “adequate yearly progress.”

Three of those school, Gattis Junior High, La Casita Elementary and Yucca Junior high, were added to the list recently when the state re-examined test scores.

Based on President Bush’s ambitious No Child Left Behind program of 2001, the standards-based tests grade on whether schools reach a predetermined score, and do not reward progress, Clayton said.

“I know we have parents that are concerned about these grades and to these kids, it’s not fair,” Clayton said.

Board member Ken Merritt said there is no denying the district needs to improve, but so does the testing system.

“I also think we need to emphasize the good things that report doesn’t show,” Merritt said. “Because the rating system is set up the way it is, it doesn’t give the schools credit for the progress they are making.”

Cameo Elementary, Clovis High School and La Casita did not meet standards when the report was released in the fall.

The schools missed goals because at least one of eight subgroups designated by the federal government did not meet the math or reading standards.

Cameo and Gattis Junior High were placed under a designation that allows children to transfer to any school in the district.

Subgroups are considered in the results if the school or district has at least 25 students in that group. Four of the schools missed progress standards because special education students did not make the grade, while Cameo’s economically disadvantage subgroup and La Casita’s English language learners did not meet goal.

Clovis was the only Curry County school to miss AYP, but school officials said small schools do not have as many subgroups considered.

“Based on what was given to us we realize that all project plans need to be tweaked,” said Board President Terry Martin. “Larger schools are not treated the same as smaller schools and the evidence of that is clearly in the report.”

Clayton said school officials are working with teachers to address writing techniques used in the new tests, which are heavily based in explanation rather than multiple choice. Computer labs around the district are expanding and students are using new software to prepare for tests.

Across the state, 34 of 89 districts met AYP.

Also at the meeting:
• An Energy Education Inc. representative presented a plan to the board to limit energy use in the school. Gary Clark said the company has school districts as clients in 48 states and aims to implement a customized energy conservation program at the school.

The board will consider the program at the Feb. 22 meeting.

• The school board pushed back spring break for the 2005-2006 school year to March 27-31 in response to an additional test week granted by the state. Clayton said the state Public Education Department added an extra week in testing and moving back the break allows schools to maximize testing time.

School will meet Veterans Day next year.

• A bid for $32,042 was approved for drainage at Highland Elementary. A bid for $100,380 was approved for parking lot improvements at James Bickley Elementary.