By Marlena Hartz: CNJ STAFF WRITER
Seven schools in the Clovis Municipal School District failed to meet federally designated 2005 proficiency levels for student performance, or “adequate yearly progress,” according to information released Monday by the New Mexico Public Education Department.
Therefore, the district as a whole failed to meet proficiency standards federally mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.
Clovis students failed to meet adequate progress in all three grade spans — elementary, middle, and high school — for two consecutive years due to low performance among special education students, state results indicate.
Six Clovis schools failed to meet standards in 2004.
More than half of New Mexico’s schools — 54 percent or 428 schools — did not make AYP. However, this year’s test pool expanded to include grades three, five through seven, and nine, and a new standards based test was implemented, lowering student performance expectations.
Clovis schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said the size of the Clovis district, the 10th largest in the state, makes meeting AYP goals more difficult. Smaller area districts such as Texico, Fort Sumner and Grady met proficiency standards, according to the schools’ superintendents.
“In Clovis, without exception, any school large enough to qualify for a special education population did not make AYP. If the special education population was not large enough to count, they did make it,” Seidenwurm said Monday from her office, shortly after the district and school AYP results were made public.
The special education population is just one of nine subgroups a student can fall into under the AYP system; other subgroups include: ethnicity, English Language Learners and students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. If a school has more than 25 students in any one subgroup, that subgroup must be proficient in order for the school to make AYP.
“Lincoln Jackson, for example, made AYP because it is a small school with a small number of subgroups,” Seidenwurm said. “The high school, on the other hand, has six subgroups” that need to reach AYP standards in order for the entire school to be deemed successful according to No Child Left Behind provisions, she said.
Seventeen percent of schools didn’t meet this year’s rating goal because of low academic performance in one subgroup of students.
Marshall Junior High School Principal Diana Russell was not surprised by this year’s results. It is the second consecutive year that Marshall has failed to make AYP; therefore, the school has landed in School Improvement I phase of the federal accountability plan. All schools, however, have 30 days to appeal designations at the state level, said Don Watson, state assistant secretary for assessment and accountability.
“We’re basically going to go into our professional learning community, set goals and objectives and dig into our (AYP) data to find out where our students are lacking,” Russell said. “We definitely need to increase language (teaching) across the curriculum. In math, we’ve found that is not a calculation problem. It is more of a language problem in terms of increasing vocabulary.”
If students have the language tools to better analyze and execute the test’s in-depth math questions, scores will improve across the board, Russell said. She emphasized that parents should be understanding of factors that lead to AYP failure — junior high school scores tend to be low, she said, because district students from 13 elementary schools funnel into three junior high schools, making more subgroups accountable in those schools.
Despite the district’s repeated shortcomings, Seidenwurm regards AYP as “rigorous, relevant to the real world” and worth the effort.
If the test is revised to better reflect the individual and unique needs of the special education student and the English Language Learner, two subgroups schools in the district struggle with most, Seidenwurm believes the district, the state and the country will be on the right track.
“The spirit of No Child Left Behind is a good one, the devil is in the details. The details will be worked out … The test defines doing well in a completely different way than it has ever been defined before,” said Seidenwurm, adding that holding schools to new standards, based on new research, is a step in the right direction for the nation’s schools.
Education Secretary Veronica Garcia agrees.
The new tests, she said, “require students to demonstrate much more than a superficial content knowledge level.”
“We believe,” she said, “that nothing is to be gained by having an assessment where schools easily make AYP, but students are held to a mediocre standard.”