Six Clovis schools fail to meet state standards

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Clovis Municipal Schools failed to meet federal academic standards as a result of low performance by special education students and English Language Learners, according to results released Tuesday by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Those same subgroups performed below standard last year, leaving local educators frustrated with a system they say is skewed.

Despite making strides, six of 17 Clovis schools failed to meet No Child Left Behind math and reading standards for 2006-2007 in an assessment called Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP.

Seven schools failed to meet standards last year.

Across the district math scores rose from last year, while reading scores dropped slightly, according to Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm.
Fifty-four percent of the state’s 800 public schools failed to make AYP, according to the state.

All three of the district’s middle schools — Gattis, Marshall and Yucca — failed to meet AYP standards, along with Cameo and Lockwood elementary schools and Clovis High School. All six schools failed because of the performance of a subgroup or subgroups, according to the New Mexico Public Education Department Web site.
The same six schools plus Highland Elementary failed to meet the standards last year.

“Clovis Municipal Schools, like most other districts in the state, again did not make AYP in any school that has enough special education students to make a subgroup,” Seidenwurm said.

A district must fail across three grade spans, elementary, middle and high school, in the same subject for two consecutive years to fail AYP, according to NMPED documents. In Clovis, performance among special-education subgroups lagged in all three grade spans.

In schools where 25 or more members of a subgroup are enrolled, those subgroups are tested separately and must meet AYP standards for a school to be deemed adequate. Students are split into subgroups based on ethnicity and economic status.

Students in special education and English Language Learners are also separated into subgroups. The testing standards for these groups are faulty, not schools or the district, local and state educators have long maintained.

In New Mexico, a student must test below grade level to qualify for academic special education programs. Yet, special education students are tested at grade level in the state.

“This is a fault in the system,” Seidenwurm said. “It is a Catch-22 (situation) for those students.”

English Language Learners are afforded three years to test in their first language, according to Seidenwurm. Then, they must take the test in English, she said.

“Every piece of research tells us the human brain is not equipped to learn another language at any academic level in only three years,” Seidenwurm said.
The federal testing system “is a good system,” Seidenwurm said, “if the people who created it would be willing to tweak it where we have seen it not working.”

The stakes for schools who do not make AYP increase each consecutive year they do not meet AYP for the same reason.

Clovis High, Yucca and Marshall have failed to make AYP for two consecutive years for the same reason, and thus must notify parents of their schools’ designation and implement a school improvement program, the second phase of the accountability program. Lockwood is in the first phase.

Gattis and Cameo are in the corrective-action phase of the accountability program because they have not made AYP for the same reason for three consecutive years.
“It is disappointing our school is judged based on two subgroups. It is hard and it is not fair,” Gattis Principal Craig Terry said. “But all we can do is buck up and do our best. We really believe in our kids and our staff.”

After five years of not making AYP, a school can be seized by the state, have its staff replaced, or have its governance and management system shuffled.

AYP targets increase every year so that by the 2013-2014 school year all schools will have 100 percent of their students proficient in reading and math, according to an NMPED press release.

Students in grades three through nine and 11 are tested in math and reading for AYP.