Clovis schools’ test score increases garner awards

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Two Clovis schools were recognized by the state for leaps in test scores from 2004-2005 to 2005-2006.

The New Mexico Public Education Department applauded Lockwood Elementary and Marshall Junior High schools by e-mail Tuesday for increasing proficiency among students in math and reading.

The percentage of students who met Adequate Yearly Progress in some subgroups at Lockwood and Marshall rose by approximately 10 percent in the two-year span, according to an e-mail sent by New Mexico Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia.

The most significant gain was made in the math scores of economically disadvantaged students at Marshall. The number of students proficient jumped by nearly 15 percent.

“It’s great. It’s not everyday you get a congratulations for increased gains,” Marshall Principal Diana Russell said.

“At least we can celebrate those gains,” she said.

AYP is a national measure of school performance mandatory under the No Child Left Behind Act. Students are tested annually.

The measure tests subgroups separately in schools where 25 or more members of a subgroup attend. Subgroups include English Language Learners, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students and ethnic groups.

In spite of monumental gains, both schools failed to grasp their overall goal: meeting AYP. To do so, subgroups in the school must perform at certain benchmarks, which were designed to make 100 percent of public school students proficient in math and reading by 2014. The benchmarks are raised every year.

AYP failure is a common story because testing procedures for ELL and disability subgroups desperately need to be reformed, many educators say.

In 2005-2006, seven Clovis schools, including Lockwood and Marshall, failed to meet standards. In 2006-2007, six of 17 Clovis schools failed to meet AYP standards for 2006-2007, including Lockwood and Marshall.

Clovis High, Lockwood Elementary, Cameo Elementary and all three of the district’s middle schools — Yucca, Gattis, and Marshall— fell short of federal testing marks.

Of 800 public schools in the state, 76 received the NMPED e-mail notification of improvements in test scores from 2004 to 2006, according to the NMPED. Schools that received notification failed the overall AYP goal.

A top state education official said they must do more.

“What we are trying to say is, ‘You made some gains, but it is not sufficient to make AYP,’” said NMPED Assistant Secretary for Quality Assurance and Systems Integration, Karen Harvey.

The schools received certificates by e-mail to acknowledge their testing strides. The e-mail also contained a five-page report and a set of questions intended to help schools identify the strategies that led to positive AYP advances.

“This is … an attempt to give more data to the schools so they make the appropriate instructional decisions,” Harvey said.

Marshall and Lockwood principals said they are working hard to met AYP, offering computerized programs to tutor students and incentive programs to
push them along.

“We just truly have a very dedicated staff that is looking at the needs of our individual students and doing what is best for them individually,” Lockwood Principal Adan Estrada said.

A federal framework of consequences exists for schools that do not meet AYP consecutively.

The framework consists of five phases, with consequences worsening each consecutive year a school fails to met AYP. In the last phase of the framework, the state can replace staff at a school or takeover operation entirely.

Marshall is in School Improvement Phase 2 and Lockwood is in Phase 1, according to NMPED documents.