Bill would change schools’ measure of success

Liliana Castillo

A bill that would change the way student success is measured in New Mexico’s schools is headed to state legislators this session.

Bill sponsor Rep. Dennis Roch, an assistant superintendent with Texico schools, said under the bill, House Bill 355, each school in the state would be rated by a letter grade, A, B, C, D or F.

Roch said the bill would provide a more accurate representation of student achievement than No Child Left Behind’s Adequate Yearly Progress pass or fail rating.

With AYP, a school can be identified as a failing school based on the scores of one subgroup, which are based on race and learning abilities, on New Mexico Standards Based Assessments exams.

According to the A-F school rating act, the public education department would give a letter grade to each public school based on student proficiency, student growth in reading and math, growth of the lowest 25 percent of students and academic indicators such as graduation rates, advanced placement, dual enrollment and SAT and ACT scores for high schools.

Roch said that the state bill wouldn’t overrule federal law and schools would still receive an AYP rating.

“AYP only considers proficiency scores. This gives equal credit to growth. If a group doesn’t get all the way to proficiency but they grew two grade levels, they’re not given credit for it. Under school grading, they would,” Roch said.

Roch said one of the critical portions of the bill is that it would focus attention on students are just barely proficient in the lowest 25 percent.

“The way AYP is structured, schools can ignore the top or bottom percentile of the student body as long as enough students made proficiency,” he said. “We can’t continue to ignore students who are in the lower percentile. We’re creating different classes of students.”

Roch said he has made several presentations about the bill including with the Legislative Education Study Committee.

“Parents stopped caring about AYP scores. They didn’t represent how the school was actually doing,” he said.

Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Terry Myers said that if the bill is enacted in a positive way, it can be a good thing for students.

“I feel this would be more accurate. We can build into the system a required improvement, not just pass or fail,” he said. “If we can look at one student one year and look at him or her a year later and see the progess they’ve made, the teachers should be given credit for doing their job.”

Myers said that he feels it’s important for educators to be part of implementing the bill so that it is done in a way that is beneficial to schools.

Portales Municipal Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler said that implementing a grading system that isn’t a pass or fail situation would benefit everyone.

“We’ve lived with it for a long time. It’s not a very good way to measure what’s happening in the schools,” Fowler said. “Our schools have shown improvement on a yearly basis but with the way things are set up, eventually everyone will be failing because no one is meeting AYP increases each year. It’s a flawed system. When that’s happening, everyone failing, it’s not what all the schools are doing. It’s how they’re being measured.”

Fowler said he feels the A through F grading system will be more realistic in terms of translating student progress into a measurable grade that’s easy to understand for parents and teachers.

Included in the bill are incentives for schools which continually score an A or improve a letter grade. These schools would be eligible for financial rewards, Roch said. Roch said the schools can choose to use the money in the way they see as best for their school.

Under the bill, schools that don’t perform well would have targeted intervention strategies suggested to them, Roch said.

“Under NCLB, if a school fails AYP for several years, there are very specific things that schools have to do. Under this bill, the school could choose from a menu of options that are research-based,” Roch said. “All the items on a list aren’t forced down their throats. Educators want the flexibility to implement interventions that are tailored to that school and community.”

On the ‘Net

• Find the bill at www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/_session.aspx?chamber=H&legtype=B&legno=%20355&year=11