Nearly 90 percent of New Mexico schools miss AYP

Liliana Castillo

Nearly 90 percent of New Mexico schools missed the latest targets for boosting student achievement, the Public Education Department reported Friday as it announced plans for replacing the federally-mandated system for rating schools.

A total of 720 schools, or 86.6 percent, failed to make “adequate yearly progress” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. That’s up from 76.7 percent, or 634 schools, last year.

Two out of the Clovis Municipal Schools’ 16 campuses that were tested met AYP.

Out of the 4,428 Clovis students in Grades 3-8 and Grade 11 who took New Mexico Standards-based Assessments, which AYP is based on, 48.4 percent were proficient in math and 54.8 percent were proficient in reading.

in Curry County, Texico, Melrose and Grady schools did not meet AYP for the 2011-2012 school year. Melrose, however, made AYP at the elementary, junior high school and high school levels, but the district is reported as not meeting AYP.

Melrose Superintendent Jamie Widner said it must be a mistake.

“We will make it as long as we can,” Widner said. “I’ve said before that there will come a time when we won’t meet it but right now, I’m glad we do.”

Under a new law enacted this year at the request of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, the state plans to assign grades A to F to schools based mostly on student performance.

“The message couldn’t be clearer: Our children need education reform now,” Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said in a statement. “Educators know almost 87 percent of our schools aren’t failing, and that’s why we need reforms like our A through F grading system.”

Widner said he’s interested to see how the A through F grading system will work on a small district like Melrose.

“I’m curious about it but I”m proud of our school. We have a great teaching staff and super kids and that’s why we got it,” Widner said.

In Texico, 290 students took the tests and 63.7 percent were proficient in math and 68 percent were proficient in reading.

In Melrose, 118 students took the tests and 68.9 percent were proficient in math and 65.7 percent were proficient in reading.

In Grady, 59 students took the tests and 49 percent were proficient in math and 64.7 were proficient in reading.

The federal school rating system has long been subject to criticism from educators who consider it too rigid because it takes a pass-or-fail approach rather than measure the progress that students or schools might be making. The system imposes higher student achievement targets each year, making it highly likely that school ratings worsen annually.

“AYP is not a measure I place a whole lot of faith in,” CMS Superintendent Terry Myers said.

Myers said the results were to be expected because standards for NMSBA and AYP were “ratcheted up” this year. The change also makes results from 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 incomparable because the rating system changed.

“Everyone was hit with a double whammy this year,” he said. “We expected less campuses to make it but it is clear that this is simply not a fair way to measure schools.”

Myers said schools were not informed that standards would be changed for the NMSBA until about a month ago.

Myers said 10 of Clovis’ 16 campuses that were tested improved in reading and six improved in math and that the high school improved in both areas.

Myers said the results are preliminary and districts have until Aug. 5 to appeal them.

Texico Assistant Superintendent Dennis Roch said the district was disappointed that the schools didn’t have bigger gains.

“We’ve been hovering at the 70 to 75 percent proficient mark and a few years ago that was considered proficient,” he said.

Roch said the numbers mean the district has to strive for growth each year.

“We certainly have some work to do. We’re not making any excuses and look forward to raising our scores next year,” he said.

Texico High School met AYP in both math and reading. Texico Junior High School didn’t make AYP in math in one subgroup, students who are classified as economically disadvantaged, and Texico Elementary didn’t make AYP in reading in the same subgroup.

Said Portales Superintendent Randy Fowler: “I’ve not seen our scores but I am sure we did not make AYP this year. Our district hasn’t been an AYP school in several years.

“What we will do is look at the test scores and look at the positives and see where we’ve improved and areas where we still lack and we will focus on improving in those areas next year,” said Fowler. “That is our goal is to constantly improve.”

Floyd Superintendent Paul Benoit said his schools showed progress, particularly the middle school, although only the elementary school made AYP. The goal of No Child Left Behind is to have all students proficient by 2014, he said, but more and more New Mexico schools are failing to make AYP.

“It’s an impossible task to have 100 percent proficiency,” Benoit said.

In Floyd, he said, the elementary school showed improvement in three of four subgroups. The middle school made significant gains in math for four of six subgroups, and three subgroups made progress in reading.

At the high school level, a new group of students is tested every year, so it’s hard to tell if gains were made, Benoit said. However, he said, Floyd High School’s scores were at or above the state average, based on his preliminary analysis.

“Our goal this year is to continue making the gains that we have,” Benoit said.

School personnel aim to help 100 percent of students improve, even if they’re not proficient, he said.

Elida Superintendent Jim Daugherty was pleased with student performance.

“I have not seen the AYP scores yet because I have been out of town but my understanding is we passed,” said Daugherty. “I’m just happy that our schools met them and we just do the best to educate ours kids and we will just continue to provide a good education.”

In Portales, 1,582 students took the tests and 40.2 percent were proficient in math and 47.5 percent were proficient in reading.

In Dora, 149 students took the tests and 44.1 percent were proficient in math and 54.9 percent were proficient in reading.

In Elida, 71 students took the tests and 57.1 percent were proficient in math and 58.9 percent were proficient in reading.

In Floyd, 121 students took the tests and 40.7 percent were proficient in math and 49 percent were proficient in reading.

New Mexico Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the state will ask the federal government this fall to allow the state to use its own school rating system rather than continue with the federally mandated model.

Under the current system, schools are evaluated mainly on student performance and participation in math and reading tests administered in grades 3-8 and 11. Other factors in the ratings are graduation rates for high schools and attendance rates for elementary and middle schools.

A school will not meet the adequate yearly progress goal if any one of several subgroups of students — black, white, Hispanic, American Indian, economically disadvantaged or poor, special education and students with limited English language skills — fail to meet performance or participation targets on tests.

The latest test results showed a continued “achievement gap” among ethnic and racial groups in New Mexico. White and Asian students typically fare better in tests than Hispanics, Native Americans and blacks. For example, 67 percent of white students were proficient in reading this year compared with 44 percent for Hispanics and 35 percent for Indians.

Under federal law, states are to increase their performance targets each year until 100 percent of students are proficient on tests by the 2013-2014 school year.

To make the progress goal this year, a school with kindergarten through eighth grade needed 65 percent of its students to be at proficiency or above in math — up from 51 percent last year. Seventy-five percent needed to meet the performance standard in reading, up from 64 percent last year.