New Mexico’s A-F grading system flawed

The intention of the state's new school grading system was to simplify the accountability process. Instead of categories such as Restructuring Year 1 or Corrective Action, each school gets a grade of "A" through "F."

Simple, right? For the parents, yes. For school administrators trying to figure out the new system, not so much.

Sen. Howie Morales, D-Bayard, had urged the Department of Education to delay announcing the first set of grades until improvements could be made to make the system more understandable to those receiving the grades.

"In my opinion, it's a flawed formula," Morales said during a recent legislative education committee meeting. The state will release the grades as scheduled anyway.

When preliminary grades were released in January, Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Stan Rounds said the district lacked the computer software needed to fully understand the grading system.

Paul Aguilar, deputy secretary of public education, said the state school grading formula was so technical that perhaps no more than five people understand its inner workings.

That's a problem.

We supported passage of the legislation creating the new grading system, and celebrated the federal government's decision to accept the new accountability system and allow New Mexico to shed the yoke of No Child Left Behind and its requirement of Adequate Yearly Progress.

The new system has numerous advantages over the old NCLB mandates, including tracking three years.

The system has to be sophisticated enough to include a number of various factors beyond the raw test scores to provide an accurate account of how a school is doing and where it needs improvement. But, it can't be so sophisticated that school administrators don't understand it, are caught by surprise when the grades are announced, and don't know what they need to do to improve.

There are always going to be glitches with any new system. State education officials need to work with Morales and other legislators, and with local school officials, to refine the system to make it easy for not only parents to understand, but all who are involved.

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