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Fewer New Mexico schools meet state’s goals for improvement

Fewer New Mexico’s
schools reached targets for improving academic performance and student
participation standards this year than in 2006, the Public Education Department
said Friday.

A total of 464 schools, or 58 percent, missed the goal of
making “adequate yearly progress” under the federal No Child Left
Behind Act. About 334 percent, or 42 percent, achieved the objective.

Last year, 367 schools met the state-established targets for
improving student achievement and 433 schools, or 54 percent, didn’t.

Schools are evaluated mainly on student performance and
participation in math and reading tests administered in grades 3-9 and grade
11. Other factors in the ratings are graduation rates for high schools and
attendance rates for elementary and middle schools.

Under the federal law, states are to increase their
performance targets each year until 100 percent of students are proficient on
tests by the 2013-14 school year.

To make the adequate yearly progress goal, for example, a
school with kindergarten through 8th grade needed 45 percent of its students at
proficiency or above in reading up from 41 percent last year. Twenty-four
percent needed to meet the performance standard in math, up from 19 percent
last year.

Those standards increase significantly next year for all
schools. For example, 56 percent of students in a
kindergarten-through-8th-grade school must meet the performance goal in reading
and 38 percent in math in 2008.

The state not the federal government establishes the yearly
goals for improving student achievement.

“Unlike some states, New Mexico
did not play the game of setting low proficiency levels in order to increase
numbers of schools making AYP,” Education Secretary Veronica Garcia said
in a statement.

However, she was critical of the federal law’s approach to
measuring school performance, saying the “pass/fail AYP designation does
not adequately describe a school’s success especially when a school is making
forward progress with student proficiency.”

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.

A school will not reach that goal if fewer than 95 percent
of its students in one or more subgroups take required tests.

Of the 148 high schools across the state, 72 percent, or 106
of those schools, did not make adequate yearly progress.

About 46 percent of elementary schools 205 of 446 missed the
yearly progress goal.

Middle schools had the most difficulty, with 82 percent 126
of 154 failing to reach the yearly improvement goals.

The longer a school fails to make adequate yearly progress,
the more actions can be required of the school.

After four years of missing the targets, schools are in
“corrective action” and they can be required to implement a new
curriculum, replace some staff members or extend the school day or school year.
There are 106 schools in that situation this year, up from 33 last year and 18
in 2005.

After five years of not making adequate yearly progress, a
school must develop a plan for overhauling its governance system, including
possible takeover by the state. According to the department, 24 schools reached
that point in this year’s ratings up from 15 last year.

A school must meet the yearly goals for two consecutive
years to remove itself from the system of sanctions and corrective steps.
Garcia said 14 schools achieved that this year.

Garcia cautioned that the school ratings should not be used
as the only yardstick for measuring a school’s performance. She said parents
should concentrate on their children’s academic proficiency.

Critics contend the school rating system doesn’t adequately
consider the difficulties some student groups face in taking the tests, such as
special education students or children with limited English skills.

Garcia complained that the testing doesn’t make an
apples-to-apples measure of student progress. For example, a class of 4th
graders in 2006 is compared to a completely different class of 4th graders the
next year rather than tracking the performance of the same group of students or
individual students from year to year.

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– Associated Press

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