LA schools make the grade

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Education > Three of the schools get ‘A’ grades and four get ‘B’ grades

By Tris DeRoma

Editor's Note: See the individual schools' report cards attached with this story.

Los Alamos Public Schools fared well this year in the state’s “school report card” findings. The New Mexico Public Education Department gave three Los Alamos Schools “A” grades and four of them “B” grades. Schools that received As included Los Alamos High School, Barranca Mesa Elementary and Mountain Elementary.
The remaining schools in the school system received “B” grades. Those schools were Los Alamos Middle School, Aspen Elementary, Chamisa Elementary and Piñon Elementary.
Superintendent of Schools Gene Schmidt said he was very proud of his staff, and said the feat was even more remarkable given the difficulties teachers were having with NMPED’s new teacher evaluation system, which was being rolled out for the first time last school year.
“They just talked right through that distraction and kept the kids focused on learning,” he said, adding that even the schools that received “B’s” showed marked improvement from last year. The biggest change was Mountain, which received a “C” grade in the last evaluation, but finished out this year with a solid “A”.
Chamisa missed getting an “A” grade by a point. He also noted however that Aspen took a slight dip this year, but he attributed that to the massive construction currently going on at the campus, where students had to be moved out of the main school and into portable classrooms, and then deal with all the construction going on around them.
“I think the district and the community overall has to be delighted with our consistently strong performance,” Schmidt said.
Emphasizing individualized instruction and concentrating on the academically struggling students had much to do with the school system’s success, Schmidt said.
“I think there’s a recognition and a willingness on the part of the teachers to focus on the needs of students, and often, that means individuals, as well as the group,” he said.
Schmidt also added that what has also helped is the district’s strategy of strengthening the bridges of communication between all of the schools, which has allowed the district to spread what one school has been doing right to all of the other schools as well as isolate and troubleshoot problem areas.
“If we can keep duplicating the right kinds of behavior then I think we are all going to keep moving up,” Schmidt said.
The Los Alamos School Board extended its congratulations to the district.
The board was actively involved in helping the teachers through the new evaluation process, going as far as to take advantage of NMPED’s offer to modify its plan to better fit the needs of Los Alamos’ teachers.
The board is currently ready to submit it’s modified plan before the next school year begins.
“The district is pleased with this recognition and that it validates the great work in the classroom,” said Judy Bjarke-McKenzie, president of the school board.
Through a statewide press release, PED Hanna Skandera applauded the schools that did well by focusing on struggling students, as well as those that showed marked improvement.
“Intervening to help struggling students clearly pays off,” said Skandera.
“For these students, achieving more than a year’s worth of growth in a year’s worth of time is how they move closer to grade-level and keep from falling further behind. This growth is encouraging — it’s necessary, in fact — but we have a long way to go and so much more work to be done.”