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LAPS dips in state grading

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Testing > District has questions for PED

By The Staff

About 70 percent of New Mexico’s public schools improved or maintained their letter grade that rates their performance this year, and more than a third received an A or B, state officials announced Thursday.
Los Alamos schools, however, was not among them.

Los Alamos schools recorded two A’s, four B’s and one C from the PED this year after receiving four A’s and three B’s last year.

Los Alamos assistant superintendent Gerry Washburn had some questions about the grading system.

“I’m at a loss right now,” Washburn said about an hour after the results were released. “What it boils down to is one of the concerns we have with report card model and growth model. What is happening, our level is so high, and if we have any kind of slippage at all, it really hits us hard.

“The middle school got a B and 91 percent of our eighth graders were proficient in reading. Mountain and Chamisa have two of the highest proficiency rates for special ed kids in elementary school.

“We are respectful of state and the evaluation process and we have questions about the grades and we will be asking those questions.”

Getting A’s this year were Los Alamos High School and Aspen Elementary.

LAHS got high marks for current standing, student growth of highest performing students, opportunity to learn and college and career readiness and a low mark for school growth. LAHS received 84.4 points out of 100.

Aspen Elementary also received an A with 79.7 points with high marks of current standing, school growth and student growth of highest performing students. Aspen received low marks on student growth of lowest performing students.

Receiving B marks were Barranca Mesa, Los Alamos Middle School, Pinon and Chamisa Elementary.
Barranca Mesa, which had an A last year, got high marks for current standing and opportunity to learn and checked in with 65.6 points. Los Alamos Middle School got high marks for current standing and recorded 69 points. Chamisa recorded 67.4 points and got high marks for current standing and opportunity to learn.

Pinon, which also got an A last year, barely got a B with 60 points, getting high marks for current standing and low marks for student growth of lowest performance students.

Mountain Elementary, which had an A last year, received a C with 57.7 points.

The grades assigned by the Public Education Department depend heavily on results of standards-based tests taken by students and reflect other factors such as a survey of students to gauge their views about learning opportunities at their school. For high schools, graduation rates and participation in college entrance exams also play a role in the grades.

About 35 percent of schools improved their grades, 36 percent maintained them and 29 percent dropped.
Statewide, there were 306 schools with grades of A or B — slightly more than the 303 receiving a D or F. The number of schools receiving an A more than doubled from last year.

Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the grades showed schools trending in the right direction but there remained much to improve.

About 10 percent of schools received an F. That was up about 2 percentage points from last year.
Schools receiving grades of C through F qualify for state aid to help boost student achievement. About 2,000 educators were trained in 2012-2013 on possible ways to improve their schools.

Statewide, 82 schools earned an A — up from 40 last year. A total of 224 schools got a B compared with 203 last year.

Schools with a C dropped to 230 this year from 274 last year.

The number of schools with a D declined to 218 from 250 last year. Schools getting an F increased to 85 this year from 64 last year.

“We want to see progress across all grades that is sustainable over time so our students are better prepared for our workforce and life,” Skandera said in a statement.

This is the second year for the A-to-F grading program, which replaced an unpopular federal system for rating schools under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The federal system determined whether schools were making “adequate yearly progress” in meeting targets for improving student achievement. Educators criticized that as a pass-or-fail approach rather than measuring the progress that schools and students might make.

Had the federal ratings continued, only three schools statewide would have met performance measures and 99.6 percent would have been considered failing.

Gov. Susana Martinez pushed for the new grading system when she took office in 2011. President Barack Obama’s administration last year granted New Mexico the flexibility to implement its own school rating program rather than follow the federal mandates.

“New Mexico’s new A-F system allows us to identify and invest in schools that are struggling, while providing a much more useful and clearer picture to parents and community members of how each of our state’s schools is performing,” Martinez said in a statement.