AYP shows numbers sinking statewide

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By Carol A. Clark

Three of Los Alamos Public Schools seven schools met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for 2008. Barranca, Chamisa and Piñon elementary schools made AYP. Aspen and Mountain elementary schools, Los Alamos Middle School and Los Alamos High School did not.

The results are equally dismal across the state. Just 3 of Santa Fe’s 30 schools and 35 of Albuquerque’s 161 schools met AYP this year. In fact, just 245, or 31.8 percent, of the states 770 schools made AYP.

Education Secretary Veronica García of New Mexico’s Public Education Department announced the 2008 AYP and achievement gap results New Mexico schools during a press conference Friday afternoon.

“We’re not devastated by this,” LAPS Superintendent Mary McLeod said. “As Secretary García said, this is but a moment in time.”

McLeod said there was a period of time when the bar was set lower for special education students and their results were reflected separately from students in the general population. This year the bar was set the same for all students and the reason so many schools didn’t make AYP, she said.

“It was our students with disabilities that had the problems for the most part in reading, but we see this as an opportunity and we’ve started looking at the curriculum and giving our special ed teachers more support,” McLeod said. “We will use all the data to best assess the needs of our students.”

During her announcement García said, “Our student achievement scores are on an upward trend over the last four years. We are on a steadily increasing trajectory – yet somehow, we have more schools not meeting AYP.”

This speaks to the much needed changes to the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, she said.

“We cannot let the AYP label continue to destroy public confidence in our schools and continue to demoralize our teachers and students,” García said. “I implore schools and communities to not get discouraged by a lower AYP rating. We must closely analyze the data, look at improvement, and stay the course.

García also cautioned against state to state comparison of AYP results because she said that states set their own proficiency cut scores and design their own tests and New Mexico sets the bar high.

“I would like to remind our parents, students, teachers, administrators, community members, and state leaders that AYP is only one tool and is a very narrow and sometimes unfair measure of success and progress,” she said. “For example, as I mentioned before, there are 37 ways to miss AYP. A school that has missed by three indicators for three years and a school that misses by 30 indicators for three years are labeled and progress through the corrective action system the same.”

Calculations are also unforgiving, García said, meaning that if a school misses by only one student or a tenth of a percent toward the achievement target, they will not meet AYP. AYP also does not measure the growth of students over time. It fails to track student progress from one grade to the next.

“The accountability system is also unfair in its expectations and support of our English Language Learners, special education students, and low-income students that have additional barriers to learning,” she said. “While AYP is an unfair measure and label for schools because it does not measure growth, using the same snapshot score at the classroom level to judge the effectiveness of a teacher would also be grossly unfair.”

AYP is part of state and federal statute and the NCLB mandate, which states, “Each state shall establish a timeline for adequate yearly progress. The timeline shall ensure that no later than 12 years after the 2001-2002 school year, all students in each group...will meet or exceed the state’s proficient level of academic achievement on the state’s assessments.”

AYP represents the annual academic targets in reading and math and other indicators that the state, school districts and schools must reach to be considered on track with the federally mandated goal of 100 percent proficiency by school year 2013-2014.

New Mexico statute requires the state to institute an adequate yearly progress program that measures public schools’ improvements.

There are five levels of improvement that carry progressive requirements for monitoring and enhancement. If a school does not make AYP in the same area for two consecutive years, then the school receives the NCLB designation as a “School In Need of Improvement.” If a school makes AYP for two consecutive years, that school will no longer be in need of redevelopment, and any improvement designations will be removed.