LA schools get high marks from state

-A A +A

Education: Schools receive A and B grades

The state’s first school report cards were released Tuesday and Los Alamos schools have scored well overall.

However, in looking at individual areas in need of improvement, a number of schools in the district got F’s in terms of helping the lowest performing students make progress. Aspen, Barranca, Chamisa, Piñon, and Los Alamos Middle School got failing grades in terms of helping poor performing students get a leg up on studies.

Looking at the bigger picture, Los Alamos schools scored A’s and B’s for overall performance.
Mountain Elementary was one of the schools that earned an A. Principal Gerry Washburn said, “This grade reflects the staff’s commitment to students and quality education. I have always believed that we are greater than the sum of our test scores. This reflects that belief to some extent. “   

The schools were graded for the 2010-2011 school year on a number of specific criteria that ranged from performance in math and reading to opportunity to learn. Each of the grades relates to a point system that was used to determine each school’s overall grade.

Los Alamos High School also earned an A, while the rest of the schools in the system were graded at the B level. Sandy Warnock, Los Alamos High School Principal told her staff, “I am so excited for staff and students.  All of your hard work has been acknowledged by the state and a rating that finally represents what we have known for a long time.”  

LAPS Board President Melanie McKinley said the school board is very proud of the work of the staff and students.  “In our strategic planning process, we will build on their success as we focus our work even more toward greater student achievement,” she said.

Superintendent Dr. Eugene Schmidt expressed pride in the scores earned by all the schools and students. He said he recognized that their continuous attention to the needs of each student has led to the acknowledgement of their success. “The report does reflect some areas for focus for our schools,” he said. “In the area of growth for the lowest quartile of students, for example, we seem to have room to improve.”    

For this factor, individual student growth is calculated over a three-year span. LAPS Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean said that in some of the schools, they find that the growth of students in the bottom quarter of each school was not as great as that of students in the lowest 25 percent of students in the state.

“It is possible that our bottom quarter is performing at a higher level than the bottom quarter of other schools,” she said. “Nevertheless, each school’s grade depends on being able to assure growth for every student.”

Dean also explained that there are celebrations scattered throughout the report for all the schools.  She said many did particularly well in “current standing,” showing the very high percentage of students who are proficient or above in math and reading as measured on the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment.  

“It is particularly good that Los Alamos High School earned an A in the category of attendance, exceeding the state’s expected goal of 95 percent.  When students regularly attend class, we can do much to help assure their success,” Schmidt said.  

Nearly two-thirds of New Mexico’s schools received a grade of C or better under new ratings announced Tuesday by the Public Education Department.

The state plans to use the A to F grades to replace a federally mandated school rating system that many educators consider unfair because it takes a pass-or-fail approach based on student testing in a single year.

“Thanks to our straightforward new A-F grading system, parents, teachers, and community leaders have a much clearer understanding of where our schools are succeeding and where we need to focus our efforts and our resources to improve,” Gov. Susana Martinez said in a statement.

The grades are based on standardized tests taken by students and year-to-year growth of student performance in reading and mathematics. Other factors include the high school graduation rate.

According to the preliminary school grades released by the department:
— 73 schools, or 9 percent, received an A.
— 191 schools, or 23 percent, got a B.
— 266 schools, or 32 percent, received a C.
— 208 schools, or 25 percent, got a D.
— 89 schools, or 11 percent, received an F.

Each of the district's individual school report cards can be viewed by clicking the links below:

The Associated Press contributed to this report.