State releases school report cards

The Associated Press

SANTA FE — 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.

Clovis High received a C, as did its Freshman Academy. Marshall Middle School received a B; Yucca received a D.

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.

Nearly 90 percent of New Mexico schools failed last year to make “adequate yearly progress” under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The Martinez administration has asked the U.S. Education Department to allow New Mexico to use its grading system, which was approved by the Legislature last year, rather than continue with the federal model.

Schools will receive final grades this summer, and those will take into account student testing to be done this spring. The Martinez administration proposes to use the grades to allocate money to help boost school performance and offer bonuses to highly qualified teachers willing to work in struggling schools. The governor also wants to provide financial incentives to the highest-performing schools.

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.

Of the schools getting a C or better, 79 percent of those were considered failing under the federal rating system last year.

“Every community in New Mexico now has the opportunity to see what’s happening in our schools and how they can help make sure those schools improve by this summer,” said Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera. “For the first time, instead of a shallow snapshot from a single test score, we can measure our schools by how much our students are improving in the classroom.”

The department released the new ratings on its website, providing a grade card report for individual schools.

Under the federal system, 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.

Education Department: