By Mike Linn
PNT Managing Editor
Valencia Elementary’s school rating jumped from probationary status to meets state standards following an appeal from Portales Municipal School officials in August.
Portales school officials received a letter on Wednesday from the New Mexico secretary of education informing them that the previous ranking was flawed and the status of the school was not below standards.
“This is a heavy weight off our shoulders,” Valencia Elementary Principal David Van Wettering said. “I’m sure I can speak for all of our teachers and myself when I say it bothered us a lot that we were put on probation. All of us work very hard and we care about (students), so we took it very serious.”
Seven state schools, including Bella Vista Elementary in Clovis, appealed the probationary ranking they received. All seven won their appeal, according to Dr. William Blair, deputy director of accountability and school improvement services.
Blair did not know specific reasons for the false rankings, but said the errors may have very well been computer cliches or data entry discrepancies.
Both Van Wettering and Portales Schools Superintendent Dr. James Holloway said they noticed the problem early on.
“We felt all along that Valencia should have been a meet standards school,” Holloway said. “This just sort of vindicates us and proves we were right all along. This should be reassuring to the people of Portales that the school system does meet standards.”
Van Wettering said the state incidentally figured probationary status in five categories for Valencia’s English Learning Language students who took the California Achievement Test, a test on which the state based its rankings.
But after looking at the scores in August, Van Wettering noticed his ELL students had met standards on the CAT in all five categories including language, math, science, reading and social studies. Each Valencia student took the CAT last school year.
Holloway added that miscalculations from state’s education department have not been uncommon.
“It’s been a fairly regular occurrence that mistakes have been made from the state department or from the testing service,” Holloway said. “This year with the big changes with the state department, with the advent of the secretary of education, the state department people were leaving the department so it hasn’t been a real stable environment up there to get everything right.”