Portales schools still struggling with AYP

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

There was progress, but all six schools in the Portales Municipal School District fell short of meeting Adequate Yearly Progress status, according to reports released Tuesday by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Portales Schools Superintendent Randy Fowler said progress was in most areas with the exception of the students with disabilities subgroup.

All six schools failed AYP status last year as well. Failure to meet guidelines in any one of the eight subgroups results in a school not meeting AYP status.

“We have to be pleased that we’re making progress every year in every category,” Fowler said. “All we can do is look at where we are at and keep working.”

Fowler said math and reading would continue to be the district’s focus as long as the current testing models are used.

The yearly accountability reports are mandated through the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. They provide a gauge for proficiency in math and reading in subgroups such as race, English as a Second Language and low income. They also track school’s attendance and graduation numbers.

According to Fowler, at James Elementary all students showed 2-percent growth in reading and 5-percent growth in math. At Valencia Elementary, all students improved 8 percent in math. At Lindsey students made good gains in math in all subgroups, including a 15-percent proficiency improvement in the Caucasian subgroup, he said. All subgroups at Lindsey made AYP in math.

Fowler said students at Portales Junior High and Portales High School have made steady gains in reading and math over the last few years with the exception of the students with disabilities subgroup.

“We feel very good about what our teachers are doing and the progress our students are making,” Fowler said.

All other county school districts — Elida, Floyd and Dora — met AYP status. Floyd Middle School was the only school in those three communities to fail last year.

“I am very excited,” Floyd Superintendent Paul Benoit said. “I think we did some things this year that give us a chance to make some progress. I’m thrilled about this. I think it is a positive reflection of our math department.”

That shortfall last year came in math in the economically disadvantaged subgroup.

Benoit said Floyd Schools have not made sweeping changes to keep up with AYP goals, instead he said the teachers came up with a plan characterized by good communication among the staff. He said the hard work has to continue as the standards continue to rise though.

“We’ve made AYP, now we’ve got to see what we can do to keep it,” he said.

Elida Schools Superintendent Jack Burch said he was pleased with his district’s results. He said math was an area his staff decided to focus.
Burch said that while his schools have never really been under the gun since the AYP reports began, he’s keeping a sharp eye out for trends and worrying a little about the future.

The goal for NCLB is to have all students proficient at reading and math by the year 2014. That means standards are changed each year.
“As this bar called AYP keeps on moving higher and higher, all of us are going to be in trouble.”

According to the NMPED, 54 percent of the state’s 800 schools failed to meet AYP this year. That compares with 53 percent this year.