No Portales schools meet AYP standards

Argen Duncan

All seven Portales schools missed the latest targets for boosting student achievement, according to test results the state Public Education Department released Monday.

Statewide, 644 schools, or 77.9 percent, didn’t reach the goals for “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. That’s up from 560 schools, or 68.2 percent, last year.

Schools are evaluated mainly on student performance and participation in math and reading tests administered in grades three to eight and grade 11. Other factors in the ratings are graduation rates for high schools and attendance rates for elementary and middle schools.

Each school in the Portales district missed the mark in reading, while only Brown Early Childhood Center met standards in math. All schools had the required graduation or attendance rates, according to the results.

A school will not meet AYP 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.

Portales superintendent Randy Fowler said this year’s test format was different than in the past. He said No Child Left Behind had the positive effect of making districts aware of student needs, but it makes schools look like they were failing when they aren’t.

“I think we have good schools here, I think we have good teaching staff, and we continued to make progress in all areas, and that is what I expect we will continue to do,” Fowler said.

He said he could ask for no more than progress.

Brown, James and Steiner elementary schools showed improvements in the scores for their overall populations, but Portales High, Portales Junior High, Lindsey Elementary and Valencia Elementary schools showed decreases. Gains and losses in proficiency varied among subgroups and overall population at the schools.

According to state guidelines, all Portales schools have the “Restructuring-2” designation for missing AYP for six years, except for Lindsey Elementary, which has a “Restructuring-1” designation for not meeting standards for five years.

For Restructuring-1, the school must develop an Alternative Governance Plan, and the district must revamp the governance and operation of the school, according to information from the Public Education Department. In Restructuring-2, revised plans must be implemented, the state has to provide mentors and support personnel and the district is required to provide assistance to the school as well, according to the department.

The news was better for Roosevelt County’s three other school districts.

Dora and Elida schools and two of Floyd’s three schools met AYP standards for 2009, according to the scores.

In Floyd, the middle school fell below requirements in math and reading. Floyd High School recovered after not meeting AYP last year, Superintendent Paul Benoit said.

“I overall was pleased with the gains I saw in all the groups, but was disappointed in the middle school that their hard work paid off but not enough to bring them over the top,” he said.

Compared to last year, the middle school had math proficiency increase in the Caucasian and Hispanic subgroups and reading proficiency rise in the Hispanic subgroup, but scores were lower in other areas.

Benoit said the No Child Left Behind goal is to have 100 percent of students proficient but there are too many differences for that to happen.

However, he said in most grades, students who have been in the district two or more years are making steady gains. Also, Benoit said some Floyd elementary grades have 100 percent of students proficient in reading.

Dora Superintendent Steven Barron said he was proud of his district for making AYP. However, he said he knew doing so was going to get harder, so all he could ask for was continued progress.

“No matter if you make AYP, if your students are progressing, everyone should be proud of them,” Barron said.

Elida Superintendent Jim Daugherty commended the students and teachers for their hard work.

“I don’t want to diminish the importance of making AYP, but at the same time, I think there are so many other areas that are equally important,” he said.

Daugherty pointed to classes and activities teaching skills such as computer use, public speaking and teamwork that the standardized tests don’t measure.

Under the federal law, states are to increase their performance targets each year until 100 percent of students are proficient on tests by the 2013-2014 school year.