Curry and Roosevelt counties’ schools administrators are looking at ways to pull up their underperforming students, as the new state School Grading System shows that they are failing them.
The majority of schools in the counties have received grades of C and lower in the category of growth of lowest-performing students, according to grades recently issued by the Public Education Department.
“We made an F at our elementary,” said Grady schools Superintendent Ted Trice. “We’re not getting them to the level that they need to be.”
Grady schools fared well in most areas, but Trice wants the bottom quartile to succeed.
“We’re going to dissect the data and identify the areas that are weakest for those children,” Trice said. “We’re going to extend our instruction time in math and reading. Our plan is to break down the data and set our interventions and assessments with those kids.”
Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera said the growth of lowest performing students is given triple weight.
“It’s given triple weight because we think it’s so important we don’t leave these students behind,” Skandera said. “It literally measures growth student-by-student. (The grades) tell you that those students aren’t improving at a fast enough rate.”
Skandera applauds the improvement Portales schools have shown and is proud that 50 percent of Clovis’ schools went up one letter grade but now she feels these schools must get their bottom students on track.
“We got work to do with our lowest performing students,” stressed Skandera. “The old system measured if kids were on grade level, now we’re able to capture three years’ worth of data and improvement over that time. It’s a much richer and better picture of what’s happening at our schools.”
Deputy Superintendent of Clovis Municipal Schools, Cindy Martin, said standardized test scores have gone up for their students but the overall district grade has remained the same.
“It’s possible that students have grown, but not enough to move up a full letter grade,” Martin said. “They use a value-added model and certain categories have more weight.”
Martin says administrators have procedures in place to help their lower-scoring students but need guidance from the PED on what they’re looking for.
“(The PED) has not clearly defined what they’re going to count,” Martin said. “We have teachers who are really dedicated to our students. We do everything we can to try to improve.”
Martin says administrators plan to advance these students through examining weekly data, tutoring and parent conferences.
“The schools will have to continue to pinpoint the exact area of need for each individual child and intervene in order to raise the test scores for that student,” Martin said. “There has to be a strong partnership between parents and the school to give students the greatest benefit.”
Elida Schools also received failing grades for growth in their lowest performing students.
“We’re going to work very hard to improve that score,” said Superintendent Jim Daugherty. “We’re going to offer more one-on-one tutoring. We look at the assessments and see where the students are and try to remediate their weaknesses.”
Despite Elida schools’ 10:1 student to teacher ratio and high graduation rate, Daugherty says there is room for improvement.
“Our weaknesses are generally in reading and math,” he said. “We have seen growth in our bottom students and we’re working really hard to improve all students.”
Geni Flores, coordinator of bilingual education at Eastern New Mexico University, said quite a few students in the bottom quartile are those with English as a second language and children with special needs.
She said those students are expected to test on the same level as the other students, suggesting that they are being tested before they have the knowledge.
She added classroom size is also an issue that plays into the schools’ failing grades.
“At the state and national level, we have pushed a ‘one size fits all’ type of education,” Flores said. “Children and teens are individuals, just like adults, with different talents, needs, interests and drive. Children that are driven to succeed will soak up everything and students with less drive need to be motivated.”
She said most teachers work very hard to comply with requirements while trying to meet the individual needs of their kids and they need to be supported. “Compare it to being required to make a large casserole in a single pan but having to meet the different dietary needs of every individual who will partake,” Flores said. “Rather than degrading teachers with lousy grades, we need to support teachers with tools and ideas to work with those individual differences.”