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Mixed results for area schools

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By Barry Massey
The Associated Press

About 70 percent of New Mexico’s public schools improved or maintained their letter grade that rates their performance this year, and more than a third received an A or B, state officials announced Thursday.

The grades assigned by the Public Education Department depend heavily on results of standards-based tests taken by students and reflect other factors such as a survey of students to gauge their views about learning opportunities at their school. For high schools, graduation rates and participation in college entrance exams also play a role in the grades.

About 35 percent of schools improved their grades, 36 percent maintained them and 29 percent dropped.

Statewide, there were 306 schools with grades of A or B — slightly more than the 303 receiving a D or F. The number of schools receiving an A more than doubled from last year.

At the West Las Vegas School District, two schools received Bs, four earned Cs, three were given Ds, and one, the Rio Gallinas Charter School, received an F. No West school scored an A.

West High improved one letter grade, garnering a B. The West Las Vegas Family Partnership and Don Cecilio Martinez Elementary also both went up one letter grade, each earning a C.

Valley Middle School and West Las Vegas Middle School both dropped a letter grade, scoring Ds.

At Las Vegas City Schools, two schools scored a B, three earned a C, two received a D and one was given an F.

Robertson High School improved two letter grades, going from a D in 2012 to a B this year. Paul D. Henry Elementary

improved from a C to a B. Legion Park and the Early Childhood Center both increased from a D to a C.

Los Niños dropped one letter grade to a D while Sierra Vista also dropped one letter grade to an F.

Mora Independent School District schools all were given Cs last year. This year, Mora High earned an A while its three other schools dropped a letter grade, each one receiving a D.

At the Pecos Independent School District, Pecos High scored a B while Pecos Middle and Pecos Elementary each scored a C. Pecos Elementary had earned a B last year.

Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the statewide grades showed schools trending in the right direction but there remained much to improve.

About 10 percent of schools received an F. That was up about 2 percentage points from last year. Elementary and middle schools accounted for all of those with an F.

Schools receiving grades of C through F qualify for state aid to help boost student achievement. About 2,000 educators were trained in 2012-2013 on possible ways to improve their schools.

Statewide, 82 schools earned an A — up from 40 last year. A total of 224 schools got a B compared with 203 last year.
Schools with a C dropped to 230 this year from 274 last year. The number of schools with a D declined to 218 from 250 last year. Schools getting an F increased to 85 this year from 64 last year.

“We want to see progress across all grades that is sustainable over time so our students are better prepared for our workforce and life,” Skandera said in a statement.

This is the second year for the A-to-F grading program, which replaced an unpopular federal system for rating schools under the No Child Left Behind Act.

The federal system determined whether schools were making “adequate yearly progress” in meeting targets for improving student achievement. Educators criticized that as a pass-or-fail approach rather than measuring the progress that schools and students might make.

Had the federal ratings continued, only three schools statewide would have met performance measures and 99.6 percent would have been considered failing.

Gov. Susana Martinez pushed for the new grading system when she took office in 2011. President Barack Obama’s administration last year granted New Mexico the flexibility to implement its own school rating program rather than follow the federal mandates.

“New Mexico’s new A-F system allows us to identify and invest in schools that are struggling, while providing a much more useful and clearer picture to parents and community members of how each of our state’s schools is preforming,” Martinez said in a statement.

The governor and Skandera announced the grades during an appearance at a public charter school in Albuquerque.

Grades statewide largely reflected trends in student test results. High school students improved their reading proficiency scores on standardized tests taken earlier this year, but there were declines for students in grades 4-6.

Among high schools, 87 percent improved their letter grade this year. None earned an F and only one had a D.

Nearly 49 percent of elementary schools received a D or F grade — up almost 6 percentage points from last year. Only six earned an A compared with 20 last year.

Editor’s note: Optic staff contributed to this report.

2013 grades for area schools

Las Vegas City Schools
Legion Park Elementary: C  (up 1 letter grade)
Los Niños Elementary: D (down 1)
Early Childhood Center: C (up 1)
Memorial Middle: D (same)
Mike Sena Elementary: C (up 1)
Paul D. Henry Elementary: B (up 1)
Robertson High: B (up 2)
Sierra Vista Elementary: F (down 1)

West Las Vegas School District
Don Cecilio Martinez Elementary: C (up 1)
Luis E. Armijo Elementary: C (same)
Rio Gallinas School: F (same)
Tony Serna Jr. Elementary: C (same)
Union Elementary: B (same)
Valley Elementary: D (same)
Valley Middle: D (down 1)
West Las Vegas High: B (up 1)
West Las Vegas Middle: D (down 1)
West Las Vegas Family Partnership: C (up 1)

Mora Independent Schools
Holman Elementary: D (down 1)
Lazaro Lary Garcia: D (down 1)
Mora Elementary: D (down 1)
Mora High: A (up 2)

Pecos Independent Schools
Pecos Elementary: C (down 1)
Pecos High: B (same)
Pecos Middle: C (same)