Schools make gains, district leaders say

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By Don Pace

Superintendents from both East and West school districts are pointing out the gains made by their students in statewide ratings released this week.

However, the state Public Education Department’s assessment of schools throughout New Mexico isn’t quite as rosy.

A total of 568 schools around the state failed to meet the federal standard of adequate yearly progress under a system for assessing schools. That’s up from 549 schools that didn’t make the standard in 2008.

This year, 252 schools made adequate yearly progress, compared with 262 in 2008.

At West Las Vegas, four schools met the standard, while three schools on the East side made the grade.

Overall, there are 37 indicators a school must meet to reach the yearly improvement goal. Many schools don’t reach that goal because they miss one of the 37 factors in the grading system.

West Superintendent Jim Abreu said he and his staff are pleased with the progress students are making.

“Rio Gallinas, Armijo, Don Cecilio and Union made AYP, and Union’s scores may be among the highest in the state. Tony Serna missed by just a little bit in math and reading, the middle school gained 10 points in math, which is unheard of, and the high school gained five points in math and 10 points in reading, and met AYP in reading,” Abreu said.

Abreu said when a school gains 10 points, teaching should be credited.

“Adequate yearly progress is not the only measure we use for student progress, or excellence in our schools, there’s a lot of ways to measure that. But there’s just one way that everybody pays attention to, and we’re holding our own with that, as you can see from the test results,” Abreu told the Optic. We want to continue to see this kind of progress.”

Abreu said the district is not only emphasizing the two subjects of math and reading, which are being tested.

“We are trying to keep vibrant music, art, the sciences, social studies, and all the things that contribute to the education of a child. I’m pretty happy with what’s going on,” Abreu said.

Las Vegas City Schools Superintendent Rick Romero said he also saw impressive gains in all the schools, even those that didn’t make the progress standard.

Romero said one of the best things he’s seen as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act is access to the data provided by test takers. He said it gives educators insight on how to proceed in providing the best education possible.

“We are seeing progress at every one of our schools, but we are also having to deal with these somewhat unrealistic targets that were set before us by the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. I think I’m like the rest of the superintendents around the state in saying that these standards of proficiency are not very realistic. Are school districts across the state making progress? Absolutely. And the Las Vegas City Schools is one of those districts,” Romero said.

Most years, schools must progress between four and six points above the previous year, but this year, 10 points were added to the total. For example, if a school needed five points to make the progress standard last year, this year it would be 15.

Romero said scores in reading are showing evidence of programs that are working. He said now the district has to turn its attention to student deficiencies in math.

The adequate yearly progress report is a pass-fail test. For example, if the school fails one part of the 37 indicators contained in in the math or reading exam, it doesn’t get a passing grade. A school can pass reading and have most of its students pass math, yet not meet the standard.

New Mexico schools have one of the highest standards in the nation for both reading and math.

“Because we set that bar so high, our kids are actually performing, I would dare say, better than 50 percent of the states across the nation,” Romero said.

Abreu agreed.

 “Our scores in New Mexico are set high. There are states all around us — for example, Oklahoma, whose schools are all meeting AYP, but their scores are low. So, if we meet or come close to meeting AYP we’re pretty happy. They’re asking us to shoot for the stars, and we are shooting for excellence at West Las Vegas.”


At a glance

Adequate Yearly Progress 2008-09:



Don Celilio Martinez

Rio Gallinas


Valley Elementary

Not met

Luis E. Armijo

Tony Serna

Valley Middle School

West High School

West Middle School

Family Partnership



Los Niños

Mike Mateo

Paul D. Henry

Not met

Sierra Vista

Legion Park

Early Childhood Center

Memorial Middle School

Robertson High School