Vegas schools get assessments

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By Don Pace

All but one of West Las Vegas’ elementary schools has made the federal standard of adequate yearly progress.

At the Las Vegas City Schools, only Robertson High School met the standard, according to a state report.

West Las Vegas Superintendent Jim Abreu said his district has made some great strides with adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

That standard tracks how students test in reading and math and other indicators schools must reach in order to be 100 percent proficient by 2014 — as is required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

At West, the only elementary school that didn’t meet the standard was Tony Serna, missing the mark by just .03 of a point in math and meeting adequate yearly progress in reading. However if a school fails math, reading or any one of 37 other indicators, it doesn’t meet AYP.

“The schools that met AYP are extraordinary in the sense that they met 37 indicators,” Abreu said. “Some schools didn’t make it because they missed one or more of the indicators, but we’re still proud of our schools regardless because all schools made progress. Every one of our schools have improved their scores in math and in reading from last year to this year.”

Abreu noted that proficiency targets increase every year.

“If you’re going to make AYP from one year to the next, you’re going to have to jump 10 points from where you were, which is a tremendous improvement. Now the problem is if schools did not make it the previous year, they not only have to make up what they didn’t meet, but the additional points required for that year. So it’s really, really hard for schools that did not meet AYP the previous year to make that leap,” Abreu said.

Abreu said the Family Partnership school was another case where students met AYP in reading, but not in math.

“They didn’t meet AYP, but made a tremendous jump in their reading scores, which is really impressive.”

In the Las Vegas City Schools district, Robertson High School was the only school that met adequate yearly progress. Legion Park and Mike Mateo Sena went from meeting the standard the year before to not making it this year.

Superintendent Rick Romero said most people look at the accountability report as a pass or fail proposition.

“The one wonderful thing that this accountability has done for us, both through No Child Left Behind and House Bill 212, is that it’s providing us with mechanisms where we can specifically identify where we need to improve instruction,” Romero said.

Romero said schools don’t teach to the average anymore and now have to consider every single child, and every year, every child is expected to raise their level of proficiency by a certain amount of percentage points.

“Remember this year that bar went up 10 points and next year it may go up six points. So the end result is important because it tells me whether we are or are not meeting that benchmark,” Romero said.

“More important, it tells me what we’re not doing. I look at it as a barometer; it allows me to look at where we’re at and make those adjustments to allow for improvement within our programs,” Romero said.

Romero said it can be disheartening when a district misses making adequate yearly progress by one subgroup.

“I think by-and-large across the state our teachers are working hard, and all they hear is, ‘Oh, you didn’t make AYP.’ It takes the wind out of your sails. But we are seeing progress. For example, we made almost a 6-percentage- point increase in our special needs population at the middle school, and while there’s more to do, why not celebrate that accomplishment? I just wish our parents and the community would join us in celebrating those accomplishments,” Romero said.

Romero said the one thing that No Child Left Behind has done for us is provide accountability and given schools data on how each child is progressing.

In making the announcement on results, Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia made the same plea as Romero.

“I implore schools and communities to not get discouraged by a lower AYP rating. We must closely analyze the data, look at improvement and stay the course,” Garcia wrote.

She also cautioned against state-to-state comparisons of AYP results because states set their own proficiency cut scores and design their own tests. She said New Mexico sets the bar high.

Garcia pointed out that 68 schools missed meeting adequate yearly progress by only one of up to 37 indicators and a total of 211 schools missed the standard by between only one and three indicators — that means that 40 percent of the schools missing AYP missed by only one, two or three indicators.

“I would like to remind our parents, students, teachers, administrators, community members and state leaders that AYP is only one tool and is a very narrow and sometimes unfair measure of success and progress,” Garcia said in a statement.