Vote 4 NM: An in-depth look at how New Mexico measures success in schools
October 05, 2018 12:36 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In the first story of KOB 4’s Vote 4 NM series, Tessa Mentus took an in-depth look at how New Mexico measures the success of students, teachers, and schools.
New Mexico uses standardized tests to measure student success.
Students in kindergarten through second grade go through Istation testing.
Students in third through 11th grade take the PARCC test.
Some people complain that the PARCC tests mainly focus on English and math skills. The tests don’t cover other subjects, such as science, history or the arts.
Despite those concerns, New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski is a proponent of the testing.
“There should be a huge focus on reading and math, that's what the jobs of the 21st century are going to require,” he said.
The New Mexico Public Education Department grades schools every year.
Stephanie Ly, the president of New Mexico's American Federation of Teachers, said she doesn’t have a problem with the school grading system, but she does have a problem with what happens afterward.
“What happens when our schools, year after year, are not meeting the grade, if you will, what do we do? And it's very top down, the public education department gives four choices and schools have to pick those four choices,” Ly said.
The four choices include restructure and redesign, provide a new learning approach, close for good or reopen as a charter school.
Ruszkowski argues those options are created to streamline improvement, celebrate what other passing schools are doing, and expect the same from schools needing some work.
“When we see the ability to celebrate, the ability to scale best practices and the ability to intervene, school grades matter,” Ruszkowski said.
However, Ly said the system is more like a punishment rather than a helping hand. She believes collaborations is what’s missing from the grading system.
“Yes, we do need to identify which schools need support, but change it into a more positive, holistic and working together as opposed to leaving stakeholders out,” she said.
New Mexico teachers are evaluated in five areas:
- Attendance - 5%
- Student surveys - 5%
- Planning, prep, and professionalism - 15%
- Principal observations - 40%
- Student growth - 35%
Student growth is based on the test scores, which frustrates many teachers.
“When students take these tests, there is a high correlation between students living in poverty areas and these tests. The test inaccurately reports on the student's learning,” Ly said.
The student growth measure is also criticized because PARCC only tests English and math. That means every teacher is evaluated off of those scores, even if they don’t teach English or math.
Ruszkowski addressed the issue.
“We have a responsibility to improve the system, to continue to get it right, to continue to work with our schools and districts to improve upon our processes. We put a month-long appeals and inquiry process in place if teachers or schools or districts feel like we're not getting it right,” he said.
Only a handful of states use the same evaluation system that is used in New Mexico.
Ly said that’s because other states realize it doesn’t work. However, Ruszkowksi argues it's because New Mexico hasn't caved to political pressure like others and because student performance is the only way to really figure out who's getting the job done.
Updated: October 05, 2018 12:36 PM
Created: August 23, 2018 10:10 PM
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