New Mexico standardized test results show mostly 25%-34% proficiency

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New statewide standardized test scores released Thursday show poor results for a state that has consistently been at the bottom of education rankings.

For most grade levels in most subjects, only about a quarter to a third of students met the proficiency standard, according to data from the Public Education Department.

The new tests, called MSSA, were developed by New Mexico educators and were given for the first time in April to students in grades 3 through 12. Below are the percentage of students who met the proficiency standard in each subject.

Early literacy: 31%

Language Arts: 34%

Math: 25%

Science: 33%

There were instances of even lower scores. For example, just 16% of high school juniors were proficient in math.

There were also bright spots. At Quemado High School in Catron County, where 70% of students are low-income, 76% of the school was proficient in language arts, according to the PED.

PED Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said these new scores are the best way to gauge student progress since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but these low proficiency results are not what New Mexico should be seeing.

“We’re not where we want to be,” he said. “I will not be satisfied until we get to that 100%, and that’s not unreasonable. That is doable.”

However, he said these scores are what the state expected to see, saying they are in-line with student performance in past years and education leaders have known for nearly two years about the severely negative impact the pandemic had on learning across the world.

Education officials note that because the test is new, it is difficult to compare results to testing in prior years.

“I’m excited about the opportunity that we’ve got in front of us. We’ve got 300 more teachers with licenses in our classrooms,” Sec. Steinhaus said. “We’ve got a whole bunch of initiatives to address what the test is telling us, and start turning the corner for our kids and for our schools, and start moving forward in increasing achievement.”

He pointed out that math scores were particularly low, and that those results have sparked a new math-based initiative to help students improve.

Sec. Steinhaus said there are new efforts to evaluate what is working in successful schools and bring that to other areas of the state.

His message to parents is to get involved, to find out how they can help their child learn.

The secretary said other states have been able to turn a corner in 10 to 15 years, so it could take that long – but he hopes New Mexico makes progress in a shorter time period.

An Albuquerque Public Schools spokesperson said just over a third of students in the district in grades 3 through 8 were proficient in English and Language Arts and about a fourth were proficient in math. In high school, four out of 10 students were proficient in English and writing and just under a fourth were proficient in math. 

A Santa Fe Public Schools spokesperson said their results are closely in-line with the statewide scores.

Other districts, including Rio Rancho Public Schools, are still analyzing their results.

The PED said these standardized testing results in New Mexico are similar to current nationwide test results.