Students’ test scores improve from last year

Staff and wire reports

SANTA FE — Just over half of New Mexico’s fourth graders lack proficiency in reading and a similar portion of eighth graders failed to meet a math proficiency standard, according to 2004 test scores released Thursday by the Public Education Department.

The test was administered to fourth and eighth grade students in March to assess math and reading proficiency.

Among fourth graders statewide, 49 percent were proficient or advanced in reading, up from 45 percent in 2003. In math, 58 percent scored as proficient or at an advanced level, up from 53 percent in 2003.

Among eighth graders, 57 percent were proficient or advanced in reading and 49 percent in math. In 2003, those scores were 51 percent in reading and 46 percent in math.

Clovis school district scores came in above state average in all categories. Among fourth graders, 59 percent were proficient in math, and 52 percent in reading.

Among Clovis eighth graders, 53 percent tested proficient in math while 56 percent were proficient in reading.

Clovis scores improved from 2003 in each category for each grade level.
“We were really encouraged by some of our schools,” said Clovis schools Superintendent Neil Nuttall. “Some of the schools like Gattis and James Bickley that we have really put some special attention on — they did really well.

Nuttall said the results are encouraging but the real assessment begins when the tests are returned and can be further analyzed.

“We start looking at trends. Do we have a set of standards that a lot of our kids didn’t do well on? We want to attack those,” Nuttall said. “We want to look at the ones we did well on and see what we are doing so we can reinforce those.”

Melrose and Texico school districts fared well above state average for each grade level.

Fort Sumner district results were unavailable because students did not take the exam. Last month, Superintendent Lecil Richards apologized to state officials for failing to administer the tests, saying school officials administered the older Terra Nova test, not the version required by the state.

Education Secretary Veronica Garcia said student performance showed across-the-board improvement — including all racial, ethnic and economic groups — from tests taken in 2003.

“I am encouraged by the growth that we saw this year,” Garcia said at a news conference to announce the results of standards-based tests taken earlier this year by nearly 23,000 fourth graders and about 24,000 eighth graders.

Minority students other than Asians had lower scores than the statewide averages, but they tended to have the greatest percentage increase in performance. Hispanics accounted for about half of the fourth and eighth grade test takers.

Also faring worse than average on the tests were students enrolled in special education programs, those for which English is not their native language and those students in lower-income families. The low income students are defined as those who qualify for free or reduced school lunches — not quite half of eighth graders and 57 percent of fourth grade test takers.

In reading among fourth graders, 29 percent of American Indian students were proficient or advanced as were 44 percent of Hispanic students, 44 percent of black students, 63 percent of Asian students and 65 percent of Caucasians or whites.

In math among fourth graders, 43 percent of Indian students were proficient or advanced, 52 percent of Hispanics, 49 percent of blacks, 73 percent of Asians and 72 percent of Caucasians or whites.

In reading among eighth graders, 40 percent of Indian students were proficient or advanced as were 49 percent of Hispanics, 52 percent of blacks, 80 percent of Asians and 75 percent of Caucasian.

In math among eighth graders, 31 percent of Indian students were proficient or advanced, 41 percent of Hispanics, 38 percent of blacks, 77 percent of Asians and 69 percent of Caucasians or whites.

Later this month, the department will release school ratings that are based on the 2004 test results.

Garcia said there will be new rating designations for schools based on the federal No Child Left Behind law, and the change likely will show more schools as having performance problems.