More Clovis schools lagging behind standards

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

Three additional Clovis schools failed to meet adequate yearly progress standards for the 2003-2004 school year, according to a recently released amended report from the New Mexico Public Education Department.

The discrepancy occurred when the education department incorrectly calculated results of tests taken in the spring of 2004, school officials said.

“It’s a tough message to take when you were just celebrating that you met AYP,” said Ladona Clayton, assistant superintendent of instruction for Clovis schools.

The amended report compiled in the fall and released Friday showed La Casita Elementary School, W.D. Gattis Junior High School and Yucca Junior High School failed to meet standards required by the No Child Left Behind Act passed by the federal government in 2001.

The original report released in August showed Clovis High School, Cameo Elementary and Marshall Junior High had fallen short of the standards.

All three junior high schools failed to reach the benchmark because special education students were unable to pass the math sections. In addition, special education students at Marshall failed to meet the reading requirement.

This is the second year in a row that Cameo Elementary and Gattis have not met standards, so parents will now have the option of sending their children elsewhere, according to federal guidelines. Clayton said school officials have informed parents and guardians of that option.

School board member Mark Lansford said if enough parents decide to transfer their children out of those schools, education officials would have a “serious problem on their hands, logistically trying to figure out how to incorporate them into the other schools.”

Part of the difficulty with getting special education students up to standards is how they are tested, Clayton said. In New Mexico, special education students are tested at their current grade level, not at the skill level they have been taught, she said.

Clayton said despite failing to make the standard for a second straight year, Gattis special education students are to be commended for their effort.

“Those students made incredible gains, but we just didn’t quite get there,” Clayton said.

At Clovis High, the special education students failed to meet standards in math, reading and participation.

Jody Balch, principal of Clovis High School, said administrators are pursuing several avenues to improve ratings.

“We think that the proper administration of the test will help some,” Balch said. He said administrators will try to produce an atmosphere conducive to testing by holding tests in smaller-classroom environments.

Clovis High also had two other subgroups fail in reading: Hispanic students and students in federal free and reduced lunch programs.

Clovis was the only district in Curry County that had schools fail to meet standards.

Neither Clovis Municipal Schools nor New Mexico ultimately met the federal progress standards for 2003-2004. Approximately 32 percent of New Mexico schools failed to meet the standards.

“It’s really important to let citizens know this is really complicated, there are multiple steps and multiple requirements to meet the federal standards,” said Don Watson, assistant secretary for assessment and accountability at the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Clovis school officials said adapting to the new standards takes time.

“No Child Left Behind is a beautiful idea in theory, because you want to make sure everyone of your children are succeeding academically,” Clayton said. “I’ve seen our schools make valiant efforts to become focused on student achievement.”

Heather Rooney, statistician at the New Mexico Public Education Department, said the mathematical model used to increase the standard year by year is non-linear, meaning the percentage increase in standards per year will be slower at first and faster as the 2014 goal year gets closer.

The ultimate goal of the federal legislation is to have all schools at 100 percent success by 2014, an ambitious goal, officials said, which means every child in every school in the nation will have to be proficient in the areas tested.

Scores are based on standardized tests given in fourth, eighth and 11th grades. After this year, the tests will be administered to grades three through nine and also 11, and the topics covered will expand to science and writing, Clayton said.

Clovis Schools that failed to meet AYP standards and why:
• Clovis High School — special education students (math, reading, participation), Hispanic students (reading), students in federal free and reduced lunch program (reading)
• Cameo Elementary School — All students (math), students in federal free and reduced lunch program (math)
• La Casita Elementary School — English language learning (math)
• Marshall Junior High School — special education students (math, reading, participation)
• W.D. Gattis Junior High School — special education students (math)
• Yucca Junior High School — special education students (math)

Source: New Mexico Public Education Department

No Child Left Behind and annual yearly progress reports:

To achieve AYP a school must:
1. Achieve a 95 percent participation rate on state assessments.

2. Reach targets for proficiency or reduce non-proficiency.

3. Reach targets for one other indicator — attendance rate for elementary and middle schools and graduation rate for high schools.

If any subgroup does not achieve the AYP standards, the whole school fails to meet the standards.

Penalties for not reaching AYP:
First year — schools and districts encouraged to perform data analysis to determine why they didn’t reach the AYP, amend its Educational Plan for Student Success and implement strategies to improve achievement.

Second year — school must develop an improvement plan and offer parents the option to choose another school not on improvement status.

Third year — school must offer supplemental education services, such as after school programs or tutoring, and provide funding for student transportation to another school at the option of the parents.

Fourth year — school must implement one of the following: Replace staff as allowed by law, implement a new curriculum, decrease management authority of the public school, appoint experts to advise the school, extend the school day or year or change to schools internal organizational structure.

Fifth year — school, district and New Mexico Education Department must develop a plan of one or more of the following: Reopen the school as a charter school, replace all or most of the staff as required by law, turn over management to the public education department or make other governance changes.

Sixth year — school must implement the plan developed in the fifth year.

A school can be removed from improvement status by reaching adequate yearly progress two consecutive years.

Source: Documents on the New Mexico Pubic Education Department Web site.