For the first time in the history of New Mexico, the state has a school grading system that is uniquely its own. On Tuesday, Governor Susana Martinez unveiled the preliminary, baseline grades for New Mexico's schools based on the new A-F School Grading Law that passed the New Mexico Legislature with bi-partisan support in 2011.
Last week, the Governor announced that her budget proposal calls for a $5.5 million investment in resources to help schools that receive a D or F grade, while rewarding those that are able to exhibit the highest levels of student progress.
"Thanks to our straightforward new A-F grading system, parents, teachers, and community leaders have a much clearer understanding of where our schools are succeeding and where we need to focus our efforts (and our resources) to improve," said Governor Martinez. "It allows us to track improvement and identify struggling schools and students so that we can invest in helping them succeed. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that all of our kids can read proficiently and continue to learn; this work is aided by having a more accurate picture of how our schools stack up."
Under the federal rating system, schools simply receive a passing or failing grade, and unsatisfactory performance in one area of nearly three dozen measurement categories can lead to a school being labeled a failure. According to that evaluation system, nearly 87 percent of New Mexico's schools were considered failing, with very little additional information that could be used by parents, teachers, or administrators to determine whether students were progressing in their learning or where a school may need the most help.
In contrast, a centerpiece of the A-F grading system is the measurement of student progress -- which accounts for 50% of an elementary school's grade. The A-F system also accounts for differences in factors like income or ethnicity that exist between schools.
"Every community in New Mexico now has the opportunity to see what's happening in our schools, and how they can help make sure those schools improve by this summer," said Public Education Department Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera. "For the first time, instead of a shallow snapshot from a single test score, we can measure our schools by how much our students are improving in the classroom."
Tuesday's release of school grades are considered preliminary because these grades form the baseline from which schools will be measured when the first official release of school grades takes place in the summer of 2012. The grade report for every public school is available online via an interactive map where parents and students can browse by school district. This online map is located at http://webapp.ped.state.nm.us/SchoolGrading.
As opposed to the federal rating system, the state's A-F grades reveal that:
530 schools (or just over 64%) receive the grade of A, B or C (compared to only 112 schools that were considered to be "passing" under No Child Left Behind (NCLB)).
36% of New Mexico schools receive the grade of D or F (compared to nearly 87% simply deemed to be "failing" under NCLB).
Approximately 25% of schools not passing under NCLB receive an A or B grade.
New Mexico is making some progress among our lowest performing students, even in schools receiving a grade of F (under NCLB, there is no clear indication of whether progress is being made to close the chievement gap).
The A-F School Grading Law includes many factors the current NCLB system does not, including:
Giving schools credit for student achievement growth over 3 years, with particularly strong weight given to raising the achievement of the lowest 25% of students.
Rewarding schools that prepare students well for college or career.
Honoring schools where there is parental involvement and strong student participation in activities.