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Achievement test results trend lower

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Rio Rancho Public Schools officials have, for months, told the school board and the public to expect lower scores on the statewide test that measures student proficiency.

That appears to have happened in many cases, according to data released by the New Mexico Public Education Department. Last week, the PED released school grades and results of the Standards Based Assessment, which measures student proficiency in math and reading for grades three through eight and 10 and 11.

RRPS had some gains, most notably at Ernest Stapleton Elementary, but the majority of schools in the district saw student proficiency drop or stay nearly flat.

Carl Leppelman, Rio Rancho Public Schools associate superintendent, said despite the lower student proficiency ratings and two Ds at district schools, students are still outperforming most large districts in the state. The state average for students testing proficient or above in reading is 49 percent while Rio Rancho’s is 65.1 percent. In math, the statewide figure is 40.7 percent, while RRPS’ average is 55 percent.

Leppelman said he will sit down with the principals at each school and come up with a plan for improvement.

“Our principals are hard-working and dedicated,” he said. “I am confident that they will work diligently to review all achievement results so they can do the best for each and every student this coming year.”

Happy Miller, the district’s executive director of research, assessment, data and accountability, said the district for the past two years has been transitioning to the Common Core State Standards, although students are still taking the old SBA test. The Common Core test – Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test – will replace the SBA in the coming school year.

“Therefore, we knew that there would be some misalignment between what was taught and what was tested,” she said. “The misalignment is greater in math than in reading because many skills are now taught at different grade levels.”

Still, RRPS is concerned about some of the drops. Miller said the district, for the most part, considers anything plus or minus 3 percentage points in any direction as significant.

Colinas del Norte Elementary saw its proficiency rating in reading drop from 58.2 to 53.9 percent, and in math the percentage of students proficient or advanced in math went from 48.3 to 39.7 percent.

Miller said review of additional test data the school collected at the beginning of the 2013-14 year shows that third-graders at Colinas started significantly lower in the fall than 2012-13 third-graders at the school. The school received a grade of D.

It was a similar scenario with students at Vista Grande, Miller said, where reading fell from 71.1 percent to 64.2 percent and math from 66.5 to 56.3. The school maintained its B grade.

Eagle Ridge Middle School was the only other school in the district that received a D grade. Its proficiency rating in math slipped nearly seven percentage points to 40.

Looking ahead to next year, Miller said it will be hard for the district to compare results. She said the coming school year will be a “baseline for a new set of trend data.” The PARCC test will be more rigorous because it “emphasizes high-order thinking skills and real-life application skills” she said, and that will most likely mean a further decrease in the percentage of students who are considered proficient or above.

“However, it does not mean that students will have learned less during the school year,” she said. “Instead, the definition of proficiency will have changed.”

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