Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
The percentage of students in New Mexico and in Albuquerque Public Schools scoring at or above grade level in reading and math is lower now than it was five years ago.
This past spring, slightly less than half of the students in New Mexico – 49 percent – read at grade level or better, according to Standards Based Assessment scores released recently. That’s down 4.2 percentage points since 2010, when 53.2 percent of students read at grade level.
The drop in students on grade level in math has not been as sharp – 1.5 percentage points. But fewer than half of students were scoring at grade level in math in 2010. That year, 42.2 percent of students scored at grade level in math compared to 40.7 percent this spring.
“We want all our kids at grade level, but that’s not the whole story,” Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera said Friday.
Skandera said it’s also necessary to look at academic growth and whether students are getting closer to the next grade level.
Skandera was encouraged that more students moved up a “proficiency level” on the last SBA than those that fell backward, she said. There are four proficiency levels on the SBA – beginning steps, nearing proficiency, proficiency and advanced. Proficiency is considered at grade level.
According to data from PED, 21.5 percent of students improved a proficiency level on their reading scores this year, while 16.1 percent dropped back a level – and the rest stayed the same. In math, slightly fewer students moved up a level, 16.9 percent, than who went down, 17.1 percent.
However, those figures did not include the 25 percent of students who took the test on a computer for the first time this year, said PED spokesman Larry Behrens. He said a comparison, including those students was not available Friday, although a PED news release last week said those using a computer did not do as well as their peers.
The SBA tests were first given to students in 2005. The SBA was then considered one of the more challenging state standardized tests.
Fewer students in APS at grade level
APS, which enrolls about a third of the state’s students, has also seen a decline in the percentage of its students scoring at or above grade level over the past five years.
This year, 49.6 percent of APS students read at grade level or better, according to their SBA scores. That’s down 4.9 percentage points since 2010, when 54.5 percent were at grade level.
On the math portion of the exam 40.7 percent of students scored at grade level or better this year, a 4.1 percentage point drop compared to 2010 when 44.8 were at or above grade level.
“I think we’ve seen a slight decline over the past five years,” in terms of the students on grade-level, said Rose-Ann McKernan, APS executive director of instructional accountability.
But McKernan also said overall growth is important to look at. And she said APS officials look at SBA scores along with several other indicators – like Advanced Placement exam scores, ACT scores and SAT scores – when looking at the district’s achievement levels.
“This is one snapshot,” McKernan said of the SBA.
That’s not to say APS officials weren’t hoping for an improvement in SBA scores, McKernan said. She said large urban districts like APS shoot for a 3 percent improvement annually on standardized tests like the SBA.
McKernan said the state’s move to the new Common Core standards this year likely had an impact on this year’s SBA scores. The reason for that, she said, was because the SBA measures knowledge of the state’s former educational standards.
This was the last year the SBA will be used to measure students’ proficiency in math and reading. Next spring, New Mexico students will take the new PARCC exam, designed to test knowledge of the Common Core standards. It is expected to be a more challenging test that will better gauge whether students are ready for college and the workplace. Some school officials say they’re anxious about how students will respond to the switch – not just because the test is harder, but also because it will be taken on a computer rather than the pencil-and-paper SBA.
“It still worries me whether we will be ready for the computer-based assessment,” said APS school board President Analee Maestas.
Maestas said schools have to get ready for the change and students have to adjust as well.
Skandera said students might struggle in the first year of the switch, but she said she’s confident they will respond to the tougher, computer-based test.
Skandera said it’s human nature to try harder if more is asked of you.
“We respond to higher expectations. We respond to the expectations in front of us,” she said.
Percentage of students who scored proficient or better on SBA
Chart: Jolie McCullough, Albuquerque Journal | Source: New Mexico Public Education Department
For a larger version of this graphic, click here