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Santa Fe test scores still low; up in English, stable in math

PARCC results for state, large districtsSANTA FE – Test scores released by the state Public Education Department on Monday show a considerable increase in the number of Santa Fe Public Schools students considered proficient in English, while math scores remained static.

SFPS students improved in English language arts by 2.6 percentage points to 28.3 percent proficient. But that was below the statewide average is 28.6 percent.

The school district also lags behind the state on math scores, with 16.5 percent proficient, matching last year’s number, compared with a statewide average of 19.7 percent.

The numbers mean that according to the PARCC test, less than three in 10 Santa Fe Public Schools students are proficient in English and less than two in 10 are proficient in math.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia said she was happy to see improvement, “but we still have to do better.”

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test is used to measure how well students in grades 3-11 perform in meeting federal Common Core standards. More than 8,600 Santa Fe students took the PARCC test this year, roughly 200 more than last year, when student protests were staged over the test.

PARCC English results by demographic groupSuperintendent Garcia said that while tests are important, focusing more on teaching and learning and less on taking tests may have resulted in better test scores.

“We focused on trying to bring back the joy of learning,” Garcia said, adding that the emphasis was on teachers using best practices for teaching and learning. “We felt if we implemented those best practices, good (test) outcomes would come naturally.”

The results by grade level and individual school were not released by PED on Monday. A PED spokeswoman said that data would be made public today.

SFPS provided some additional information.

A district press release said that in English language arts, some schools saw increases “as high as 10 percentage points, and currently, the percentage of SFPS students who meet or exceed expectations in 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 9th grade ELA exceeds the state average.”

PPE resultsIn math, there were “pockets of significant growth, as some schools saw double digit percentage point increases,” SFPS said.

“While we are not yet where we need to be, I am encouraged by the district wide 2.5 percentage point increase in students proficient in (English language arts),” Garcia said in the news release. “This rate of improvement is sustainable as we work to ensure all of our graduates are truly prepared for college and career.”

She added that while the district’s math results “indicate we have a long way to go, I am confident in our educators and our leadership team.

“This year we will fully implement methods of support to assist our math educators in making data-driven decisions and designing lessons that address the needs of our students. The district will also increase the use of math tutors and I will create a math task force in partnership with the Interfaith Coalition for Public Education’s Birth 2 Career collaborative working group, the Math Amigos.

“In the end, as long as we provide our educators the tools they need to be successful and keep the focus on sound teaching, I am sure we will see growth next year.”

The state average for students considered proficient in both English and math dropped by 0.2 percentage point.

Christopher Ruszkowski, PED’s acting secretary of education, told the Journal that Albuquerque Public Schools, with more than 80,000 students, is dragging down the state average. English proficiency for APS students dropped by 1.1 percentage points to 27.0 in English (1.6 percentage points below the state average) and 0.7 percentage points in math to 19.7 percent proficient (the same as the state average).

“No question the largest district is a bellwether of how we are doing,” Ruszkowski said. “We can’t move forward as a state without our largest district on board.”

Other districts, such as Gadsden and Farmington, have signed on for many PED programs and improved their PARCC scores as a result, Ruszkowski said.

Farmington’s scores are now among the best in the state – 39.3 percent proficient in English and 25.5 percent in math, an increase of 11.5 and 5.8 percentage points, respectively, over three years of data.

Gadsden, a small district near El Paso, is also above average. In 2017, 38.1 percent of its students were proficient in English and 24.4 percent in math, up 10.7 percentage points and 6.9 percentage points since 2015.

While Santa Fe’s math scores remained steady from 2016 to 2017, with 16.5 percent of students proficient in that area, that rate represents a 2.7 percentage point increase since 2015, the first time the PARCC test was used. English proficiency has bounced up and down but shows a 1.5 percentage point increase since 2015.

“I’m excited,” Garcia said of the trend. “I see the momentum building, I really do.”

The district’s news release said the following schools increased proficiency percentages in both English and math from 2016 to 2017: Capital and Santa Fe high schools; DeVargas and Ortiz middle schools; Cesar Chavez, Chaparral, Nava, Piñon and Sweeney elementary schools; Gonzales Community School and Mandela International Magnet School.