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NM, APS PARCC scores up in English, math

The 2018 PARCC scores are in.

While statewide English language arts and math results are going up, the vast majority of New Mexico’s students did not demonstrate proficiency on the standardized test.

Still, state Public Education Department secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski called the improvements shown in this year’s PARCC scores “unprecedented.”

For math, the state showed a bigger gain between 2015 to 2016 when scores rose 2.5 percentage points. But for reading, 2018 had the highest year-to-year gain for state scores.

Compared to last year, statewide math scores increased 1.9 percentage points and reading bumped up 2.5 percentage points.

Since the PED began using PARCC in 2015, student proficiency results for the entire state have risen 4.2 percentage points for math and 4.7 for reading, according to PED data.

“This is what happens when we stay the course,” Ruszkowski said.

The 2018 data, officially made public Thursday, shows that 21.6 percent of students tested from grades three to 11 are proficient in math and 31.1 percent are proficient in reading.

Both scores inched above last year’s results and are the highest the state’s public school students have achieved since the test was introduced here in 2015.

However, the numbers still mean almost eight out of 10 New Mexico students did not demonstrate proficiency in math and almost seven out of 10 in reading.

At a formal announcement in Albuquerque, Gov. Susana Martinez applauded the increases in proficiency.

“We are on the right track,” Martinez said.

In her speech, she specifically highlighted advancements made by Native American students, whose reading scores increased 8.2 percentage points over four years.

And year over year, from 2017 to 2018, Native American students’ reading scores went up 4.2 percentage points to 21.8 percent of students showing proficiency.

Each subgroup, which are based on categories such as gender or race, saw increases to some degree from last year both in reading and math.

“These results didn’t happen overnight,” Martinez said.

APS scores

Albuquerque Public Schools also saw a bump in both reading and math.

Last year, math proficiency was shown by 19.7 percent of the students who took the test, and this year that number went up to 21.3 percent. In reading, last year’s 27 percent improved about three percentage points to 30.4.

Those percentages reflect the highest proficiency results APS students have scored over the four years PARCC has been administered.

The most recent data show the district barely falls short of the statewide math average of 21.6. And it is about a percentage point behind the state reading score.

As for APS subgroups, while nearly all groups improved over the past four years for both reading and math, that wasn’t the case for students utilizing special education services.

Both reading and math scores in that group have decreased since the PARCC was first offered, 2.9 percentage points and 0.9 of a percentage point, respectively.

APS did not answer questions by the Journal but said in a news release the improved PARCC scores are due to a commitment to high expectations and support for all students.

In that release, the district pointed out that Hawthorne, Whittier, and Los Padillas elementary schools — all labeled as in need of more rigorous intervention by the state due to chronic failing school grades — each had improved test scores.

Elsewhere in NM

Farmington Municipal Schools had the highest reading proficiency rate this year among the 10 largest districts in the state. Farmington had 42.6 percent reading proficiency, up 3.3 percentage points from last year.

And Farmington raised its math score this year to 26.5 percent proficiency.

Farmington Superintendent Eugene Schmidt spoke at the formal announcement Thursday, highlighting the diversity of the district and saying the PARCC scores are “a testament that every child can learn.”

Rio Rancho Public Schools — which had the highest reading score last year among the largest districts — had 40.8 percent reading proficiency, which is just 0.8 of a percentage point higher than 2017. But over the course of four years, RRPS’ English score has gone down by 1.2 points.

In math, 31.4 percent of students in Rio Rancho were proficient — the highest percent of math proficiency this year among the largest districts.

“Overall, RRPS students yielded positive results on the 2017-18 PARCC tests,” RRPS spokeswoman Beth Pendergrass said in an emailed statement.

She noted the tests also show the district where to improve and Rio Rancho is still reviewing the results.

Santa Fe Public Schools’ reading scores went up from 28.3 percent in 2017 to 29 percent this year. And Santa Fe’s math measurement also saw roughly a percentage point of growth to 17.6 percent.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia said in a news release she was happy with the gains and is confident the district will continue to improve.

Fewer opt-outs

The number of students who opted out of taking the PARCC test decreased again this year.

Last year, 1,235 students refused to take the test, but this year 866 students refused, according to PED data.

When the test launched, 5,497 students declined to take the exam, a result of walkouts and protests.

Ruszkowski says this year’s lower number is due to a culture change happening statewide.

“I think over the last several years … more and more students, parents and families have embraced the expectation of higher standards,” he said.

PARCC remains a controversial exam with teachers unions and schools still questioning its measures and the ways results are used in determining how students graduate, teachers are evaluated and schools are graded.

Come January, there may be shifts in how education is measured and the fate of PARCC will be determined by New Mexico’s next governor.

Both Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce have said they would overhaul New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system, which uses student test scores to help determine educators’ effectiveness.

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