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School grading system gives our education system accountability

My boys, ages 12 and 9, are my top priority. I have been actively and attentively helping them to learn the skills that will allow them to navigate their world since the day they were born. My goal is that they learn to be accountable for their educational choices, and to advocate for their individual needs. Moreover, it is extremely important that, regardless of our location, their educational experience provides for these needs.

Thankfully, New Mexico has a school grading system that raises the bar for academic proficiency and growth. In 2011, The New Mexico Department of Education adopted an A through F grading system for schools. To determine a final grade, the state evaluates each school based on student growth and overall performance.

In 2014, I returned to Shiprock to begin my career in the community where I was raised. My hope was my boys would be able to attend a school with peers they could identify with culturally and within the intimate social support system this community provides. It was equally important they have access to quality education that gauges success according to the same measures applied to students across the state and country.

When they started school, Mesa Elementary had a grade of F; Tse’Bit’Ai Middle School had a D; and Shiprock High School had a C. This was concerning, and although my sons were in the elementary school, they would eventually be entering the doors of the middle and high schools. I believe the school grading system ensures accountability within the schools, especially for students with individual academic needs as different as those of my boys. In the “conventional” system of education, one of my sons has thrived, while the other, equal in potential and curiosity, has struggled.

My oldest fits the model of students who can successfully navigate the public education system, including standardized testing. From an early age, he’s talked endlessly about college and his career path, and has been set on preparing himself academically. Throughout elementary – third, fourth and fifth grades – he earned a Level 5 on English Language Arts and Math PARCC tests. Last school year was his first year at Tse’Bit’Ai Middle School, which at the time was on its third consecutive F. In June, he received his sixth-grade PARCC scores and was ecstatic; he earned 5s in ELA and Math.

My youngest son is quite a different learner. The traditional classroom systems are a challenge for him on a daily basis. Therefore, I advocate for his need of a more flexible and attuned approach. For students like my son, it is imperative to have this flexibility and responsiveness provided to them. In previous years, I received negative feedback about his behavior and lack of engagement in the classroom. Last school year, as a third-grader, we worked collaboratively with his teacher and school to improve his learning environment so he had opportunities to be successful and grow in meaningful yet measurable ways. In June he received his first PARCC scores, a 4 in ELA, 5 in math. I’m confident school grades hold teachers and school leaders accountable for meeting individual needs of diverse learners.

When school grades were released, I was delighted to hear Mesa Elementary’s improved to a B; Tse’Bit’Ai Middle to a D; and Shiprock High up to a B.

As a mother, I see the value of the school grading report card. … It offers the accountability sorely needed in our public education system to help ALL students regardless of their facility with, or struggles within, conventional learning systems. All students across New Mexico deserve access to quality education and the opportunity to succeed in measurable ways at the standards, which will hopefully some day make them competitive and productive. not just locally but across the state, country and the world.