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Work group makes school grade proposals

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s school grades could move from an A-F system to a dashboard model in the future.

The state’s School Grades Work Group, which analyzed education data with the aim of improving school grades, presented its recommendations to the Legislative Education Study Committee on Wednesday.

Presenter Tim Hand, the LESC deputy director, told the committee New Mexico’s system should shift from a focus on “identifying and labeling failure to a focus on providing support.” One of the main recommendations from the work group – which included teachers, superintendents, parents, a Public Education Department representative and others – was a “school spotlight dashboard” that includes how a school is doing and a host of other information about the institution.

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A school grades work group, which was established through a legislative memorial, suggested the state use a dashboard for people to access basic and detailed information about a school including academic achievement. (Courtesy of Legislative Education Study Committee)

State Sen. Mimi Stewart, an Albuquerque Democrat and chairwoman of the LESC, said the dashboard aims to create a more holistic picture of the school than just a letter grade.

She said schools may be placed into some type of category in place of the letter grades but didn’t yet know what the proposed alternatives would be. She added that category would be an aspect of the dashboard.

“Some other states are using a color scheme. There are lots of ways to show how a school is doing without assigning an A or F,” she said.

The dashboard would include a link to academic achievement data and the school’s “story,” where school staff outlines the successes and challenges a school faces and would identify the level of support a school gets under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Under the federal ESSA plan, states must identify comprehensive and targeted support and improvement schools and more rigorous intervention schools.

Some LESC members had critiques for the report. Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, said she was concerned some of the dashboard information was too subjective and Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, said he worried changing the philosophy too much would be “coddling” and dilute the successes of schools that are meeting academic benchmarks.

The work group also suggested the state’s school accountability and support system be based on a shorter English and math assessment that is administered throughout the year so it can alter teacher’s curriculum. Stewart said that could look like an altered version of PARCC or a different test, emphasizing the recommendations are still in the conceptual stage.

The work group wants to see the assessment provide growth and proficiency data throughout a student’s career in addition to identifying where schools need support from its district or the state.

Stewart said she was proud of the work group’s report and said it’s just the first step, saying the recommendations will help craft a bill with the aim to make changes to the current school grades statute. A cost has not been estimated for the proposed changes, according to Stewart.

School grading was mandated by New Mexico state lawmakers in 2011. New Mexico’s 2018 public school grades – primarily grounded on student growth in reading and math and measured partly through end-of-the-year exams, including PARCC – showed that 12.9 percent of schools in the state received an A grade and 14.6 percent of schools received Fs, according to PED data. PED could not be reached for comment.

Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, whose transition director said she is reviewing the recommendations, has said she will eliminate both the PARCC test and the A-F school grading system.

 

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