APS, NM math and reading test scores falling - Albuquerque Journal

APS, NM math and reading test scores falling

Albuquerque Public Schools and New Mexico as a whole had declines in performance on a major standardized math and reading test, mirroring national results that were the worst since the 1990s.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, released Wednesday, show drops in fourth-grade math, eighth-grade math and eighth-grade reading at APS and across the state since 2013, the last time the test was administered. Fourth-grade reading was not significantly different.

The national averages follow the same pattern, with math scores posting the first declines since the testing began in 1990.

New Mexico and APS’ NAEP scores were below national averages, with the state near the bottom on every assessment.

On fourth-grade reading, New Mexico was last, and the state tied for the bottom on fourth-grade math, along with California, Nevada, Alabama and the District of Columbia. New Mexico was above only the District of Columbia on eighth-grade reading, tying with Louisiana and Mississippi. On eighth-grade math, the state came in above only the District of Columbia and Alabama, tying with Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia.

Rose-Ann McKernan, executive director of APS’ Office of Accountability and Reporting, said the district is examining the results closely to identify strengths and weaknesses.

“We need to look at why we saw those drops, and there are going to be a lot of people doing that across the country,” McKernan said.

APS was below the large city average, calculated from 21 urban districts.

The district’s results show 32 percent of fourth-graders were proficient or advanced in math and 28 percent in reading. Nationally, those numbers were 39 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

The results were lower among APS eighth-graders: 25 percent proficient or advanced in math and 20 percent in reading. The national average was 32 percent proficient or advanced for each test.

McKernan highlighted a bright spot for the district: English language learners gained 10 points on the fourth-grade reading exam.

Overall, APS’ Hispanic students were 20 to 25 points behind their Anglo peers, and students who receive free or reduced lunch were about 30 points behind higher-income students.

APS did fare better on the assessments than some other urban school districts, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Fresno, Cleveland and Detroit. Miami, Chicago and Boston outpaced APS and bucked the national trend, showing significant gains on some tests.

American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly wrote in an emailed statement that the results indicate that the state “continues to struggle to rise to the top amongst its peers, and, in fact, has lost progress over the last 3 years.”

Ly noted New Mexico’s high poverty rate and said she feels the way to improve is “a focus on the whole child” through health services, universal access to early education and richer curriculum that does not rely “on a test-and-punish mentality.”

She called on New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera to reduce the amount of standardized testing in the classroom, saying that there is a “culture of over-testing.”

New Mexico Public Education Department spokesman Robert McEntyre said the scores “punctuate the need for meaningful reform, including ending the failed practice of social promotion, which passes our kids onto the next grade even when they cannot read.”

NAEP, also called “The Nation’s Report Card,” is a congressionally mandated project administered by the National Center for Education Statistics. In early 2015, 279,000 fourth-graders and 273,000 eighth-graders completed the assessments – a sample that is demographically representative of each state.

The NAEP results come two days before the release of scores for third through eighth grade on the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career assessment. High school PARCC scores were released Oct. 16, and all individual student reports will come out later.

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