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APS, Santa Fe schools counter PED assertion on reading notifications

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque Public Schools on Tuesday took issue with the state Public Education Department’s contention that it was not notifying parents when their child failed to meet mandated reading proficiency levels.

A statement issued Sunday by PED said 96 percent of roughly 6,800 third-graders statewide who were underperforming in reading were being passed on to the next grade level, and less than 5 percent of their parents were informed in writing, as state law requires.

APS self-reported that the district had 1,975 third-graders who were not proficient in reading, and only 82 letters were sent out informing parents of their child’s failure to meet the standard, said Christopher Ruszkowski, deputy secretary of policy and programs for PED.

However, APS officials said the overwhelming majority of parents of those underperforming students were notified, and repeatedly so, using other methods of communication, and that the state statute does not specifically say that notification must be in writing.

According to the statute: “A parent shall be notified no later than the end of the second grading period that his child is failing to make adequate yearly progress, and a conference consisting of the parent and the teacher shall be held to discuss possible remediation programs available to assist the student in attaining adequate yearly progress.”

A written remediation plan containing timelines, academic expectations and methods of measuring progress must then be developed.

The statute also states that when a child fails to gain proficiency despite completing a remediation program, and when the teacher and school principal recommend that the child be retained in the same grade, a parent can refuse that retention by signing a waiver.

Ruszkowski told the Journal that the statute is subject to interpretation, and under PED’s interpretation the initial notification to parents of a child’s failure to meet reading proficiency standards must also be in writing.

Diane Kerschen, APS’ associate superintendent for elementary education, said the district has “a rigorous process in which we involve and notify parents whose children are struggling,” even if that notification is not in writing.

“We communicate regularly with parents by email, phone calls, progress reports, websites such as ParentVue, and of course teacher-parent meetings,” she said.

Also Tuesday, Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia challenged a similar PED report that said SFPS only notified seven parents of the 139 third-grade students who were not reading-proficient for 2015-2016.

Garcia, in a news release, said the Santa Fe schools reported to PED in August that 129 third-graders were not proficient in reading and that all the parents were notified at parent-teacher conferences. Schools provided 123 of the third-graders academic support through a team process, Garcia said. “All parents were notified of this intervention in writing,” she said

Schools recommended retention for seven of the 129 third-graders who weren’t reading-proficient, and parents of five signed waivers to promote their children to the next grade level, Garcia said.

APS elementary schools operate on a trimester schedule, said Troy Hughes, also an associate superintendent for elementary education.

“We hold parent-teacher conferences twice a year that are attended by 90 percent of parents of elementary school students. We talk to parents about the child’s work in class as well as their performance on standardized tests. We highlight strengths and areas that need improvement.”

In addition, mid-term progress reports and end-of-term progress reports are also sent to parents, often resulting in further face-to-face meetings between parents and teachers, he said.

If a student is struggling, interventions are recommended, including the assembly of a Student Assistance Team, or SAT, made up of several teachers and the child’s parents to determine how to best assist the child, Hughes said.

Mark Oswald of the Journal’s Santa Fe Bureau contributed to this report.