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          Front Page




State, APS Feud Over Grad Rates

By Hailey Heinz
Copyright © 2009 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          State Education Secretary Veronica Garcia on Friday blasted Albuquerque Public Schools, saying that the district's data — and not the state's methodology — are to blame for inaccurate graduation rates.
        And APS fired right back.
        The department announced Aug. 3 that the graduation rate at Albuquerque Public Schools was 46 percent and the statewide rate was 54 percent.
        APS Superintendent Winston Brooks said Thursday the APS rate will be between 58 percent and 63 percent when new numbers are announced next week.
        Garcia, in a news release Friday, said the information APS supplied to her department was "poor," and that the district made more than 1,700 corrections to it after it was submitted.
        She said because APS accounts for such a large number of the state's students, the problems with APS's data reporting are a major reason for the inaccuracy of the statewide number.
        "I am incredulous at the implication that somehow PED is responsible for the inaccuracy of the district's self-reporting and subsequent corrections," Garcia's statement said.
        Brooks fired back, saying Garcia's announcement of a 46 percent graduation rate had been harmful to the district's morale and reputation.
        "I'm absolutely amazed that the PED wants to take no responsibility for this ... I don't even know what kind of error to call it," Brooks said in an interview Friday. "They want to take no responsibility, they want to point fingers, like a child, back at APS, as if it were our calculation. I'm just absolutely amazed."
        Garcia, in her news release, noted that the data released in August was preliminary and subject to change.
        However, PED officials have said since then that any changes were likely to be small, on the order of a percentage point.
        The department called the early August news conference to announce the information, which was the basis of Gov. Bill Richardson's "Graduate New Mexico" initiatives that call for spending $8.9 million in federal stimulus money on education reforms.
        In trying to explain the inaccurate numbers, the department and APS blamed each other:
        • PED claimed the wide variance between the old and new numbers was because of the corrections made by APS after the numbers were announced.
        Rose-Ann McKernan, APS executive director of Instruction and Accountability, said although some corrections were made after the August announcement, the bulk were submitted to the state in June. She said those changes were not applied by the state until after the announcement.
        • McKernan said a member of her staff, upon receiving data to review after the August announcement, noticed that most of the June corrections had not been made. That staffer called the state to inquire, and the person she talked to "reloaded the exact file that he already had," after finding a file full of corrections that had not been made.
        PED spokeswoman Danielle Montoya disputes that account, saying all the changes that were submitted before the August announcement were made. She said a major batch of corrections was dated June 24 but received Aug. 21.
        "It could have been their intention to submit those corrections on the 24th, but we did not receive the file until Aug. 21st," Montoya said.
       





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