- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 24, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - More New Mexico public schools earned “A” or “B” grades last school year, but over a third still received “D” or “F” grades, according to results released Wednesday by the state Public Education Department.

Results show New Mexico saw a 7 percent jump in the number of schools getting an A or B. Around 38 percent of the state’s 849 public schools got the highest two grades, state officials said.

Meanwhile, records also show the number of “D” or “F” schools dropped 2 percent. Still, 315 public schools received either of the lowest grades.

School grades are based on student proficiency and growth on test scores.

Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, saw more than 40 percent of its schools drop at least one letter grade, according to state records. One of its schools, Acoma Elementary, fell from a B grade to an F.

Only 14 percent of Albuquerque schools went up a grade.

Albuquerque Superintendent Raquel Reedy said in a statement that district officials were disappointed and frustrated about the grades assigned to its schools.

“We can’t ignore these grades. They are how our state has chosen to measure public school progress,” Reedy said. “However, we also know that these grades are not a consummate reflection of what’s happening in our schools, nor are they truly representative of individual achievement, determination and grit.”

The district last year went through a series of high-profile controversies after the district hired a superintendent who was forced out weeks into the job over his hiring of an official accused of sexually assaulting a child.

Some schools in rural and in smaller communities across the state earned better grades, according to the results. Desert View Elementary in the poor border city of Sunland Park, for example, saw its grade jump from an F to an A while Los Lunas Middle School in Los Lunas rose from an F to a B.

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the results showed that New Mexico schools “are rising” but still have work to do.

“The trends tell us we are making progress,” Skandera said. “We are definitely responding to higher standards.”

Skandera said more than 70 percent of principals at previously struggling schools who participated in a mentorship program saw their grades increase by at least one letter grade. She said only one principal from Albuquerque Public Schools took part in the mentorship program.

The grades come a week after the state released results from its latest student tests. Those results showed that scores were up across the state, but less than a third of students remained proficient or better in reading and math.

Teachers unions criticized the state grading system and have said it doesn’t accurately inform parents on whether students are receiving a good education.

“The heavy reliance on standardized tests that take up valuable time for learning is not helpful.” Charles Goodmacher, government relations director for NEA-New Mexico. “It interferes with the all-important measure of how a school inspires children’s natural curiosity, imagination and desire to learn.”

Skandera said that instead of teachers unions being “naysayers,” they should propose solutions to help close achievement gaps.


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .

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