FARMINGTON — Students now have more ways to demonstrate their mastery of subjects required for graduation without relying solely on the state's standardized test, after changes approved by the Farmington Municipal Schools Board of Education.
The state Public Education Department requires students to pass the New Mexico Standards Based Assessments test before they can graduate.
But state legislators also created a provision that allows school districts to use state or district approved "Alternate Demonstration of Competency" methods, said Farmington Human Services Director Chris Pash.
Superintendent Janel Ryan said the intent of the change in policy, which was approved on Thursday, is to provide students another opportunity to graduate.
"For them to have an opportunity to meet the requirements, and it's still rigorous and meets the intent of the Farmington curriculum and district, I'm all for it," Ryan said.
Piedra Vista High School Principal Ann Gattis said about 53 seniors will not be able to graduate on state assessment test scores alone.
"I've got a lot of worried kids asking me if I got the test scores," Gattis said. "It's not for their lack of effort, these kids have all their credits and passing grades, this is the only thing standing in their way."
The state also offers alternate methods of demonstrating competency, but they focus mainly on scores from exams like the PSAT and advanced placement class tests.
The approved district-level demonstrations of competency offer students ways to show they have mastered the material that school officials say are at least as rigorous as the state assessment test.
Under the district alternatives, seven options are offered in each of the subject areas of reading, math, writing, science and social studies.
Students must successfully complete at least one of those seven options in each of the subject areas.
One option is to earn a final exam grade of "C" or better in any of those subject areas at the senior or junior level.
Other options include earning a "proficient" score on a mid-semester district test, passing a final exam after taking a distance learning/online course, and being accepted to a 4-year institute of higher learning.
Although the state also offers alternative ways to demonstrate competency, Pash said some of them put students in a bind.
Many of those options are significantly harder than the state assessment test, he said, which means students have little chance of success.
Ryan said other superintendents are running into the same problems as school districts in Santa Fe and Artesia have passed similar changes to their graduation requirements.
"I think as superintendents, when we meet, we all had the same issues," Ryan said. "If we keep getting memos, if we keep getting changes, we're confusing everybody and kids are giving up."
Gattis said approval of the alternative graduation requirements provides encouragement for students hoping to graduate in May.
"I've signed more GED forms this year than all eight years I've been at PV," Gattis said. "This is a sign to me our kids are giving up while thinking they didn't pass the test."