BLOOMFIELD — Area high school seniors on the cusp of graduation are breathing sighs of relief as two more school districts have approved alternate demonstrations of competency for graduation.

Last week, Aztec Municipal School District's and Bloomfield School District's boards of education approved district-level alternative demonstrations to offer students more options.

The changes will help high school students who fail portions of the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment test required for graduation.

Bloomfield school board members approved the changes on Jan. 14, and Aztec board members approved the changes on Jan. 16.

"The real purpose of this is not to water things down, but there are a lot of kids that get into a standards-based assessment or taking end of course (exams) that don't do well on the exam," Aztec Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said during the Jan. 16 board meeting. "But through the course of the class, they're competent. They did the credits and those kids are in jeopardy of not graduating."

Bloomfield High School senior Elene Clark was facing a challenge after failing to achieve competency in math and reading on the assessment. But with the new alternatives available to her, she has options to demonstrate she is ready for graduation.

"I'm glad because I was seriously thinking of dropping out if I didn't pass that test," Clark said. "I was so scared. I was so nervous, but I'm glad there (are) alternatives. If not, there would not be a lot of people graduating."

Bloomfield High Principal Cody Diehl said 40 of the 154 seniors at the high school have not passed at least one portion of the assessment test and will qualify for new alternatives.

"Having 13 years of school come down to one set of tests seems unfair, so I really do appreciate the alternate demonstrations of competency," Diel said.

During the Jan. 16 Aztec school board meeting, Aztec High School Principal Warman Hall said about 50 seniors could benefit from the approved alternatives.

Aztec and Bloomfield join the neighboring Farmington Municipal School District in approving district-level alternate demonstrations of competency.

A provision by the New Mexico Public Education Department allows school districts to create district-level alternatives to compliment methods created by the state.

State-approved alternatives for demonstrating competency in reading, math, writing, science and social studies include passing end of course exams used for teacher evaluations and scores on the ACT/SAT/PSAT and college placement exams.

District-level alternatives include a passing or "C" grade on a subject's final exam and acceptance to a four-year institute of higher learning.

Diehl said Bloomfield High is still piecing together data to ensure the 40 graduating seniors on the bubble can graduate.

"My concern is we're being very cautious in telling kids 'Where's your next step?'" Diehl said. "We want to check and cross-check all the data to make sure we are giving them the right information."

Clark said she was worried a test could have determined if she and her fellow seniors graduate.

"It worried me a lot and my mom was asking me every day, 'Did you find out? Did you find out?'" Clark said. "It freaked me out that a test would determine whether we graduate or not because some kids suck at taking tests."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.