Local districts score below NM average on PARCC

The first batch of data was released on Friday for a new statewide assessment of high school students

Joshua Kellogg
Bloomfield High School's Manuel DeHerrera prepares to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam on March 6 at the high school.

FARMINGTON — Results of a new state assessment released Friday showed that most San Juan County high school students performed worse than the state average on English and math exams.

The New Mexico Public Education Department has released the aggregate high school scores for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exam for the 2014-2015 school year. The PARCC exam, which replaced the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment, tests students in math and in English and language arts.

Last spring, freshmen, sophomores and juniors took the English and language arts exam based on their grade levels and the math exam based on the classes they were enrolled in: algebra I, algebra 2 and geometry. They were rated on a five-point scale to demonstrate college and career readiness.

While the majority of county high school students fared worse on their exams than the state average, there were a couple of exceptions. About 17.8 percent of students statewide who took the algebra 2 exam tested at proficiency. The scores for Aztec and Farmington schools, 20.6 percent and 26.2 percent, respectively, beat those scores.

English results for Aztec's sophomores and juniors and Farmington's sophomores also were higher than their corresponding statewide scores.

In a conference call with reporters on Friday afternoon, state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the new exam is more challenging than previous assessments and measures higher expectations and standards that were introduced as part of the Common Core State Standards implemented in 2010.

“It’s a higher bar, higher expectations. It’s really a new proficiency baseline," Skandera said. "New expectations, new baseline for results we can measure going forward."

Statewide, juniors who took the English exam did the best on the assessment. About 44.6 percent of juniors scored a 4 or 5, meaning they met or exceeded expectations.

Students statewide performed the worst in geometry, with 87.4 percent earning a score of 1, 2 or 3, which indicated they failed to meet expectations and will have to retake the entire exam or a portion of it.

San Juan County school district administrators said Friday that they had limited time with the state data and had just started to examine it.

Bloomfield High School teacher Shawn Underell hands out tickets to students before they take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers exam on March 6 at the high school.

Bloomfield School District Superintendent Kim Mizell said the district’s performance was on par with Skandera’s expectation that scores could drop 20 to 40 percent from the previous school year.

“The district has a lot of work to do,” Mizell said.

Bloomfield's results showed that 17 percent of freshmen, 22.3 percent of sophomores and 22.1 percent of juniors scored high enough on the English exam to meet or exceed expectations.

Math results showed only 4.9 percent of Bloomfield’s algebra 1 and 10 percent of its algebra 2 students met or exceeded expectations.

Mizell said she has concerns about the district’s geometry test scores, which showed that zero percent of students earned passing scores. The results showed 14.8 percent  of students scored a 1; 66.7 percent scored 2; and 18.5 percent scored 3.

Judy Englehart, director of instruction for the Aztec Municipal School District, said she thought a score of 3 was high enough for a student to pass an exam.

Robert McEntyre, a spokesman for the state Public Education Department, said seniors who earned a 3 on certain exams can count that toward their graduation requirements only this school year and the next one.

That gave Englehart some hope.

“If we are looking at 3 as being OK for graduation, we are not looking as bad as we thought we might,” she said.

About 8 percent of Aztec students met or exceeded expectations on the geometry exam, while 10.5 percent of algebra 1 and 20.6 percent of algebra 2 students did the same.

The percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations in English ranged — 25.3 percent of freshmen, 39.1 percent of sophomores and 46.6 percent of juniors.

Farmington Municipal School District administrators said they could only discuss PARCC exam results released earlier this week for the current seniors, who took the exam in the spring as juniors.

Officials said that because of training they could not comment on the latest batch of results released Friday afternoon.

Scores for last year's junior class were similar to the results of juniors who took the previous assessment in the 2013-2014 school year, said Superintendent Gene Schmidt on Friday morning.

"That also tells you that we’re not seeing that 20 to 40 percent (drop) that is indicated by the (secretary of education)," Schmidt said. “What we are doing is actually improving instruction because we didn’t see that drop, according to the initial data.”

PARCC exam results released Friday afternoon showed that 26 percent of Farmington freshmen, 32.5 percent of sophomores and 42.8 percent of juniors scored at or above proficiency on the English exam.

The district had the best math scores in the county, with 12.5 percent of algebra 1, 26.2 percent of algebra 2 and 10.2 percent of geometry students meeting or exceeding expectations.

In an email Friday afternoon, Central Consolidated School District spokesman James Preminger said the district had not fully reviewed the PARCC scores, and the interim superintendent, Colleen Bowman, was not available to comment because she was out of the state.

CCSD students struggled with math, according to the exam results. Scores showed that 2.1 percent of algebra 1, 14.5 percent of algebra 2 and 1.9 percent of geometry students scored at or above proficiency.

In English, 12.8 percent of freshmen, 19.4 percent of sophomores and 27.8 percent of juniors passed their exam.

The state education department plans to release individual students scores to school districts on Nov. 2. The department will announce aggregate elementary and middle school results on Oct. 30.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627