PARCC exam results for third- through eighth-graders show most students are not meeting state standards in math and English

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FARMINGTON — The majority of San Juan County elementary and middle school students are not proficient in math and English, according to the results of a recent state assessment released by the New Mexico Public Education Department on Friday.

County-wide, the best results came from Farmington third-grade students on the math portion of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exam. About 30 percent of those scores showed students were at least proficient in math.

The worst score was among Bloomfield eighth-graders in math, where only 0.5 percent were proficient.

Those scores match statewide numbers that showed the highest scores in third-grade math and the lowest ones in eighth-grade math.

The state education department released the aggregate PARCC exam scores for third- through eighth-grade students two weeks after releasing the numbers for high school students.

About 207,000 elementary and middle school students took the PARCC exam last spring. It tested them on their math and English and language arts skills.

The PARCC exam, which replaced the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment, was implemented to measure students based on Common Core standards introduced in 2010.

District administrators and staff across San Juan County said the recently released scores were mostly in line with their predictions.

The data shows that students in the Aztec and Farmington municipal school districts performed better than those in the Bloomfield and Central Consolidated school districts.

All students were rated on a five-point scale to determine whether they were ready to advance to the next grade level. A score of 4 or 5 means students met or exceed expectations for Common Core standards.

Statewide, students performed the best on the third-grade math exam, with 25.2 percent at least meeting expectations. Students statewide performed the worst on the eighth-grade math exam, with 9.1 percent at least meeting proficiency.

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera told reporters during a conference call Friday that the statewide drop in eighth-grade math scores was because about 23 percent of high-performing eighth graders last spring took a high school level PARCC exam rather than the eighth-grade test.

Students in both the Bloomfield and CCSD scored below the state average on every PARCC exam, except one.

About 18.5 percent of students statewide met or exceeded proficiency on the sixth-grade math exam. On the same exam in Bloomfield, it was 20 percent.

Bloomfield Superintendent Kim Mizell could not be reached for comment on Friday.

On the eighth-grade math exam, 12.7 percent of CCSD students met or exceeded expectations, compared to the 9.1 percent who did so at the state level.

CCSD showed a slight improvement in English scores but struggled with math scores, said James Lowe, the district’s coordinator of data assessment and compliance.

Lowe said it was easier for staff and students to transition to Common Core standards for English than for math. More focus on critical thinking and abstract thought has changed the way math is taught, he said.

“That level of thinking has never been pushed in the math curriculum in the United States before,” Lowe said.

Among the four local districts, Farmington saw the highest scores. The district performed better than the state average on five of the six English exams, and the district’s fifth-grade English score of 23.7 percent was just shy of the state’s 23.8 percent average.

Debbie Braff, the principal at Farmington’s Apache Elementary School, said students at her school often don’t score well on assessments. But, she said, she was happy the recent PARCC exam scores for Apache Elementary were better than the results of previous exams.

“I was a little reluctant to see (the scores) but now that I have seen them, I might sleep tonight," Braff said. "Because it’s much better than we have done in the past.”

Farmington also performed better than the state average on four of the six math exams and came close to the state average on the other two math exams.

Aztec students beat the state average on the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade English exams, as well as on the third and fourth-grade exams.

James Jacobs, Aztec’s data and assessment coordinator, said the district celebrates the students who did well and plans to continue supporting students who did not met expectations on the exam.

The state education department plans to release individual PARCC scores for third- through eighth-grade students on Dec. 1.

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

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