Farmington sees big increase in school grades

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 – The Farmington Municipal School District saw a sharp increase in many of its schools' letter grades, according to information released by the state education department on Friday.

The other San Juan County districts saw mixed results as the results from the PARCC assessment were used for the first time to help determine a school’s grade.

The New Mexico Public Education Department released the 2014-2015 school year report cards for the state’s 848 public schools on Friday. In a conference call with reporters Friday morning, state Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said 60 percent of schools maintained or improved their school grades from the 2013-2014 school year.

Of the 48 schools in San Juan County, 22 improved their grades from the previous school year, and 17 schools performed worse. Nine schools maintained their grade.

The Farmington school district led the way with 14 of its 17 schools improving their grade. The district was cited by Skandera during her conference call, as she said Farmington schools experienced an incredible improvement.

Farmington schools saw a vast increase in the number of schools with A grades from one in the 2013-2014 school year to 11 in the 2014-2015 school year. Schools like Esperanza, McCormick and Apache elementary schools jumped from an F grade to an A.

Piedra Vista High School maintained its A for the third straight year, and Rocinante High School kept its B. Farmington High School was the only school that saw its grade decrease, as it dropped from a B to a C.

Farmington Superintendent Gene Schmidt said the district’s performance gives new meaning to the phrase “Farmington Proud.”

“There is a commitment across the district to ensure every classroom, every school has that shared belief that all kids can succeed,” Schmidt said.

Assistant Superintendent Phil Valdez said participating in programs like the school turnaround program run by the University of Virginia and the state education department’s Principals Practicing Excellence contributed to the improvement.

Representatives for the Bloomfield School and Central Consolidated School districts attributed a drop in their school grades to the first-year results of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, exam. Students took the exam for the first time in March.

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 Superintendent Kim Mizell said she would contact the state education department to clarify how the PARCC results were used to determine the grades.

The district had three schools improve, while four dropped in their score. For its seven schools, three received a grade of C. Two earned a D and two were given an F.

Central Primary Elementary and Mesa Alta Junior High schools dropped from a D to an F. Naaba Ani Elementary School and the Bloomfield Early Childhood Center improved from a D to a C.

“We put a lot of things in place this year that we hope to see results with next year,” Mizell said.

Skandera said during Friday’s conference call that the PARCC exam was more difficult and would result in lower scores for students, which would affect school grades,

Three CCSD schools improved their school grade and four maintained their score, but the district's nine other schools saw their grade fall. CCSD spokesman James Preminger said in an email the rigor of the PARCC exam was a factor in those decreases. Ojo Amarillo Elementary School saw the biggest drop, going from a B to an F. Naschitti Elementary School had the biggest increase from a D to a B.

“We expect school grade report cards, overall, to increase after getting through this initial year of PARCC testing,” Preminger said in an email.

Kirk Carpenter, superintendent for the Aztec Municipal School District, said he was surprised by the drop of Lydia Rippey Elementary School’s score from a B to a D, but he was still excited about the district’s performance.

“For the most part, we are happy. Four out of six schools are a B (grade) or higher,” Carpenter said. “I think it’s great."

Koogler Middle School’s grade improved from a D to an A, and Park Avenue Elementary School increased its grade from a D to a C. Aztec High, Vista Nueva High and McCoy Elementary schools maintained their B grade.

Carpenter said he was proud of the work at Koogler and Park Avenue. He said the district would investigate what happened at Lydia Rippey.

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