No change in grades for county's public school districts

Some districts still 'in crisis,' ed secretary says

The Daily Times staff
New Mexico Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski unveiled the state's report cards for school districts across New Mexico last week.
  • The Farmington Municipal School District maintained its B grade average, and four of its schools had A ratings.
  • The Aztec, Bloomfield and Central Consolidated districts each received a C grade.
  • The state education secretary says most school districts across New Mexico stayed the same this year.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County school districts fared about as they did last year when New Mexico Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski rolled out this year’s District Report Cards Thursday, but some school districts in other parts of the state were singled out as being “in crisis.”

The Farmington Municipal School District maintained its B grade average, and four of its schools had A ratings, while six had B grades. The Aztec, Bloomfield and Central Consolidated districts each received a C grade.

“In all of those cases, I believe the grades held steady,” Ruszkowski told reporters during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

In fact, most school districts across New Mexico stayed the same, he said.

Ruszkowski in September visited Country Club, Mesa Verde and Ladera del Norte elementary schools as part of the New Mexico True Straight-A Express, an initiative that calls attention to high-performing schools.

Country Club and Mesa Verde each earned an A school grade for the fourth straight year while Ladera del Norte earned its third A school grade in four years.

Gov. Susana Martinez says student achievement in New Mexico is at an all-time high and continues to improve.

In October Gov. Susana Martinez visited San Juan College High School, which had an A school grade with an overall score of 95.99 for 2018.

Ruszkowski cited state efforts to make sure teachers are qualified, district performance is tracked and students are leaving with a higher quality of educational achievement.

“I deeply believe if we stay the course, our students will continue to rise, and the sky’s the limit for New Mexico’s kids,” he said Thursday.

A press release from the state on Friday echoed Ruszkowski’s concerns about several districts that did not improve this year in the grading process or dropped a grade.

“Santa Fe Public Schools, Bernalillo Public Schools, and Belen Consolidated Schools all dropped a single letter grade from the previous year, earning D’s for the 2017-18 school year,” the release said. “Deming Public Schools also earned a D. While Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Belen each have an elementary school earning an 'A' while serving students from low-income communities … best practices and effective instructional implementation have not yet been fully-scaled across these districts.”

Last year, the superintendent said those districts were in crisis. 

“I think that statement still holds true,” he said Thursday.

The Fort Sumner and Tularosa school districts each have a school that earned its first-ever A school rating this year, the release said.

Remedial education success cited

Ruszkowski Thursday also touted progress in the percentage of students who required remedial education upon entering institutions of higher learning, saying there was a 17 percent improvement in the numbers of college students from the state’s public schools who needed extra classes.

Ruszkowski was upbeat about the remedial education stats, which the New Mexico Public Education Department touted in an earlier press release, citing educational reforms started in 2012 by Martinez.

“We’ve worked really hard over the past eight years to raise the level of expectation for our students, to make sure that the K-12 system is adequately preparing them for success when they leave our schools,” Ruszkowski said in a press release. “We’ve worked with teachers and leaders to adopt challenging college-ready standards and an assessment in Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) that truly measures a student’s progress toward being academically prepared for college."

He said the state also has doubled access to Advanced Placement courses and dual-credit opportunities, "and asked even more from our teachers to deliver for our students. You are seeing the results of that work now, and it’s incredibly exciting for our state."

Ruszkowski cited implementation of the governor’s education reforms in 2012. The rate of college remediation has, according to the press release, “dropped by 17 percent, from 50 percent to 33 percent — the lowest remediation rate in New Mexico history.”

The release described remediation rates as “the average number of basic skills courses required for college students to pass before they take courses that count toward graduation. Remediation can lead to increased tuition costs for students and more time required to obtain their degree.”

“Student achievement in New Mexico is at an all-time high and continuing to improve,” Martinez said in that release. “When you hold students to a higher standard, they rise to meet the challenge and now we have the highest graduation rates in New Mexico history, more students are reading and doing math at grade-level and we have the lowest remediation rate in our state’s history. It is my hope that New Mexico will continue to build on this success — it is what our students and families deserve.”

The state this month state launched, an online portal that tracks school performance. 

The District Report Cards are issued in compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act.